The African Wineries: North Africa’s Historical Connection to Wine

North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand are known as being the leading regions of wine production and wine history. However, there is another world of wine that is less famous, but contains just as much rich history. Wine does not appear at the top of the list of African alcohol production and consumption. However, some parts of the continent, like North Africa, have shown tremendous growth in their wine industries.

The connection of North African people to wine is ancient. Ancient Egypt marks the origin of the region’s wine culture, which then spread into the Mediterranean coastal regions, especially towards modern-day Tunisia.[1] This wine culture was preserved through different ruling eras. For instance, the colonization of Africa by the Europeans did not deter industrial growth. European powers played a critical role in boosting the region’s wine production and preserving its wine culture.

Did You Know: In addition to making wine from grapes, the Ancient Egyptians also made wine from pomegranates and figs.

However, the rise of Islam in Northern Africa almost threatened the region’s wine industry. However due to French influence, countries like Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia managed to maintain their wine cultures.

Wine in Morocco

Today, vineyards cover only a fifth of Moroccan soil as compared to when the country gained independence. A state-owned company, SODEA, is currently controlling a wide share of the wine industry, which makes the market less competitive. With the state’s support and a growing number of foreign investors, there is hope for sustainable growth in the future.[2] Moroccan wines are predominantly red, produced from Carignan grapes, with some Grenache and Cinsaut. Other varieties, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah have also been introduced, contributing to the production of some of the country’s finest wines.

North African


Wine in Tunisia

Tunisian wine production started in 800 BC when the Phoenicians founded Carthage. Today, the industry has a strong French flavor, an indication of the French influence on wine culture. Tunisian wine production is delaying the introduction of modern methods, with less investment in modern farming and winemaking systems. There are fewer grape varieties, including Alicante, Carignan, Grenache, and Clairette. Light rosé wines are the most common in the country, with full-bodied red wines emerging more recently.

North African: Algeria

Algeria has the largest wine market in the region. The country has a wide area under vine cultivation, a credit to the legacy left by the French. However, the country is yet to fully privatize the industry, with a large percentage of the industry being controlled by the state-owned ONCV organization[3]. The Mediterranean climate supports most of the grape farming in the northern part of the country. Varieties that support the production of wines high in alcohol include Alicante, Carignan, Bouschet, Grenache, and Cinsaut.

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On this day in wine history

November 15, 1884: European leaders came together to discuss Africa. They divided resources and territories of the African continent. Upon entering the North African region, Europeans introduced new grape varieties and winemaking techniques, thus establishing the modern wine culture in the region.

Want to read more? Try these books!

The Sommelier's Atlas of Taste- A Field Guide to the Great Wines of Europe The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia


[1] Pellechia, Thomas, “We’re Talking About The Other African Wine World,” Forbes, (May 9, 2017) [Accessed on 2nd March 2022].

[2] Aziz, M. B., Hasna NAIT M’Barek, Hicham Douieb, and Hassan Hajjaj, “Influence of Enological Treatments on Dissolved Oxygen Content of Moroccan Red Wine,” Int. J. Adv. Res 4 (2016) p. 156-160.

[3] World Food and Wine web, “WINE IN AFRICA,” Wine in Africa (2005) [Accessed on 2nd March 2022].

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