WINE IN THE TIME OF WAR: The Lebanese Wine Industry

************************************************I have only tasted Chateau Musar and liked it very much. I forget the vintages but the taste is a great change from the popular grapes drank everyday. Israel makes good wines also but politics and wine-making do not make good bedfellows. I remember we carried Israeli Chardonnay at one restaurant I worked and the wine was quite good and well-priced but that was the last time we could order it. Greek wines do well in US because Greek cuisine has been popular for the last few years and the Greek wines are fairly inexpensive. Good Lebanese wines should do great in the US. That reminds me of two things: Wine business is plagued with fraud everywhere and a couple of years ago, the French caught a major Chateau. The detailed records showed the Chateau had sold many more bottles than it actually had bottled that vintage. If Lebanese wines become popular in the US, a good chance exists plenty of Israeli wines will appear with Lebanon winery labels. That actually could work since only good wines get premium in very tight markets and the Lebanon’s supply is probably questionable. The Wall Street Article is quite good to read though very basic in information. I am surprised Arak has not caught on in the US yet. Every country has a basic alcoholic beverage and almost all of the good ones are too commonplace in the US now. Pisco is one of the last that actually did well. Arak should do great. I hear the muslims wanted to discourage drinking so they make Arak to taste absolutely terrible so locals have no taste for it. That should be no problem here with a few mixers and a little muddling. The forgotten drinks of Phonecia if they had any.

from Web 2.0 Blog Posts by David Gaier

I spent about a year in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war, living in the U.S. Embassy with 12 other Marines (and an excellent Lebanese cook, Mr. Tony Saliba, who kept us jarheads well fed).

As anyone who lived there anytime from 1975 until about 1990 will tell you, the Lebanese showed a remarkable ability to continue normal life and commerce – for which they’re famous – during intense urban fighting. So we Yanks adopted their ways, and during lulls in the shelling we’d leave the embassy to enjoy the waterfront Corniche, or nightlife on Hamra street.

For me, that invariably included dinner and of course wine, and I often tried the "local stuff" – from Ksara, Lebanon’s oldwest winery, and Chateau Musar among others. Remarkably, winemaking went on uninterrupted even as the war raged, and today many more wineries have sprung up to create what is now a thriving wine tourism business. Others, such as Massaya, which produces around 25,000 cases of excellent wine as well as Arak, waited out the war and then expanded significantly when conditions improved.

While "the Lebanon" is still plagued with sporadic violence, the country is mostly peaceful and from all accounts, vineyards are producing excellent fruit. Many of the new wineries are located in the spectacular Bekaa Valley – the home of the Roman temple of Bacchus – where there’ll also be a wine museum by 2011, a first in the Arab world.

I haven’t been back since the war, so I’ll let The Wall Street Journal Online describe Lebanon’s wine industry. If you’re truly an adventurous wine traveller, it sounds like there’s no place better.


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