Wine Making in Sudan: Better Living Through Chemistry

For those of you who know me, my luxurious mop of dark hair in this photo will let you know that it was taken some years ago. In fact, it was shot in the kitchen of our house in Khartoum, Sudan in the mid 80’s (OMG was it really that long ago?).

In this picture, I am actively and willingly breaking a serious Sudanese law … making and consuming alcohol. The people of Sudan are Muslims, and the country lives under Sharia Law. For those of you who don’t know (and why would you?), Sharia is the moral code and religious law of Islam. Alcohol is strictly prohibited in the Quran, and consequently, is illegal in countries that live under Sharia Law.

People have been making wine for 8,000 years, and the process has remained essentially unchanged. Extract the juice from grapes, throw in some yeast, keep the container closed while allowing the carbon dioxide to escape, and voila, you have wine.

Our friends Carroll and Gerry helped us assemble the necessary gear, gave us a few tips, and suddenly, we were winemakers. You’ll note I didn’t say GOOD winemakers, but our Sudan Rouge was drinkable, packed a punch, and was a fun diversion in a harsh and sometimes dangerous place.

We learned lots of life lessons in our two years in Sudan. The lesson here was that if you make your own wine, never again will you take for granted strolling into the local store and picking up a delicious Chardonnay.

Happy Trails,


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

4 thoughts

    1. Tricia, if you’d had a snort of the ol’ Sudan Rouge, you’d know immediately that you’re giving us waaaayyy too much credit. It was pretty strong and rough stuff, but as I always say, “Any port in a storm.” And given the Sahara Desert, grapes were pretty scarce in Khartoum. We used bottled grape juice which was imported from Greece (only available through the company commissary). We had no idea of the alcohol content, but after a few months without a drink, my palate wasn’t so discriminating. ~James

    1. Thanks for the link to our post on winemaking in Sudan. I’m flattered that a wine blog would consider my feeble (but effective) winemaking worthy of a mention. My two years in Sudan taught me many things, and one of the biggies was how one’s taste changes given a dearth of happy hour options. If you tasted our Khartoum vintage in your Wisconsin home, you’d grimace and pour it down the sink. But given a few dry months, and ahhhhh, it tasted like nectar. And BTW, I also drank my share of araqi as well, and anyone that tells you that it isn’t alcoholic has a reckless disregard for the truth. It’s basically the Sudanese version of white lightnin’ and mixed with a bit of lemon-lime it will do the job as well, except quicker. Thanks again for the link and a fun memory. ~James @

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