The French conquered Algeria in 1830 and managed it as a colony until granting it independence in 1962.
With French colonization, Algerian viticulture began to grow, with settler and colonists alike drinking the beverage because of its perceived safety and medicinal benefits. The country's warm temperature retarded development, however, and it was not until the introduction of the "cold fermentation" technique (allowing complete fermentation of the harvested grape) that serious commercial viticulture could be undertaken.
The introduction of cold fermentation, coupled with the devastation of French vineyards by the Phylloxera louse, lit a fuse under the nascent Algerian wine industry. Phylloxera caused a 70% decline in French wine production but this loss of capacity did not result in a diminishing of the French consumer's demand for wine. The combination of lost capacity and continued high product demand resulted in the following state of affairs:
- Increased demand for Algerian wine as France filled its 15 million hl demand shortfall with imports and adulteration. Imports increased from 1.2 million hl in the 1865-1869 period to 10.6 million hl in the 1875-1879 period.
- 50,000 French families emigrated to Algeria and took control of 700,000 ha, much of it destined to become vineyards
- An exponential increase in the level and amount of winemaking skills now resident in Algeria.
The Bank of Algeria was also a key enabler in the expansion of Algerian wine production as, in this timeframe, it overcame its previous reluctance to provide capital to the industry.
Initially, France's European neighbors also benefitted from its demand gap but as Algerian production ramped up, their fortunes fell off. While Algerian exports to France rose to 5 million hl in 1905, it was almost zero from Italy (down from 1.5 million hl in the late 1880s) and 2 million hl from Spain (down from 7 million hl in the same timeframe). For Algeria, by the turn of the century, 1/3 of its GDP, and 50% of its exports, revolved around wine production. By 1933, that export percentage had risen to 63%.
The charts below show production and export of Algerian wine and the area under vine. The details behind the charts will be discussed in a later post but the take-away here is the massive increase in all three measures from the starting point in the late 1800s.
|Production (blue) and export (rust) data for the Algerain wine |
industry.Selected data points from Meloni and Swinnen time series
|Selected data points from Meloni and Swinnen time series|
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