In 2007, Meles Zenawi (now late), Ethiopia’s Prime Minister at the time, invited Pierre Castel, founder of French beverage giant Castel, to assess the opportunities for vineyards in the country. It was not an entirely new idea. Awash Winery – which was privatised in 2013 and is now run by the private-equity firm 8 Miles LLP and local entrepreneur Mulugeta Tesfakiros – manages about 100 hectares of vineyards. But 10 years ago, Zenawi’s vision for a purely commercial operation in Ethiopia was still relatively unique, and Castel bought in. A year later the company (which already had a brewery in Ethiopia) imported different grape varieties and began setting up its vineyard in Ziway, 163km south from the capital, Addis Ababa.