High Atlas Feature
During their occupation of the Maghreb, the Romans exercised their viniculture skills and exploited the climate and the soil, but upon their departure, and with the strengthening of Islam, the grapes literally withered on the vine. Under the French protectorate the vineyards were revived, but fell into state hands once they left in 1956, marking a second decline in production. The French once again took the helm in the 1990s, replaced all the vines and planted them in sand, which maintains the heat and kills phylloxera (the organism that once decimated French vineyards in the 19th century). The harvest is at the end of August and bottling takes place in France. The reds are quite low in tannin and the whites reasonably sharp and benefit from chilling. Wines of note are Médallion and Volubilis (reds and whites), both at the high end of the price range, but don't exclude the bargain and tasty Guerrouane Gris (a slightly orange-colored rosé) or the Président Sémillon Blanc. Look out for Gérard Depardieu Lumiere, a Syrah blend produced from the vineyards of the larger-than-life French actor.
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