VIVA LA VINO!
The vine bears three kinds of grapes: the first of pleasure, the second of intoxication, the third of disgust – Diogenes (ancient Greek philosopher)
Wine is a pleasure that has been enjoyed in various parts of the world for thousands of years. The fermenting of grapes took place as early as 6000 BC in Iran. Large-scale wine production existed in Greece in 4500 BC. Today, wine is popular throughout much of the world. And there are a plethora of grape varieties and thousands of wine producers from which to choose.
In Africa, the popularity of wine is increasing rapidly. Most wine lovers know that South Africa is a major world producer of wine, but many don’t know that other countries in Africa have a keen interest in wine and very good offerings as well. While some forms of wine have been in North, East and West Africa for a long time, mass production of wines and importation from all over the world has only recently reached such a high level.
A look into some of the lesser-known wine regions of Africa is an interesting way to learn that there are pleasure-seekers with good taste everywhere.
A love for wine and wine culture is rapidly gaining popularity in Uganda, an East African country that is bordered by Tanzania, Kenya and South Sudan.
Many shops in big cities like Kampala are stocking bottles from hundreds of different producers from all over the world. The passion for wine there is strong, with many Ugandans eagerly trying to learn about not only the wine they are drinking, but about wine history and what the rest of the world has to offer. One Indian wine shop owner in Kampala says that he is trying to create an environment where his customers are not intimidated by an overwhelming selection or high prices. “Good wine should be accessible and defined by its taste, not its label or price tag,” he says. While the quality of local wines is still being developed, wines from all over the world like Chile and Australia are imported and available.
Thanks to improved and friendlier trade policies that Uganda has established, there is no doubt that the country’s growing love of wines of the world will be able to flourish for years to come.
Technically speaking, wine is considered “Haram”, or forbidden, in the Muslim culture. But that has not stopped many wine lovers in predominantly Muslim Morocco from indulging in the pleasures of the grape.
In fact, Morocco has recently become one of the largest wine producers in the Muslim world. Last year, the country produced 35 million bottles and brought the country millions in sales tax. Despite a strict religious doctrine among Muslims, one winemaker describes Morocco as a country of great tolerance. People there have the freedom to drink if they want to, without fear of persecution. It probably helps that the Moroccan state itself owns a significant portion of the country’s 30,000 acres of vineyards. Compared to Sudan, where those caught drinking are regularly sentenced to lashings, or even Algeria where wine consumption is rapidly shrinking to just a few tourist spots, Morocco offers the wine lover plenty of opportunity to enjoy themselves.
There are many wine tours for those looking to explore Morocco’s wine country, and the best time to go is pretty much any time other than the hot summer months.
$25 Million Can Be Yours
We’ve all been spammed with unwanted scam emails from Nigeria claiming that we have many millions of dollars coming to us. And all we have to do is provide a few harmless bits of personal information and the money will be wired into our bank accounts. But is it possible that these same scammers would try to defraud us in the name of something as beautiful and delicious as wine? You be the judge.
In a recent correspondence received in the Tusker spam box from Winemaker Ben Kanobe & Co., he says, “I am the personal winemaker to Mr. Gallo Zinfandel. He was the CEO to a private firm in Nigeria until 30 years ago when he bought a famous winery in Napa, CALIFORNIA. Here in after, he shall be referred to as my Lord Wine. On August 6, 1997, my boss, Lord Wine, died from the dreaded phylloxera disease. Since the demise of my guru, I personally have looked with keen interest to find his next of kin, but all has proved abortive as no one has come to claim his funds deposit of US $25 million.” Mr. Kanobe goes on to say, “On this note, I decided to seek for a non-foreigner who will stand as the next of kin to claim these funds from the Wine Bank of Napa where the funds were deposited. I have all the necessary legal documents that can be used to back up any claim we may make. All I require is your honest cooperation to enable us to see this deal through.”
While some opportunities are clearly too good to be true, other smaller, yet fortunate opportunities like the one Tusker Trail founder Eddie Frank had years ago, are not.
Many regular readers of Tusker Geografica are familiar with Eddie Frank’s wild trans-Saharan adventures, going back as early as the 1970’s.
On one particular trip, Eddie was driving a big truck through a small Algerian town called Ouargla. A motorcycle cop pulled him over and gave him a ticket for a minor infraction of the law. Eddie says, “After he wrote me the ticket, he told me to wait. I then watched in my rear view mirror as he went back to his motorcycle and pulled something out of his saddlebag. He came back and handed it to me – it was a bottle of locally produced red wine. I shared it with my travel companions that night and we all thought it was quite good. Definitely worth the price of the ticket.”
It just goes to show you that good wine can come from anywhere, including many parts of Africa. And that the spirit of sharing and enjoying wine is alive and well throughout the continent.