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Ethiopian-French company to start exporting fine wine

The Support Group of GEMD, Dublin, Ireland
Nov. 09 2011

Ethiopian fine wine

A leading French wine maker, Castel Winery plans to begin bottling wine for export starting early next year from its Battu (commonly known as Zeway) based vineyard. It is Ethiopia’s first foreign winery after all wineries were nationalized during the Derg regime, and has been cultivating four different types of French wine since May 2008. On Tuesday November 1, Castel harvested its first Chardonnay grapes in Zeway for white wine. It expects tol begin production in early 2012.

Castel Winery is currently using 120 hectares of land to grow four types of grapes to produce red and white wines. These grapes include; Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The winery plans to begin harvesting them in the next few weeks, according to the wine maker Olivier Spillbout who is based at the farm.

From the four types, Syrah grape will be the largest product from the farm while Chardonnay is the smallest, which is planted on 11.7 hectares of plot.

So far Castel invested over 305 million birr for the factory and vineyard, located on the outskirts of Zeway town, 163km south of Addis Ababa in Oromia regional state.

Robel Seido Sales and Marketing Manager of Castel Winery said his company has planted 28 Inox tankers each with a capacity of 430 hectolitres for the production of the first bottles of wine. He said that the bottling will take place in the next three to six months, adding “our products will be available for market shortly, with white wine coming out first.”

According to Robel, the total production for this year’s harvest from Chardonnay and Syrah grapes will reach 450,000 bottles.

Castel also targets to export over half of its production. According to the wine maker Olivier Spillbout, in other countries wine production would ideally take five years from planting to harvesting the first vine, while due to the suitability of the climate in Ethiopia the production time is reduced to 3 and half years.

Castel has acquired 450 hectares of land in Zeway for its vineyard and according to a deal with Awash Winery 49 hectares is being developed for the state owned wine bottler. Currently the company has created close to 700 jobs which is going to be constantly growing when the remaining area, apart from the 120 hectares of land currently cultivated, is readied for farming.

Groupe Castel was founded in 1949 by nine brothers and sisters. Less than a decade later, the Castel family began establishing bottling plants.

As the business flourished Groupe Castel conducted a series of acquisitions of globally reputable companies engaged in the wine sector. The Groupe’s strength was reinforced when in 1992 it bought Societes des Vins de France, which is France’s second largest winery. Castel, a sister company of BGI brewery has wine farms in three African countries: Morocco, Tunisia and Ethiopia.