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Wine of Lebanon

CHATEAUX, VIGNES & VIN DU LIBAN

Lebanon is one of the oldest sites of wine production in the world. In Baalbeck, the ancient Greek city in the Bekaa Valley, the majority of vines are grown. French influence on the country is apparent in the grape varieties most commonly planted: Cinsaut, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah.

Although today more known of its majestic cedars, Lebanon is blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year, and enjoys a burgeoning industry producing award-winning wines for export to a wide Lebanese community now living throughout the world, mainly in the UK, Europe and the United States.

Since 1948 at least one winery in Lebanon has consistently produced world-class wines. Chateau Musar, by far the best and best known of the Lebanese wineries, was established by Gaston Hochar in 1930. According to George Mulford, an English journalist who actually visited Lebanon in 1936, the winery produced "wines that are as good as many I have tasted in France". By the late 1940s, Chateau Musar was producing vintage wines so good that they astonished even the owners of some of Bordeaux' finest chateaux. In 1959, Gaston's son Serge, who studied wine-making at the University of Bordeaux in France, became the winemaker and since then there has been no doubt that this winery can produce some extraordinarily fine and very long-lived red wines.

Even though Chateau Musar produces several good white wines, it is their reds that constantly attract the attention of wine lovers. The vineyards that supply the grapes to the winery are located in the lush Bekaa valley. Situated nearly 1000 meters above sea level, the soil and climate here are ideal for raising the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, and Cinsault grapes on which the winery relies for its red wines. Here too are grown Obaideh grapes which Serge Hochar theorizes are the ancestors of the modern Chardonnay grape, and it is from these and Merway grapes that the winery makes its white wines.

What is truly amazing about many of these wines is their ability to age well. Infact, many of Musar's red wines go through a cycle that is rarely found elsewhere. After a period of easy drinking during their youth, many of the wines suddenly give the appearance of having spoiled. In reality, what they are going through is an extended "dumb period" (a time when the wine seems to have gone bad but in fact needs another four or five years in the bottle before they magically regain their youth and then continue to improve as they age.

Ideally, Musar's best reds, based almost always on a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and Cinsault grapes should only be drunk ten to fifteen years after they have been bottled, for it is only at that age that they often show their extraordinary richness, depth and velvety smoothness. Musar's white wines are also unusual in that they should never be drunk until they are at least six years old.

The two other Lebanese wineries to be taken seriously are "Chateau Ksara" and "Domaine de Kefraya", both of which are also located in the Bekaa Valley. Even though Chateau Ksara was first established by Jesuit priests in 1857, the Jesuits only succeeded in making a few really good wines. What they did, however, was to build more than two kilometers of underground tunnels that are now ideally suited for the aging and storage of wines. The vineyards, winery and tunnels were purchased by private investors in 1973 and since then Ksara has become the largest producer of wines in Lebanon. Domaine de Kefraya, which was founded nearly fifty years ago, has produced fine wines since 1980, when they acquired the services of French winemaker Yves Morard, whose wines have consistently won medals at Bordeaux' prestigious VinExpo competitions.

Although these wines are sometimes found in the United States and Canada, it is far easier to buy them when visiting London. Best stores for finding the wines of Chateau Musar are Waitrose, Tanners, Majestic Wine and Adnams. The wines of Kefraya and Ksara are more difficult to find but are sometimes available at Tanners and Adnams.

Famous Lebanese Wines brands:

Chateau Musar
Fakra Trading & Industries
Chateau Kefraya
Domaine Wardy
Vin Heritage
Chateau Ksara
Chateau Nakad
Massaya                         

 

 

 

 
     
 

 

Information From the Ministry of Tourism

Lebanese Ministry of Tourism

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