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Castel to export Ethiopian wine

France’s largest producer, The Castel Group, is expected to bottle wine for export from its vineyard in Zeway, 200km south of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, early next year.

The wines will be bottled over the next three to six months and will be available on the international market shortly after, with Chardonnay the first in the range to go on sale.

Total production from this year’s harvest is expected to be around 450,000 bottles, according to Castel’s sales and marketing manager Robel Seido, over half of which the company aims to export out of Africa.

The first foreign-owned winery in Ethiopia after the socialist regime, Castel harvested its first Chardonnay grapes on 1 November, with production of the wine set for early January.

The French producer has poured over £5 million into its vineyard and factory in Zeway, which comprises 125 hectares of farmland planted with over 750,000 Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay vines, with Syrah accounting for the majority of the plantings.

A further 175ha is available for further planting in the future.

Wine production would normally take five years from planting to harvesting, but the project has born fruit in three-and-half-years due to the Ethiopian climate’s suitability for grape growing.

Castel acquired the land from the Ethiopian state in early 2008 with the aim of producing locally-grown, quality wines, to help revitalise the country’s wine industry.

Ethiopia has a history of wine production, but the industry entered a period of decline after wineries were nationalised by the military regime and production facilities not upgraded.

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