Text Size:-+

Ethiopian Wine: A New Frontier in Africa

I'm a sucker for pioneers. Especially those that strike out into the wilderness to try making great wine where no one has tried before. This is why I was positively tickled when I learned about people making wine in Thailand a few of years ago.

My latest source of delight in this regard is Ethiopia, which frankly is a much more likely locale for winemaking than Thailand. Thanks to the famine in the 80's, most people's mental picture of Ethiopia looks like this:

Photo by Calips96

But Ethiopia is far from a flat wasteland. In fact, it is incredibly mountainous. A lot of it looks like this:

Photo by Moi of Ra

Presumably those who are embarking on winemaking in the country, including The Castel Group, France's largest wine producer, are exploring these cooler, higher elevation areas of the country.

Ethiopia, with it's large population of Coptic Christians (who make up about 60% of the population), is perhaps the most likely winemaking population in what is a mostly Muslim dominated Northeastern Africa (though it should be noted that there are significant vineyard plantings in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt). Hopefully the Ethiopians can do a bit better than their neighbors to the North, as Egyptian wine is positively dreadful.

I wish them the best of luck. Read the full story.

Thanks to Arthur for tipping me off to the story.

Comments (10)

Arthur wrote:
06.09.08 at 12:23 AM

Great use of images. When I read this story, it was those green mountains that came to mind.

Nancy wrote:
06.09.08 at 7:29 AM

Lovely picture of the highlands. Remember White Nile and Blue Nile, Alan Moorehead's (?) bestsellers of the '60s? All about the sources of the Nile, one of which is in Ethiopia. Hills + rivers = good wine transportation possibilities, no? Perhaps the Egyptians could import.

Philip James wrote:
06.09.08 at 12:07 PM

Alder - thats great. I have a friend from Eritrea, and, not that I've been, she was telling me about the lush mountain lake regions.

As you say above, not what the average person thinks of when they hear those countries.

Owen wrote:
06.09.08 at 1:05 PM

A couple of Ethiopian restaurants here in Sacramento carry Ethiopian wine. I have only tried the red and it was dreadful - a noxious blend of brett, vinegar, aldehyde & acetone. The beer is much better!

Alder wrote:
06.09.08 at 1:38 PM


Thanks for the comments. How unfortunate. Maybe this new entrance by the French firm will help.

06.09.08 at 3:07 PM

What grapes?

Alder wrote:
06.09.08 at 7:31 PM

The grapes are all international varieties: 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 10% Chardonnay. Over 750,000 vines will be planted.

winenegress wrote:
06.10.08 at 11:03 AM

I lived in Ethiopia as a teenager in 1973-4 and traveled in Eritrea (Asmara, Massawa), Mekelle, Gondar, Axum, Harar, Dire Dawa and other points. A couple of things to point out: As much as Ethiopia would like to claim links to the old Abyssinia (see Queen of Sheba), the country is equally Muslim and Christian (my dad designed the population census for them back in the 70s and strongly suggested they not include religious affiliation on the form if they wished to maintain the perception of being a "Christian" republic.) Second, wine production at all is more good news for country that has been ill served by all of its leaders. It's my understanding they are beginning to market their coffee (a much better bet than the wine at this point) so let's hope the lovely people of this country finally have some leaders looking after their best interests.

Neil Frye wrote:
06.11.08 at 10:59 AM

Ahoy there from the southern tip of Africa.
What a fascinating idea, wine from the tropics in Africa.
I do hope they can battle the elements.
Quite a lot of farmers tried in dear old Zimbabwe without much success, however perhaps one or two of the beautiful hills which are fanned by the cooler breezes might yield up something.
We do make some surprizingly good wines in our warmer regions of the Cape with the help of irrigation.
We wish them the best.
Neil Frye

Vineyard Marketing
Cape Town

Chad wrote:
06.13.08 at 1:21 PM

WOW! Those pics are incredible.

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Images: Divine Droplets Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets US 2014 Vintage - Early, Fast, Eventful Vinography Images: Big Shadow Come Explore The Essence of Wine with Me in Healdsburg: October 30th, 2014 Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 5, 2014 Another Idiotic California Law Screws Wineries Vinography Images: Vineyard Reflections The Fake Tongue Illusion and Wine Tasting 2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 21, San Francisco

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month


Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.