New wines of "the former world", as we call them in Tunisia, the earth of wine tradition since millenniums, recognized by the cultivation of the grapevine thanks to its sunny hillsides and its Mediterranean climate.
Since 1948, Les Vignerons de Carthage has honored and worshipped Carthaginian Magon an agronomist and enologist, with high quality wines, ensuring modernity and tradition. These wines appeal to the current consumers for exotic wines, with an outstanding international profile.
The Vine in the Maghreb
In the late antiquity, the Greek philosopher Aristote spoke about a vine species called "mad vine"; strange for him because it was carrying at the same time ripe and green fruits and flowers. The Latin naturalist, Pline, mentioned a wild vine called nassari GUI which thrived in the ancient Mauritania and which was used for medical purposes.
Strabon, Ptolémée and others considered the current Cape Spartel as the headland of the vine. The 2nd century Greek traveller Pausanias also announced the presence of the vine in Mauritania and added that the inhabitants of the Atlas used to eat the fruit of this plant.
But it seems that the merit of the diffusion of the vine growing in the Maghreb returns to the Phoenicians. "They had to import Eastern varieties, to graft the wild stocks… "
The vine seemed to have found favourable grounds in the close surroundings of Carthage, in Mégara, garden of Amilcar, in the Cap Bon, in Byzacène and around the cities established along the coasts like Lixus and Sala whose currencies continued to carry the bunch of grapes even after the fall of Carthage.
A tradition since millenniums
The first vines planted in Tunisia dates back to the Punic period. The Carthaginians built on this fine heritage and were the first to carry out scientific studies in oenology, as demonstrated by the "Treatise on agronomy and winegrowing" written by Magon in the eighth century BC.
Carthage, which was the bread basket of Europe, also became its wine cellar. This long-standing love affair between the Carthaginians and wine is being continued today by Les Vignerons de Carthage, whose great wines bring to mind Tunisia's fine sandy beaches, its charming oases and its magnificent landscapes.
During the ancient times, Magon was the worshipped Master of agronomy. Magon had certainly to take account of the climatic and geomorphologic characteristics of his country. For the farming methods followed by the Carthaginian vine growers, the treatise of Magon provides precious indications.
"Democrite and Magon recommend the Northern exposure because they think that the vines would be more fertile if oriented that way. However the wine they produce would not be the best".
The modern agronomists agree with Magon. According to him, it is necessary to dig pits and to fill them partly with stones in order to guarantee the roots the protection they need against water, winter cold and summer heat.
To strengthen the plant, the agronomist recommended manures and amendments. The grape marc mixed with manure was regarded as excellent manure, providing a convenient heat during the cold season and causing the new rootlets growth during the hot season. The "marc-manure" feeds the plant providing biogenic salts. In addition to other farming activities, the Carthaginian vine growers also used to practise "the baring".
Carthaginian Wine Recipes
Recipes based on raisin
Pick very ripe grapes up and take away the dry and damaged seeds. Dig it in the soil with a four feet distance in every direction from the forks and the stakes so that they can support reeds. The reeds will be put on the top of the installation. The grapes will be laid on them under the daily sun and covered the dew at night. Once dry, destem the grapes. Throw the berries in a pitcher in which will poured an excellent must that covers completely the fruits. At the sixth day, put this soaked fruits in a basket and press them. Pour very fresh must made from sundried grapes on the fruit skins and tread them. Then, press again and keep the wine in very well sealed vase in order to prevent the wine from being hard. Twenty or thirty days later, when it has stopped boiling, the vase will be emptied in other vases of which the lids will be immediately covered with plaster and then leather.
Wine recipe based on dried Muscat
Pick the healthy Muscat clusters up and take away the damaged berries. Hang the clusters on wooden sticks which should always be exposed to the sun. Destem the grapes when the berries are shriveled enough, throw them in a barrel and tread them. When we get a layer of fruits by treading them, this layer will be watered with old wine, tread again and water it with wine once more. This process is repeated a third time and then the grapes are left during five days. Finally, we will tread them again and press them in a basket.
During Roman period, the vine growing develops largely until the arrival of the first Muslim power which almost removes the culture of the wine in the country. With the institution of the French protectorate in Tunisia since 1881, the production of wine is really boosted.
Today, the Tunisian vineyard extends over a surface of 14 000 ha including seven AOCs occupying two big regions: the Cap Bon which in the East closes the Gulf of Tunis and near Tunis the valleys of Medjerdah and Oued Meliane. The planting is established by a mosaic of traditional, noble and universal grape varieties.
Since the beginnings of the 90s, the wine sector has seen a profound transformation which is essentially characterized by the modernization of the processes and techniques of the organization members of the Union of the Wine Cooperative Cellars (UCCV), today known as Les Vignerons de Carthage.
Tunisia modernizes today its viticulture in partnership with foreign investors coming from different European countries. Several wines have been granted thanks to these partnerships in many international competitions like the Paris Vinalies. (To know more about it visit http://www.gifruit.nat.tn)
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