Surprisingly good Moroccan reds: Tandem Syrah & Aït Souala

Went to a slightly odd event last year organised by Francis Gimblett, an enthusiastic curly haired man who calls himself the Wine Adventurer. A few years ago, Gérard Depardieu was on Graham Norton’s show, and Francis was invited on to give his opinion on the wine Depardieu produces in Morocco. He liked it far more than he imagined, but the onslaught of campery and innuendo meant there was little time for him to find out more about the wine. Nor was there time at the end of the show – as the credits rolled, the burly Frenchman was whisked off into the night. There then followed several attempts to make contact, none of them successful. Undeterred, Francis got in his car, and set off to Morocco to see if he could locate Depardieu and his vineyard….

Did he find him? You’ll have to buy Francis’s book ‘In and out of Africa… in search of Gérard Depardieu’ in order to find out. Have to confess that the author’s speech at the launch of the book last autumn wasn’t sufficient to make me want to buy a copy, although my mate Stuart George did get his hands on one and reviewed it here. But the evening also included a tasting of some of the ‘better wines’ that Francis had come across on his travels through Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The blurb on the tasting sheet showed that he was under no illusions about their overall quality – ‘Better doesn’t always mean “good” and the line up includes the bad and a few ugly, along with hopefully some that will impress.’

And he wasn’t wrong. My notes include jottings such as ‘Why am I here?’, ‘Oh dear’, and ‘Is it me or are all these crap?’ But then a few signs of light appeared. Yes, the Lumière and Kahina reds made by Depardieu and Bernard Magrez were significantly better than most. But better still were two wines from Thalvin. Aït Souala 2004, a blend of Arinarnoa, Tannat and Malbec, was on the oaky side, but had plenty of dusty rustic fruit tinged with notes of violets and chocolate (if you’ve never heard of it, Arinarnoa is a Merlot x Petit Verdot cross developed in France in the 1950s – first came across it at Casa Valduga in Brazil of all places). Equally fine was the 2006 Tandem Syrah (Called Syrocco in the US I think) which is made in conjunction with the wizard of Crozes Alain Graillot. It’s a blackcurranty, plummy Syrah with some meaty reduced aromas, with a hearty warmth befitting the warm climate, but a bright balanced finish too. What prompted this post is that I’ve just seen that the 2007 is available from Liz & Mike Berry at Les Vins Fins de la Crau for £14.95. More wines like this please Morocco, these two were lovely.

Addendum: Just been informed that the Wine Society has the 2005 Tandem for £9.95 – here.

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