Wine thrives in Muslim Morocco
Isn’t it amazing that the Muslims in Morocco can work in a winery and serve wine in their restaurants on the sly without much fuss at all, yet Muslims in America have suddenly begun to assert their religious “rights” by refusing to ring up pepperoni pizzas at the check out counter at Target stores?
Morocco has become one of the largest winemakers in the Muslim world, with the equivalent of 35 million bottles produced last year. Wine brings the state millions in sales tax, even though Islam appears to be on the rise politically.
“Morocco is a country of tolerance,” said Mehdi Bouchaara, the deputy general manager at the Celliers de Meknes, the country’s largest winemaker, which bottles over 85 percent of national output. “It’s everybody’s personal choice whether to drink or not.”
The Celliers have flourished on this tolerance. The firm now cultivates 2,100 hectares (5,189 acres) of vineyards, bottling anything from entry-level table wine to homemade champagne and even a high-end claret, Chateau Roslane, aged in a vaulted cellar packed with oak barrels imported from France. The winery now dwarfs virtually any other producer in Europe.
On paper, wine is “Haram,” or forbidden to Muslims. But Bouchaara said the firm’s distribution is all legal since it only sells to traders authorized by the state, who in turn officially sell exclusively to non-Muslim tourists.
Statistics, however, show that Moroccans consume on average 1 liter (a quarter of a gallon) of wine per person each year, and the Moroccan state itself is the largest owner of the country’s 12,000 hectares (29,652 acres) of vineyards.