- Written by Red Wine
Algerian Wine History
The Algerian wine-making tradition is more than 2,000 years old and wine was exported to Rome for the courts of the Caesars. Moslem domination ended Algerian wine production but grapes were still grown as fresh fruit and for raisins.
Current situation for Algerian wine
Modern Algerian wine production started about 130 years ago with the first French settlers and the first vineyards were planted in 1865. As French vineyards were decimated by phylloxera, many growers moved to Algeria to start again, bringing with them their own regional varieties.
Thirty years ago, Algeria was one of the world's leading wine producers. Algeria was still a French territory until 1962, and had more than 900,000 acres of vines and produced 1,500 million litres of wine.
The Algerian vineyards area has since halved and the government wants annual production pegged at around 300 million litres a year. Red Algerian wine accounts for about two-thirds of production and most is sold in bulk. The Algerian whites and roses have improved considerably although quality varies enormously.
Classification Algerian Wine
The classification system is largely based on the French, with VDQS and Appellation d'Origine Garantie. In reality it means little.
Grape varieties planted usually reflected the region of France the settlers came from. People from Burgundy planted Pinot Noir and Gamay, those from Bordeaux introduced the Cabernet varieties, and those from the south Grenache, Mourvedre and so on.
The main varieties today are:
- red grapes- Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Morastel, Mourvedre, Syrah;
- white grapes - Clairette, Muscat.
Regions Algerian Wine
Vineyards are found in the three coastal Departments of Oran, Alger and Constantine. Most of the wine is grown on the plains but the best results come from the hillside vineyards in the south of Oran and Alger.
Oran Wine Region: Designated areas are: Coteaux de Mascara (produces the best reds), Coteaux de Tlemcen (the best whites), Monts du Tessalah, Mostaganem, Mostaganem- Kenenda, Oued-Imbert.
Alger Wine Region: designated areas are: Ain-Bessem-Bouira, Coteaux du Zaccar, Haut-Dahra, Medea.
Styles Algerian Wine
Red Algerian Wine: Big, strong, heady, earthy wines. Drink youngish, but best will age.
White Algerian Wine: Much improved. Best are fresh, crisp, aromatic with good fruit. Drink young.
Rose Algerian Wine: Fresh, fruity, quatfable. Must be drunk very young.