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The Carthaginian Resurgence

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Carthage was founded in around 650BC as a Phoenician colony in modern-day Tunisia. Legend has it that Queen Dido arrived in North Africa and asked the local Berber king Iarbas for a small plot of land as a temporary refuge before resuming her journey. A deal was reached, that she could claim as much land as could be encircled by an oxhide. Cutting the hide into fine strips, she claimed a much larger area than Iarbas contemplated, and laid the foundation of Carthage.
The Semitic city-state, revered for its mercantilism and feared for is naval power, once vied for hegemony against the other two great powers in the region – Greece and Rome. Although ultimately defeated after 3 wars spanning some 118 years, the astonishing victories won by Hannibal were of such importance that they are still being studied in military colleges today.
The Phoenicians and their descendants the Carthaginians had been producing wine for centuries. The Romans may have salinated the soil to prevent crops from ever being grown again (which is unlikely, given the price of salt back then), but Islam’s general prohibition of alcohol would have been the more important factor.
From 1881 to 1956, as part of the French colonial empire, vines were re-planted in Tunisia – hence the distinctive French touch in Tunsian wine, be it the AOC system or the grape varieties – mainly along the cooler northern coast. Established in 1948, ie 8 years before Tunisia became independent from France, Les Vignerons de Carthage has been the driving force behind the development of Tunisian viticulture and wine tourism.

 

Cave La Fontaine Aux Mille Amphores Blanc de Blancs M Brut 2011

A Mornag AOC single-varietal Chardonnay sparkling white made as per méthode traditionnelle. Luminous lemon-yellow with light golden reflex, the rounded nose reveals lime peel, lemon and fleur de sel, elaborated with a whiff of smoke. Supported by crispy acidity and invigorating bubbles, the focused palate presents pomelo, green apple and dried herbs, infused with chamomile tisane. Medium-bodied at 12%, the lively entry evolves into a potent mid-palate, leading to a herbal finish.

Domaine Magon Rosé 2012
Named after the Carthaginian agriculturalist Mago (“Magon” in French), this Mornag AOC rosé is a blend of Grenache, Merlot and Cinsault. Grapes were manually harvested at dawn to preserve their freshness. Thoroughly de-stemmed, first-pressed juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks under low temperature. Rich vermillion with orange-red reflex, the fragrant nose radiates cranberry, white cherry and hawthorn, garnished with mint. Possessing ample acidity and slight petillance, the refreshing palate provides blueberry, raspberry and Red Delicious apple, decorated with parsley. Medium-full bodied at 12%, the fruit-driven entry transforms into a herbal mid-palate, leading to a clean finish.

Cave La Fontaine Aux Mille Amphores Rosé M Brut 2010
A Mornag AOC single-varietal Merlot sparkling rosé made as per méthode traditionnelle. Bright rosso corsa with scarlet-tangelo reflex, the floral nose offers rose hip, white strawberry, Sevilla orange and cucumber. Sustained by vibrant acidity and exhilarating bubbles, the fleshy palate delivers raspberry, strawberry and pomegranate, punctuated by minerals. Medium-bodied at 12%, the stimulating entry continues through a vigorous mid-palate, leading to a tantalising finish.

Cave de Bir Drassen Gris d’Hammamet 2012
This Mornag AOC rosé is a blend of Grenache and Syrah. Manually harvested and cooled before fermentation, free-run juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks under low temperature. The slow fermentation process, lasting 15 days, results in this very complex, Tavel-like rosé. Dark Princeton orange with tangerine hues, the alluring nose exudes white strawberry, mirabelle, fresh herbs and hints of bacon. Boasting lively acidity and slight petillance, the enticing palate supplies white cherry, redcurrant and guava, enriched with Lady Grey tea. Medium-bodied at 12%, the crispy entry carries onto a focused mid-palate, leading to a refreshing finish.

To discover the historical treasure of Tunisian wine, contact Ms Linda Knightsbridge of Hubnet Ltd; W: www.hubnetwine.com.hk; E: linda@hubnetexp.com; T: +852 2433 9933

Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages.

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