Sun, Jul 07, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Fine wines flourishing
in Muslim Morocco

Blessed with an ideal environment for growing grapes, the ‘land of vines’ makes more than 40 million bottles of wine a year, most of which are consumed locally, despite a less ideal social climate

By Omar Brouksy  /  AFP, BENSLIMANE, Morocco

Morocco’s wine industry now employs up to 20,000 people, according to unofficial figures, and generated about US$170 million in 2011.

However, the remarkable progress made by the sector in recent years has taken place within a sensitive social environment.

While alcohol production is permitted by state law, and supermarkets and bars enforce no special restrictions on Muslim customers, officially, the sale and gift of alcoholic drinks to Muslims is illegal. They are unavailable during Islamic festivals, including throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

Separately, the Islamist-led government last year decided to raise taxes on alcoholic drinks from 450 dirhams (US$53) per hectoliter to more than 500 dirhams.

So far, this has not noticeably deterred consumption among Morocco’s population of 35 million, although economic realities certainly influence local drinking habits: The wine favored by most Moroccans is a cheap red called Moghrabi, which comes in a plastic bottle and costs 30 dirhams a liter.

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