Description 1 of 2

 

Lebanon can well be considered one of the cradles of wine production, dating as far back as 5000 years with the ancient Phoenicians. Through the ancient port city of Byblos, the wine was traded with Greece, Spain, Italy (Rome), and Carthage in northern Africa, and fared well in these exchanges for gold and other precious goods. Over the centuries the seeds planted in far off soils and evolving techniques from these wine trades and vineyard establishments laid the foundation for modern wine-making. 
 
Lebanon is also the setting for famous wine stories from the Bible. Once the great floods subsided, Noah is said to have planted the first vineyard. His tomb is believed to be located around Zahle, in eastern Lebanon. In southern Lebanon, the city of Cana is believed to be where Jesus turned water into wine. 
 
But while considered talented wine-makers, the Phoenicians had a weak army and were easily conquered by the Egyptians. The Assyrians followed, then Babylonians, Greeks and Romans. An ancient Roman temple dedicated to Bacchus still stands in Baalbek. In the 16th century, the Ottomans conquered Lebanon and under Muslim law, alcohol production and consumption was forbidden, save for the Lebanese Christians who were permitted to produce sacramental wines. In 1857, with this loophole in place, Jesuit missionaries created Ksara, the country’s first commercial winery and now its largest wine producer. They also produce Arak, a popular Middle Eastern fruit-based distillate with added anise seed. This success paved the way for others that have continued into the modern era such as Chateau Kefraya, and Massaya. Lebanon has a significant French influence from occupation after World War I, Algerian immigration, and French Christians who settled during the Crusades. The descendants of one such family, the Hochars, established Chateau Musar in Ghazir in 1930. Aside from the above mentioned commercial wineries that have found success overseas, boutique operations continue to crop up.
 
The French varietal Cinsault was the first grape planted in the Christian/French era. Others followed such as Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chasselas, Clairette, and Muscat, and native Lebanese grapes such as Merwah and Obaideh. Styles range from red, white, pink, sparkling, and sweet. Many of the dry wines are produced as blends. The hot Mediterranean climate is tempered by the sea and the inland mountains, creating superb growing conditions in elevated areas away from the desert. The Bekaa Valley is where most wineries are concentrated. 
 
Lebanese vignerons need a tough skin. Not only do they have to deal with the usual calamities that befall viticulture, such as vine diseases, drought, and frost, but also frequent periods of political instability and violent clashes with neighboring countries. However, many have learned to just go with the flow and persevere under these tough conditions. 
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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Description 2 of 2

From the Wikipedia entry for "Lebanon Wine" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanon_wine. Lebanon is the oldest site of wine production in the world. 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, mostly influenced by French wines of Bordeaux and the Rhone. Currently, the wine sector is booming with 50% of the production exported towards mainly the UK, France, the USA. Wineries are burgeoning all over the country. Indeed with the kick off of Massaya in 1998 the number of producers went from 5 to 30 including large, boutique and garage wineries. Vitis vinifera may have been domesticated in Lebanon, although it probably arrived from the South Caucasus via Mesopotamia or the Black Sea trade routes. Vines grew readily in the land of Canaan, the coastal strip of today's Lebanon, and the wines of Byblos (Gubla, Gebal, Jubail, Jbeil) were exported to Egypt during the Old Kingdom (2686 BC–2134 BC). The wines of Tyre and Sidon were famous throughout the ancient Mediterranean, although not all the cargoes reached their destination; Robert Ballard of Titanic fame found the wrecks of two Phoenician ships from 750 BC, whose cargo of wine was still intact.[2] 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 taste for retsina. The philosophers Zeno of Citium 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/Roman god Bacchus/Dionysus 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. Genesis 14:18 mentions that the Phoenician King Melchizedek 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, wine production declined, although under the millet system it was tolerated among the Christian population for religious purposes. The Christians also developed Arak, an aniseed flavored spirit. Winemaking was revived in 1857, when Jesuit monks planted Cinsaut vines from Algeria at Chateau Ksara in Tanail, the central Beqaa Valley. In 1868 a French engineer, Eugène François Brun, set up Domaine des Tourelles, and others followed, notably Gaston Hochar's Chateau Musar in 1930. Musar would become the standard bearer for Lebanese wines in the West, famous for taking grapes through the front lines of the Lebanese Civil War which separated the vineyards from the winery. The French influence between the World Wars promoted a culture of wine drinking, as did the sophisticated Mediterranean culture of Beirut at that time. Frenchman Yves Morard of Chateau Kefraya was arrested as a spy during the Israeli invasion, and was only released when he proved to the Israelis that he knew how to make wine. Things weren't much better during the 2006 conflict, Ksara losing most of their harvest as their workers fled the Israeli bombing. On the bright side, there was a surge in demand during the fighting as British buyers in particular bought Lebanese wine as a mark of solidarity. Lebanese winemakers have favored French grapes, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Rhone varietals such as Cinsaut, Carignan and Grenache. 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. The Lebanese claim that Obaideh is an ancestral form of Chardonnay - it is possible that it may be genetically similar to the Gouais blanc of the Balkans. All the major wineries have their vineyards in the southern Beqaa Valley. Chateau Ksara remains much the biggest, with 70% of all the country's production.[9] 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 some stylish reds and rosés made from Rhone varietals such as Carignan and Cinsaut Next biggest is Château Kefraya, whose majority of shares were bought by Druze 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 is perhaps the best known in the West, it was a particular favourite of Auberon Waugh. Musar achieved international recognition at the Bristol 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 the new kid on the block that has come from nowhere to become one of the most fashionable wines in France. Since 1998, the Massaya launch, the wine sector in Lebanon is going thru a renaissance. Indeed a new array of boutique producers are reshaping the sector: There are several other significant wineries, including Domaine Wardy, Domaine de Baal, Vin Héritage, Château Faqra, Château Nakad, Domaine des Tourelles (who make Brun arak, arguably the best in Lebanon), Clos Saint Thomas, Cave Kouroum, Clos de Cana, Nabise Mont Liban, Enotica, Château Khoury and Couvent St. Sauveur. Furthermore, the French investors that are behind Massaya, the Brunier family from the Vieux Telegraphe, and the Herbrard family, owners of Bellefont Belcier in Saint Emilion demonstrate that this region is doomed to boom. Indeed after European wines, after the new world wines, the new frontier for wine amateurs is the Ancient World Wines. text from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanon_wine – Description from Purplebarrel

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