If you guessed that Egypt is not a major wine-drinking country due to its Muslim heritage, you’d be right. But you’d be wrong if you thought it had no wine culture at all. Wine has been made in Egypt since pharaonic times, and the country was a major supplier for the Roman Empire. Since 2000, a few local producers have resurrected (pardon the pun) that legacy.
One of the leaders is Gianaclis, which was originally founded by a Greek entrepreneur in the late 19th century. The winery’s fortunes waned in the latter half of the last century but have picked up since it was acquired in 2002 by Heineken International. Today, from a base in the Nile Delta south of Alexandria, Gianaclis farms 150 acres of vineyards. The delta, benefiting from cooling breezes from the Mediterranean, offers a fertile environment for grapegrowing in the otherwise blistering heat of the Egyptian summer.
On a recent trip to Egypt, I enjoyed a bottle of Gianaclis’ 2008 red bottled under the Obelisk label. It was made from the Bobal grape, which is native to the Utiel-Requena region of Valencia, Spain. This medium-bodied, supple red had red fruit and meaty flavors reminiscent of a lighter-style California Zinfandel. I rated it 84 points, non-blind, and it cost about $10 a bottle with my room-service dinner in lodgings near the historic city of Luxor.