Moroccan Soil, French Traditions
On a first trip to Morocco, many travelers are surprised to discover that the country has a vibrant winemaking scene that is producing some highly-ranked vintages. While the country’s years as a French protectorate played a big part in establishing Morocco’s modern-day wine industry (with French owners and winemakers still found at several of the top labels), the tradition actually goes back to the days of the Phoenicians, who planted the first vines in the region, followed by the Greeks and the Romans; the latter are credited with creating what’s thought to be the first full vineyard, in the area around the town of Volubilis.
Today, vineyards can be found mainly along the mid-section of the country, including outside of the Mediterranean seaside town of Essaouira and further up near the northeastern town of Berkane. Most operate in the traditional way, with workers hand-harvesting the grapes—though a few have put a Moroccan twist on the process by enlisting camels to help in the vineyards. Varietals like Syrah, Viognier, and Chardonnay have historically proven the most successful, though in recent years, growers are experimenting with Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Tannat and other lesser-known grapes.
The Moroccan wine tasting is among the more fascinating for guests, and showcases some of the most elegant and balanced blends being produced locally.
A Master Class
Ranging from Moroccan to French to Italian cuisine, the restaurants of La Mamounia are known for their flavorful dishes and elegant presentation—and their expansive selection of wines with which to pair it all. The bottles all come from the hotel’s impressive cellar, which is home to around 16,000 bottles from over 850 labels, sourced primarily from ten countries. The selection includes both rare and classic vintages, some not available anywhere else in Africa.
In a private 75-minute wine tasting with head sommelier, Mickael Rodriguez, or one of his assistants, guests will enjoy "an introduction to wine through the history of the country, its geography, geology, and traditions," says Mickael. The tasting will highlight wines from Italy, France or Morocco—according to the guest’s choice—and the location will be picked accordingly; you might be in the library of Le Marocain restaurant, for example, or in the private dining room of L’Italien.
As the sommelier also notes, guests often "have questions about Moroccan wine and want to discover them," so the Moroccan tasting is among the more fascinating for guests, and showcases some of the most elegant and balanced blends being produced locally. During the session you’ll taste five wines—each paired with its own chef-crafted canape—from “some of the best estates in the country,” says Mickael, including such labels as Le Val d’Argan, Chateau Roslane, and Les Deux Domaines. The most exclusive wine you’ll taste, though, will (based on availability) be La Mamounia’s own Icône label wines, a limited-production range available in white, rosé, and red. First launched in 2011 with a red blend, Icône is produced at La Ferme Rouge vineyard under the direction of Mickael and his team, who visit the estate several times a year and oversee the blending. The labels are only available to purchase at the hotel, making them the ultimate souvenir from your stay.
To learn more about La Mamounia or the hotel’s wine tasting experience, please contact the concierge upon making a reservation.