French wine powerhouse Castel is doubling its production in Ethiopia in a bid to uncork new markets in Africa. David Pollard reports.
The French. Born with a nose for wine - and an uncanny ability to sniff out a vintage. Even when they're in Ethiopia. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CASTEL'S ETHIOPIA SITE MANAGER, OLIVIER SPILLEBOUT SAYING: "It is very colorful because the weather is not very hot in Ethiopia. The weather is temperate. Not too much hot, not too much sunny, and so the color, the flavor and everything is perfect." Olivier Spillebout is the local site manager for Castel. The French drinks company is one of the top three wine producing powerhouses of the world. And wants to double its production in Ethiopia to three million bottles a year by next year. Wine has its traditions in the east African nation - alongside a selection of reds, there's a honey-based tipple called Tej. And in a healthily growing economy of close to 100 million people, consumers want more. As does Castel - demand in Africa offering tempting new markets when compared to lacklustre Europe. Castel's Ethiopia chief is Bernard Coulais. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CASTEL WINERIES ETHIOPIA GENERAL MANAGER, BERNARD COULAIS SAYING: "In Europe and in the United States our target is to reach the Ethiopian diaspora. But in this region, the east African region, we want to be competitive with the South African wine so it is not only the Ethiopian diaspora but also the African people in the region." There's nothing new about new world wines upsetting the old order of France, Germany and Italy. In this case, it's more synergy than disruption - grapes in this vineyard in the Zeway wine district come from varieties imported from Bordeaux. A French connection that could help make Ethiopia's wines the pick of the bunch.