Formed in 1968 after independence from France, the story of the state-owned ONCV (Office National de Commercialisation des Produits Viti-vinicoles) is that of the Algerian wine industry as a whole: one of diminishing fortunes now just again on the rise.
The company is the only exporter of wine and accounts for over 80 per cent of the country’s vineyard area, comprising owned land and contracts with growers (who, in turn, lease from the state). This has enabled the company to play a large part in governing vineyard practices with contractors. The company is also in the unique position worldwide of having access to so many formerly-identified high quality plots (many with old vines) but at present the grapes from these are blended with fruit from lesser sites to form standard labels. This may change in the future however, as the company has adopted a more forward thinking approach since the nineties in order to increase export markets. A far-reaching modernisation programme, including the planting of international varieties and the installation of modern equipment within its wineries, is under way, and organic status has been granted at a number of sites. There is also talk of producing small batch wines, which will only help highlight the vast potential, which is, as yet, barely tapped. This could be the Penfolds of North Africa, when, and if, commercial conditions allow.