What do you think of when you hear Morocco? Fresh mint tea being poured in a handcrafted cup, the vivid colors of the country’s souks, the scent of spices, or the mountains, desert and beaches that compose its picturesque landscape? It’s no wonder Morocco welcomes more than ten million tourists each year. Yet more than just a travel destination, it offers a unique foodie experience. Renowned for its incredible culinary specialties – tajines, couscous or pastillas – Moroccan cuisine is an invitation to an unforgettable moment of conviviality.

 

If Morocco’s gastronomic heritage is internationally celebrated, its wines remain a well-kept secret. This Muslim country, located in the North African Maghreb, literally “sunset” in Arabic, is a major player in the wine world, ranking second in the region in terms of wine production and exportation. And America’s love for these wines has grown steadily in recent years, making it Morocco’s second export market behind France.

 

 

MOROCCAN RAINBOW

What better person than a Moroccan Chef to give us hot tips to impress our guests? Chef Mourad Lahlou, head chef at Mourad, the Bay Area’s iconic Moroccan restaurant, shares his favorite pairing: grilled kefta, Moroccan meatballs, and red wine. “The spices and aromas of the kefta require an equally flavorful wine pairing,” explains Chef Mourad. “I recommend serving it with a bold red, but with soft tannins that don’t overwhelm taste in mouth.” So which wine would Chef Mourad pour? “I would go with Ouled Thaleb’s Signature. Its touch of spice with floral notes will greatly enhance the kefta’s flavor. It’s a star pairing at my restaurant!” So for you East Coasters, since the trip to SF might be a stretch, try it at home!

 

 

HOT FROM THE CHEF’S KITCHEN

What better person than a Moroccan Chef to give us hot tips to impress our guests? Chef Mourad Lahlou, head chef at Mourad, the Bay Area’s iconic Moroccan restaurant, shares his favorite pairing: grilled kefta, Moroccan meatballs, and red wine. “The spices and aromas of the kefta require an equally flavorful wine pairing,” explains Chef Mourad. “I recommend serving it with a bold red, but with soft tannins that don’t overwhelm taste in mouth.” So which wine would Chef Mourad pour? “I would go with Ouled Thaleb’s Signature. Its touch of spice with floral notes will greatly enhance the kefta’s flavor. It’s a star pairing at my restaurant!” So for you East Coasters, since the trip to SF might be a stretch, try it at home!

 

 

 

 

Moroccan wine savoir-faire goes way back. First introduced more than 2,500 years ago, Moroccan vines then played an important role in Europe’s wine industry, when it gave a new breath of life to western production and consumption, following the ravage of phylloxera, a pest that devastated the majority of European vines. Over the years, the country evolved into a wine player of its own, thanks to the diversity and richness of its soils and terroirs, being surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Atlas Mountains. Morocco also owes a lot of its success to Chergui, an eastern wind that envelops the country twice or three times a year and helps grapes ripen faster to produce highly fruity and light wine.

 

 

So who do we thank for the wine? A winery stands out in particular: Domaine Ouled Thaleb, established in 1923 and located on the coastal region of Zenata, which bears the renowned AOG status (Guaranteed Origin of Appellation). The oldest functioning winery in Morocco, it perfectly illustrates the renewal of the Moroccan wine world, with 8 million bottles produced per year. Located 19 miles north of Casablanca, it operates on 5,000 acres of land, always with the most respect for nature: no herbicide or chemicals are ever used and the grapes are entirely hand-harvested.

 

 

Among the grapes grown in Morocco and at Ouled Thaleb are those we drink daily in America, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah. Yet, Morocco is home to indigenous grapes that generate equally fine wines, among which Faranah, which produces fresh, fruit-forward and floral wines. It’s like sunshine in a glass, embodying the authenticity and uniqueness of Moroccan terroirs.

 

History, food and wine – so, what are you waiting for?

 

 

Elysee at its most grand

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