Lebanon boasts probably the longest established wine-making
heritage in the world. Vines of vitis vinifera are thought to have first
been introduced in the region by traders from South Caucasus via Mesopotamia or
the Black Sea.
The wines of Tyre and Sidon were famous throughout the Mediterranean.
Wine was an important element of the Phoenician religion, and the Greek
antiquity god Bacchus (Dionysus) is believed to have originated in the wine
rituals of Canaan (the region roughly encompassing present-day Israel, plus
coastal land from Syria and Lebanon). The Phoenicians, the ancient Lebanon
inhabitants, as well as celebrated traders and sailors of the antiquity, played
a key role in spreading wine consumption and viticulture throughout the
Mediterranean. Historical records indicate that the wines of the ancient region
of Byblos (Gubla, Gebal, Jubail, Jbeil) in Lebanon were exported to Egypt
during the Old Kingdom (2686 BC-2134 BC).
The local wine trade has overcome several set-backs over the centuries.
Production was curbed, albeit tolerated for religious rituals, when Lebanon was
under the rule of the Caliphate. Winemaking blossomed in the late 1800s ; in
1857 Jesuit monks planted Cinsaut vines from Algeria and founded
Chateau Ksara in the central Beqaa Valley. A string
of new wineries followed, among others, Domaine des Tourelles.
Gaston Hochar's celebrated Chateau Musar has been
a late arrival in the scene, in 1930, but its rose rapidly to become one of
the iconic Lebanese wines in the Western markets.
Despite the adverse effects from the frequent conflicts in the region
(vineyard destruction and immigration), the resilience and the dedication of
Lebanon's winemakers has kept the winemaking traditions alive, with annual
production levels in the recent times reaching between 400,000-700,000 cases of
wine. During the Lebanese Civil War in the 1980s Gaston Hochar was famous for
taking grapes through the front lines which separated the vineyards from the
Wine Styles and Local Grapes
Both the winemaking and the viticulture practices are strongly influenced by
Lebanon's old colonial master, France. Lebanese winemakers have a penchant for
French grapes, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon,
Merlot and Rhone varietals such as
Cinsaut, Carignan and
However Lebanon has also a wealth of unique, indigenous grapes and
efforts are being made to exploit their potential in the recent times.
Chateau Musar White employs a blend of Obaideh and Merwah. It is
claimed that Obaideh is an ancestral form of Chardonnay.
The fertile BeqaaValley is the heartland
of Lebanese wine production and home to the Chateau Musar,
Château Kefraya, Chateau Ksara.
boutique winery founded by Ramzi and Sami Ghosn in a joint venture with
French industrialists - the Brunier brothers of Vieux
Télégraphe and Dominic Hébrard - in the mid '90s,
has been making waves with its wines in the French market.