I get Decanter mag's daily e-newsletter and there was in interesting bit of news in there today about Castel Group, France's largest wine producer, planting vineyards in Ethiopia. Ethiopia??
According to Decanter..."there is a history of wine production...but the industry entered a period of decline after the wineries were nationalized by the military regime and production facilities (were) not upgraded." Ethiopia does produce both red and white wine as well as a centuries old traditional wine called Tej, made from fermented honey and a special kind of hops called gesho. Now, however, the Castel group have been given the opportunity by the Ethiopian government to begin planting international varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay. They have acquired 125 ha of land south of the capital and are planting at the moment. The hope is that Castel will lead the way in revitalising the local wine industry.
Due to the unique climatic conditions, soil and good weather year round in Ethiopia, it is possible to have 2 harvests a year from the same vineyard instead of the usual one. Castel plans to release the first wines in 2011, targeting neighboring African countries.
I've had Moroccan wine when I've visited Morocco and found they're quite palatable for African wines, now will Ethiopia be able to produce wines just as good? We'll just have to wait and see.