Lebanese wine
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 is among the oldest sites of wine production
Winemaking, or vinification, is the production of wine, starting with selection of the grapes or other produce and ending with bottling the finished wine. Although most wine is made from grapes, it may also be made from other fruit or non-toxic plant material...

 in the world. The Israelite
According to the Bible the Israelites were a Hebrew-speaking people of the Ancient Near East who inhabited the Land of Canaan during the monarchic period .The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל...

 prophet Hosea
Hosea was the son of Beeri and a prophet in Israel in the 8th century BC. He is one of the Twelve Prophets of the Jewish Hebrew Bible, also known as the Minor Prophets of the Christian Old Testament. Hosea is often seen as a "prophet of doom", but underneath his message of destruction is a promise...

 (780–725 B.C.) is said to have urged his followers to return to Yahweh so that "they will blossom as the vine, [and] their fragrance will be like the wine of Lebanon". The Phoenicians of its coastal strip were instrumental in spreading wine and viticulture throughout the Mediterranean in ancient times. Despite the many conflicts of the region, the country has an annual production of about 600,000 cases of wine. Recently the sector has been witnessing an unprecedented growth.The number of wineries went from 5 in 1998 to over 30 nowadays.


Vitis vinifera
Vitis vinifera
Vitis vinifera is a species of Vitis, native to the Mediterranean region, central Europe, and southwestern Asia, from Morocco and Portugal north to southern Germany and east to northern Iran....

evidence from ancient Rome shows wine was cultivated and then domesticated in Lebanon, at least two thousand years before Alexander the Great. While some people believe it arrived from the South Caucasus
South Caucasus
The South Caucasus is a geopolitical region located on the border of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia also referred to as Transcaucasia, or The Trans-Caucasus...

 via Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 or the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 trade routes there is no record to support such a claim. Vines grew readily in the land of Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

, the coastal strip of today's Lebanon, and the wines of Byblos
Byblos is the Greek name of the Phoenician city Gebal . It is a Mediterranean city in the Mount Lebanon Governorate of present-day Lebanon under the current Arabic name of Jubayl and was also referred to as Gibelet during the Crusades...

 (Gubla, Gebal, Jubail, Jbeil) were exported to Egypt during the Old Kingdom
Old Kingdom
Old Kingdom is the name given to the period in the 3rd millennium BC when Egypt attained its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement – the first of three so-called "Kingdom" periods, which mark the high points of civilization in the lower Nile Valley .The term itself was...

 (2686 BC–2134 BC). The wines of Tyre and Sidon
Sidon or Saïda is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 km north of Tyre and 40 km south of the capital Beirut. In Genesis, Sidon is the son of Canaan the grandson of Noah...

 were famous throughout the ancient Mediterranean, although not all the cargoes reached their destination; Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard
Robert Duane Ballard is a former United States Navy officer and a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island who is most noted for his work in underwater archaeology. He is most famous for the discoveries of the wrecks of the RMS Titanic in 1985, the battleship Bismarck in 1989,...

 of Titanic fame found the wrecks of two Phoenician ships from 750 BC, whose cargo of wine was still intact. As the first great traders of wine ('Cherem'), the Phoenicians seem to have protected it from oxidation with a layer of olive oil, followed by a seal of pinewood and resin - this may well be the origin of the Greek
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 taste for retsina
Retsina is a Greek white resinated wine that has been made for at least 2000 years. Its unique flavor is said to have originated from the practice of sealing wine vessels, particularly amphorae, with Aleppo Pine resin in ancient times. Before the invention of impermeable glass bottles, oxygen...

. The philosophers Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium was a Greek philosopher from Citium . Zeno was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, which he taught in Athens from about 300 BC. Based on the moral ideas of the Cynics, Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind gained from living a life of virtue in...

 and Chrysippus of Soli are both said to have enjoyed their wine, in fact the latter died from overindulgence.
Wine played an important part in Phoenician religion, and the Greek
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

 god Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

/Bacchus may have originated in the wine rituals of Canaan. Certainly the great temple at Heliopolis (Baalbek) has many depictions of vines and winedrinking, most famously captured by David Roberts in pictures such as 'Baalbec - Ruins of the Temple of Bacchus'. Such rituals may also have influenced the Greek Bacchae, the Jewish Passover Seder feast and the Christian Eucharist. The Bacchus tempe in Baalbek outlines the instrumental role that the Phoenician played in the development of the Ancient World around the Mediterranean sea. thru the widespread peaceful settlements that reached Spain. Genesis 14:18 mentions that the Phoenician King Melchizedek
Melchizedek or Malki Tzedek translated as "my king righteous") is a king and priest mentioned during the Abram narrative in the 14th chapter of the Book of Genesis....

 gave bread and wine (yayin) to Abraham, and Hosea 14:8 suggests "his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon". Wine also featured heavily in Ugaritic poetry such as the Rapiuma :
"Day long they pour the wine, ... must-wine, fit for rulers. Wine, sweet and abundant, Select wine... The choice wine of Lebanon, Most nurtured by El."

Once Lebanon became part of the Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

, wine production declined, although under the millet system
Millet (Ottoman Empire)
Millet is a term for the confessional communities in the Ottoman Empire. It refers to the separate legal courts pertaining to "personal law" under which communities were allowed to rule themselves under their own system...

 it was tolerated among the Christian population for religious purposes. The Christians also developed Arak
Arak (distilled beverage)
Arak or Araq , is a highly alcoholic spirit from the anis drinks family. It is a clear, colorless, unsweetened anise-flavoured distilled alcoholic drink...

, an ouzo-like spirit flavored with aniseed.

Winemaking was revived in 1857, when Jesuit monks planted Cinsaut
Cinsaut or Cinsault is a red wine grape, whose heat tolerance and productivity make it important in Languedoc-Roussillon and the former French colonies of Algeria and Morocco...

 vines from Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 at Chateau Ksara near Zahlé
Zahlé is the capital and largest city of Beqaa Governorate, Lebanon. With around 50,000 inhabitants, it is the fourth largest city in Lebanon, after Beirut, Tripoli and Jounieh...

 in the central Beqaa Valley
Beqaa Valley
The Beqaa Valley is a fertile valley in east Lebanon. For the Romans, the Beqaa Valley was a major agricultural source, and today it remains Lebanon’s most important farming region...

. In 1868 a French engineer, Eugène François Brun, set up Domaine des Tourelles, and others followed, notably Gaston Hochar's Chateau Musar
Chateau Musar
Château Musar is the name of a Lebanese winery in Ghazir, Lebanon, 15 miles north of the capital Beirut. Musar grapes grow in the Beqaa Valley, a fertile sunny valley at an altitude of ca. , situated 25 miles east of Beirut.-History:...

 in 1930.

The French influence between the World Wars promoted a culture of wine drinking, as did the sophisticated Mediterranean culture of Beirut
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon, with a population ranging from 1 million to more than 2 million . Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coastline, it serves as the country's largest and main seaport, and also forms the Beirut Metropolitan...

 at that time.

Frenchman Yves Morard of Chateau Kefraya was arrested as a spy during the Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i invasion, and was only released when he proved to the Israelis that he knew how to make wine.

The end of the conflict in the 90's brought a new momentum to the viticulture and we could track the renaissance of the Lebanese wines to the set up of Domaine Wardy in 1997 and Massaya in 1998 that marked the active involvement of French wine dynasties in the Bekaa Valley. Back then, the number of producers was around 5 and at present more than 35 wineries are active in Lebanon.

The 2006 conflict, did not really change the trend even if some wineries were on the edge of missing the harvest (Ksara) and got collateral damages (Massaya). However, the media coverage translated into surge in demand during the fighting as British buyers in particular bought Lebanese wine as a mark of solidarity.

Grape varieties

Lebanese winemakers have favoured French grapes, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada's Okanagan Valley to Lebanon's Beqaa Valley...

, Merlot
Merlot is a darkly blue-coloured wine grape, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to derive from the Old French word for young blackbird, merlot, a diminutive of merle, the blackbird , probably from the color of the grape. Merlot-based wines...

 and Rhone varietals such as Cinsaut
Cinsaut or Cinsault is a red wine grape, whose heat tolerance and productivity make it important in Languedoc-Roussillon and the former French colonies of Algeria and Morocco...

, Carignan and Grenache
Grenache is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It ripens late, so it needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, the south of France, and California's San Joaquin Valley. It is generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a relatively...

. However Lebanon has a rich heritage of indigenous grapes which are attracting more attention, for instance Musar White is made from a blend of Obaideh and Merwah.


All the major wineries have their vineyards in the southern Beqaa Valley
Beqaa Valley
The Beqaa Valley is a fertile valley in east Lebanon. For the Romans, the Beqaa Valley was a major agricultural source, and today it remains Lebanon’s most important farming region...

. Chateau Ksara
Château Ksara
Château Ksara is a wine company in Beqaa Valley Lebanon. Starting out in 1857 by the local members of the Christian community, Ksara developed the first dry wine in Lebanon...

 remains much the biggest, with 70% of all the country's production. It is no longer connected with the Jesuit monastery of Tanail, it was sold in 1972 and suffered considerably during the civil war, but has now bounced back with reds and rosés made from Rhone varietals such as Carignan and Cinsaut
Cinsaut or Cinsault is a red wine grape, whose heat tolerance and productivity make it important in Languedoc-Roussillon and the former French colonies of Algeria and Morocco...


Next biggest is Château Kefraya, whose majority of shares were bought by Druze
The Druze are an esoteric, monotheistic religious community, found primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, which emerged during the 11th century from Ismailism. The Druze have an eclectic set of beliefs that incorporate several elements from Abrahamic religions, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism...

 politician Walid Jumblat from the De Bustros family in the late 1980s. The former winemaker, Yves Morard, has now set up Cave Kouroum nearby.

Chateau Musar
Chateau Musar
Château Musar is the name of a Lebanese winery in Ghazir, Lebanon, 15 miles north of the capital Beirut. Musar grapes grow in the Beqaa Valley, a fertile sunny valley at an altitude of ca. , situated 25 miles east of Beirut.-History:...

 is perhaps the best known in the West, it was a particular favourite of Auberon Waugh
Auberon Waugh
Auberon Alexander Waugh was a British author and journalist, son of the novelist Evelyn Waugh. He was known to his family and friends as Bron Waugh.-Life and career:...

. Musar
Chateau Musar
Château Musar is the name of a Lebanese winery in Ghazir, Lebanon, 15 miles north of the capital Beirut. Musar grapes grow in the Beqaa Valley, a fertile sunny valley at an altitude of ca. , situated 25 miles east of Beirut.-History:...

 achieved international recognition at the Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 Wine Fair of 1979 and for a long time was the only Lebanese wine widely available in the United Kingdom. The second wine, 'Hochar', is made in a lighter style for earlier drinking. Chateau Musar is known for transporting the grapes across the Front line during the civil war.
Run by Ramzi and Sami Ghosn, Massaya is a boutique winery that marked a turning point because of the financial involvement of French wine dynasties (Vieux Telegraphe and Cheval Blanc) and quick international market success. Indeed the features on CNN, BBC, Travel Channel, TV5... and in the New York Times, Decanter... are bolstering Lebanon's leading position in the Ancient World Wine category. Beside the Gold Reserve, Massaya is reputed for its Vineyard restaurant and the hospitality of its tasting room.

Among the wineries, one can mention Chateau Marsyas, the Johnny Saade's family-owned estate, who is being advised by international consultant Stephane Derenoncourt
Stéphane Derenoncourt
Stéphane Derenoncourt is a French vigneron working as a consultant for numerous estates in Bordeaux and other wine producers world wide, with his wife Christine Derenoncourt runs Vignerons Consultants and owns Domaine de l'A in the Côtes de Castillon and Derenoncourt California in Napa Valley...


There are several other significant wineries, including Karam Winery the first wine to be produced in Lebanon's southern region, specifically in Jezzine. Domaine Wardy, Domaine de Baal, Vin Héritage, Château Faqra, Château Nakad in Jdita, Domaine des Tourelles (who make Brun arak), Clos Saint Thomas, Cave Kouroum, Clos de Cana, Nabise Mont Liban, Château Qanafar, Château Khoury and Couvent St. Sauveur.

IXSIR wine
IXSIR wine
IXSIR is a Lebanese wine brand established in 2009, the winery is located just outside Batroun.The name is derived from the Arabic word for “elixir” ....

 inspired renowned French wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

critic Jean-Marc Quarin to award it “the best grade I have ever given to a Lebanese wine” at Bordeaux’s infamous La Semaine des Primeurs 09.

Currently the sector exports over 50% of the production mainly to the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

External links

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