African wine at the conquest of Europe

By Jean-Paul Pougala (*) – (The text below is a summary of the African Geostrategy course held on April 5, 2012 in the Master2 program at the Higher Institute of Management (ISMA) of Douala, Cameroon)

Translated from French to English by Farida Nabourema (Washington DC)  May 09, 2012  – ” Brazilian wine? Are you kidding! I’m willing to take the Orange juice, but the wine … “. It is with these words that the news television Swissinfo opened its News on May 24, 2011, reporting the reactions of an Italian wine seller at the Berne Agricultural Fair (BEA) where for the first time through a well stocked booth, Brazil knocked on the door of the Swiss market with its wine. The Berne fair was the result of a glamorous operation conducted a few days earlier by the Brazilian Institute of Wine (Ibravim), by presenting to a selected audience of connoisseurs in Kaufleuten Hof, a club reputedly known as the classiest of Zurich, 5 cellars of the luxurious Brazilian wine obtained through the project “wines of Brazil”. This project was launched in 2002 by the Government of Brazil to change the myth according to which wine is European and can only be of a good quality if produced under certain climatic conditions similar to those found in Europe.

There is a metropolitan legend carefully maintained by the Europeans stating that wine is European. Which is wrong? Wine is African. It originated in Africa. It is Africans who invented wine. They are those who have developed the techniques of winemaking used today by the Europeans and the rest of the world. Grape is a tropical fruit, contrary to what mainstream science says.

The Egyptians are those who invented the winemaking process which consist of transforming grapes to wine. They created the system of harvesting and pressing grapes to make wine, as evidenced by several Egyptian paintings dating from 2500 BCE showing us the place of viticulture and winemaking in ancient Egypt.

Research conducted by Maria Rosa Guasch-Jané at the University of Barcelona on residue samples taken from earthenware vases from the tomb of Tutankhamen in 2004 have proved that it was the Egyptians who first invented the white wine and then the red wine. The Romans will import the procedure and spread it throughout their empire by improving the techniques until the end of the empire in the fifth century.

Ultimately, history teaches us that it was the Egyptians who were the first to grow grapes about 3000 years BC. They will produce white and red wine for 2000 years before the Romans could import it and develop it in Italy on the island of Sicily around 1000 BC, as it was the sunniest part of the empire, thanks to its longitudinal proximity with Africa.

The first attempt to dispossess Africa of the paternity of the cultivated vine comes from the Bible where the character Noah was made the first winemaker of humanity; which is wrong because before these stories, Egypt already boasts 2,000 years of experience in wine production.

From Italy, the wine will regain all Europe with cultural improvements to adapt the vine to colder climates, which will lead to a sharp deterioration in the quality of the original wine. That’s why countries, like Italy which are sunny enough, will prohibit the use of sugar to “cut the wine” while others such as France, in order to grow grapes in cold areas such as Champagne, are forced to allow the sophistication of wine with sugar. The only real novelty that Europeans will bring to the Egyptian wine was to make is sparkling. We know that for a fact from written records in 1531 by monks of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Hilaire that cited the Blanquette de Limoux, the sparkling Gaillac and La Clairette de Die.

With wine, Europeans are sitting on a gold mine that they do not want to share with anyone. To do so, they have cleverly managed to persuade Africans that grape grows only in temperate climates. Which is obviously false and that was quickly understood by the Brazilians. As the Europeans were able to adapt the cultivation techniques imported from Egypt to their climates, Africa can also adjust at all latitudes, its own techniques to optimize its wine production. Which has already been brilliantly done in Algeria, South Africa and shyly in Madagascar while the South American countries located in the same degrees of latitude with African countries are excelling in, and are competing unashamedly with the European wine; the newest being precisely Brazil.

In his famous book “Dependency and Development in Latin America” published in 1969, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a supporter of the theory called “dependency”, explains how poverty in South American countries is linked to the dependency created by Europe and the United States to support their growth, and if they are rich, it is because the Southern countries are poor and that the day these countries will become rich, these Western countries will become poor as well. When he became president from 1/1/1995 to 1/1/2003, he tried to implement his ideas in order to break the dependency. The West wanted Brazil to be the largest producer of coffee but Cardoso did not want that. He wanted Brazil to actually invest in fields that the west discourages them to invest in; particularly wine grape. While all European experts consulted, predicted that Brazil cannot produce wine, Cardoso asked one question: can grape grow in Brazil? As soon as said, tests were conducted and the results were astonishing. And it was in 2002; at the end of his mandate that the initiative begun at a large-scale production of premium wine in Brazil. 10 years later, it is hard to believe. With a production of 3.2 million hectoliters of high quality wine intended to the USA, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Switzerland, Netherlands and 20 other countries; a wine that is not sold at the supermarket, but only to specialists.

Alexander Thoele of Swissinfo noted that the Brazilian Institute of Wine (Ibravin) has not invited his Swiss tasters anywhere. The meeting was at Kaufleuten Hof, the most popular luxury Zurich club, lodged between the headquarters of the two most prestigious Swiss banks, UBS and Credit Suisse. And the guests were managers and sales managers of restaurants and the most luxurious 5 star hotels in Zurich. But the originality of the Brazilians was mainly to invite the Swiss competitors to enjoy and criticize their wines. And what was their surprise! The only real criticism was on the green side of the long distance that these wines would travel from Brazil to Switzerland. They had forgotten that this is still the same distance that European wines travel from Europe to the rest of the rest of the world.

The Brazilian example may be followed by many African countries. For example, Senegal which is at 95% a Muslim country has seen its trade balance worsen with Europe in 2010 by paying a bill of 5.5 million Euros (3.6 billion CFA francs) for the importation of wine from Spain, France and Italy while the Casamance region is conducive to the production of wine and may even within 5 years guarantee self-sufficiency.

Everyone would have expected that from the outset, Brazil began producing low-end wines and gradually acquire the experience to ramp up. But it was not the case. They made the opposite choice because the Europeans have long ceased to produce wine, grape wine with most producers turning into real “pharmacists” as they are now called in Italian countryside. The sophistication of the wine is not even a fraud since it is governments that make laws to allow various manipulations that have the unfortunate consequence of harming human health. It is against this backdrop that Brazil has understood. The next African producers must go directly to organic wine since Africa has enough space and manual labor for the production.


Today, China is one of the largest wine producers in the world. But unlike computers, toys and machinery tools, what got China involved in the production what they call “grape alcohol” was not related to the revenues or the need to strategically occupy positions on this market. No, it was nothing like that. It was public health issues that motivated the Chinese authorities to start producing wine. The leaders of Beijing, to protect the health of their citizens have simply decided to boycott European wine.
In 1999, an observable fact made China distrust wines made in Europe: after a routine check on a sample of French wine in China, Chinese customs officials found an abnormally high rate of iron. After further thorough exams, the iron was reveled to be in reality that of blood hemoglobin coming from ox blood. What does ox blood have to do with wine? It is to answer this question that in the middle of the mad cow crisis, the Chinese customs officials posed as ordinary Asian tourists who love French cuisine; since there are millions per year, aiming at tracing the route to the regions these incriminated bottles originated from; that is to say, in the Dome and in the Gard. They will make an even more overwhelming discovery: French wine producers were cheating by using an odious ox blood to clarify their wine and give it a bright color. The problem is that the blood molecules decompose in this insanitary field of bacterial production and can be detrimental to human health which can potentially be fatal. It is for this same kind of wine that has been being sent to Africa for a long time, that the legend according to which red wine gives blood to who drinks it, is freshly served to Africans, while on the contrary it can actually kill them.

The story begins in 1997 when the Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng encouraged his countrymen to leave the traditional cereal-based alcohol products for grape wine. It was to leave the cereal for human consumption in order to avoid shortages and famine. The French and the Spanish rushed into the breach to fill this huge market; but since in Europe the cultivated area had not increased, they began selling any kind of rubbish to the Chinese. The only solution for the Chinese was to engage in wine production in order to preserve the health of their population.


On 12/02/2003 it was the very well renowned American newspaper, the Washington Post that in a very alarming article denounced the presence of chemical fertilizers in wines coming from Europe and destined to North American market.

5 years later, the dangerousness of European wine denounced by the U.S. daily would be confirmed by a serious European study published on 26/03/2008, by the associations of Pesticides Action Network-Europe (PAN Europe), of which MDRGF France, Austria for Global 2000 and Greenpeace German. The study conducted on bottles of wine from Italy, Portugal, France, Germany and Austria, found that 100% of the classic European wine was contaminated; poisoned. And there was often up to 10 different pesticide residues, with a very serious contamination level of 5800 times the limit granted for tap water. These studies showed that the residues were mostly carcinogenic and toxic molecules that can thwart human reproduction. In other words, drinking these wines frequently could either cause cancer or make the drinker sterile. In his conclusion, PAN points to the over use of pesticides in viticulture which occupies only 3% of European farmland, but hosts 20% of pesticides used in agriculture. Because of the need to produce more while the available land regresses, the remaining option is to use chemicals to compensate and that is how Europe came to spread real poisons (cancer) and fetus killers for mass sterilization.

It’s not fraud, as only three months after the results of this study and specifically on May 29 2008, the Sarkozy government, published a 16 pages document called “Plan for the Modernization of the wine industry” –  which you can rename “License to kill” – where it is stated about the wine industry that:

“More freedom means alleviate certain administrative procedures, remove certain constraints, open a range of technical, cultivation and enological practices, and leave to the professionals a margin of appreciation and decision-making.” When you couple this freedom left to the professionals with lure of gain and scarcity of land, it is reasonable to ask every time, what wine bottles coming from Europe actually contain?


When I was young in my country Cameroon, I had promised myself not to ever drink alcohol and never smoke because I was intrigued to find that the only companies that my country had inherited from the British, German and French occupations were breweries and cigarette companies. The Europeans built no school, no roads, hospitals or dairies, but focused only on these two areas: alcohol and cigarettes. I found that very suspicious. And after noticing that 100% of ingredients used in these industries come from Europe in order to enrich European farmers and impoverish ours, condemned to produce useless coffee, cocoa and cotton; to date, I have never taken any of these two products despite my 20 years spent in Italy which the first wine producer in the world where wine is a real tradition. My behavior over time has proven beneficial but very isolated. Around me alcohol had invaded society.  European alcohol (wine, beer) became the only true symbol of funerals in the Bamileke tribes (West Cameroon) and this is what made me realize that my statement was wrong, and pragmatism has guided me to rather ask myself another question: “how to make sure that every glass of wine, each glass of beer taken in Africa is not a piece of African sovereignty that is sold? How can the pickings of wine and beer benefit African farmers? The answer to this question is that it is not true that hops, malt and corn that go into beer production can only be produced in Europe or the USA. It is not true that viticulture can only be made in Europe and not Africa.

African youths must be able to doubt all the truths manufactured to deceive their parents and grandparents and start producing their own truth, even when mainstream science says that something is not possible. Because in reality, as Giordano Bruno said, mathematics lies and geometry tells just what you want her to say,” To this I add: science lies and tells just what the dominant system wants her to tell. There is no plant, no tree that can grow somewhere in the world and that cannot be adapted to the conditions of vegetation in Africa. According to a note made by Mrs Gihane Ramatou IDI Economic Mission called UBIFRANCE (state organization under the Consulate of France in Douala), updated on 19/04/2012 by Gerald SMALL and sent to the producers of French wine, it is said that Cameroon (like most African countries) is an Eldorado to conquer by French winemakers. Madam Idi gave evidence for the increase of imports from 2009 to 2010 at 23.7%, 10 million euros (6.6 billion CFA francs), and invited them to come to Douala in November 2012 to prospect new customers. I suggest you go see Mrs. IDI at Building Indigo Bonapriso (Douala) to get invited to the ceremony, but by telling her you are looking for partners to train you in the making of vine in Cameroon. She will certainly tell you that it is not possible, but it will be up to you to break with the “dependency theory” to start a new course in Africa-Europe relations. Many did and were very successful.

The most significant example is the Spanish company Terra i xufa Valencia which in few months passed from being a mere distributor of German beer on its circuit of specialty stores and restaurants, to a producer of organic beer, exporting to Germany and forcing its former German supplier to become its new distributor on German soil. This is the kind of reversal of the “dependency theory” that the African youths should strive to achieve. And rather than being the ridiculous European wine consumers and reciting the propaganda of the ones they are enriching as “GOOD WINE”, the “GOOD BURGUNDY”, the “GOOD BOJOLAIS”, the African youths must learn to stay sober and abstain from alcohol in order to have a lucid head and go in Europe’s vineyards learn how to finally turn the tide in their favor and offer Europe and the rest of the world, organic wine.  As the studies of the Pesticides made by Action Network Europe (PAN- Europe) mentioned above, the only non-contaminated wines were organic wines. Africa has the space and labor to develop this field; there is a big market to win over the world. The slogan is ready and so obvious, “Stop poisoning yourself, drink organic African wine “. In comparison, a hectare of plantation produces about 185 kg of coffee, 300 kg of cocoa but 8 tons of grapes which will give about 4,500 bottles of 75 cl of wine, meaning a productivity of 40-60 hectoliters per hectare. Why Africans are confined to the production of the most menial crops like coffee or cocoa and have never thought about the vine? Is the fear of climatic conditions the only justification for this? Find the error.

Douala May 5 2012

(*) Jean-Paul Pougala

Director of the Institute of Geostrategic Studies of Douala/Cameroon, Geneva/Switzerland and Tianjin /China

Teacher of “African Geostrategy” at the Institute of Management (ISMA) in Douala/Cameroon

Translated from French to English by Farida Nabourema (Washington DC)  May 09, 2012