I was in Marrakech the week before Ramadan and found myself increasingly impressed by the wine that they are making there. OK, that the vast majority of the winemakers have a background in Bordeaux means that it shouldn’t come as such a big surprise, but the extreme temperatures of the plains around Meknes (where most of the wine comes from) mean they do real battle with over ripeness, often resulting in wines that can be a little OTT in the mouth, lacking the subtlety that Bordeaux in particular is so famous for. If you magnify a rich Spanish wine by three you get the idea.
By contrast their pale-as-daybreak, almost rusty hued gris, most notably from the wineries of Volubilia and Larroque are spectacular. Unlike the more obviously pink wines, which can be cloying, Gris are zingy and refreshing with just enough spice to keep it interesting. I wanted to bring gallons of it home, but couldn’t get it on the plane, and since I flew the first day of Ramadan it seemed insensitive to go hunting for it in the Ville Nouvelle anyway. I should just have to make-do at home thought I.
Well no as it turns out. Most of the local bodegas are shut, and the range at the supermarket with the exception of El Cortes Ingles continues to be an uninspired bunch of cheap mass-produced bottles that fall far from the festive spirit. Even if this was September and everyone was back at work, a Spanish gris is hard to find.
The closest I’ve found to the magnificent Gris of the Carmargue and now Meknes, come from Rioja. Pale yet lively, and extremely versatile, I think they suit the tail-end of summer perfectly and I can think of few wines that work so well with so many things ranging from an apertif before lunch, to a bloody steak off the barbecue for dinner. Try Muga Rioja Rosado and Marqués de Cáceres Rose, both of whom make snappy, elegant pinks with plenty of personality. Both are under €10. Salut!