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Lebanese wine: From disaster to Red and White sensation

Not better, but different

The dimension of taste is different than anywhere else. Not better, but different

LEBANON AND WINE: Latest trauma was a huge explosion rocked Beirut and turning the crises to no less than a national pain. This came on top of everything this country lived through political and economic disaster for years. After entire conflicts and chaos happened, lovely to receive news from the Middle East full of flavour. News about wine, in particular about admired Lebanese red wine.

Dance the trouble away. At Massaya vineyard where they produce vine and serve food.
Dance the trouble away. At Massaya vineyard where they produce vine and serve food.

I don´t know much about wine production in Lebanon, and who does? To get native help, I am happy to quote Serge Hochar. He was a celebrated producer from the not so well-known wine district of Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Sadly, Hochar died in an accident while on holiday in Mexico.

White and rosé wines are the popular summer wine in Lebanon
White and rosé wines are the popular summer wine in Lebanon

Better has no meaning

“To understand Lebanon is not easy. The dimension of taste in this country is different than anywhere else. Not better, but different. Better has no meaning. Once you taste the wines, you’ll understand why my white is my biggest red,” Hochar explained during a wine dinner in New York.
Serge Hochar was in charge of winery Chateau Musar and found the way through 15 years of civil war. Soon Musar became an admired wine producer in the world.

Most of the wine production in Lebanon is located to Bekaa Valley in the east, near the border of Syria. Another region is Batroun in northern Lebanon.

A red of Chateau Musar 2004 produced in Lebanon – normally sold on auctions
A red of Chateau Musar 2004 produced in Lebanon – normally sold on auctions

Wine above politics

When the war ended in 1990, just five wineries were operating in Lebanon. In 2018 there were roughly 50. In Bekaa Valley wine production has always been above politics.

“I know how to make wine, but I know nothing about wine. Each day I discover that I know less”, Serge Hochar used to declare. Certainly, he learned something from wine education in France and from his father.

Chateau Musar produce incredible wines – both red and white – of complex longevity. Extraordinary, though not to everybody´s taste, as the experts say. The red made of grapes from South of France resembled Bordeaux and is spicy. As a result, the wine could age and develop for decades. The whites are made from Lebanese grapes, with a complex flavour of honey, sweet and dry.

Part of the Domaine des Tourelles vineyard - one of the top superstars
Part of the Domaine des Tourelles vineyard – one of the top superstars

Three of Top Five

For long the Bekaa Valley has been a hotspot of agriculture in this mountainous region where the potential for wine has been realized. According to Wine Searcher the average quality of Lebanese wine is good to very good, with a few superstars and some sensations, according to wine experts. Three of top five Lebanese wines are Massaya, Domaine des Tourelles and Chateau Musar, all produced in Bekaa.

Vineyard Massaya is like a cocktail of its wine, Arak spirit, food, its location and hospitality. While Domaine des Tourelles, founded in 1868, produces ideal match for many Lebanese dishes.

The Lebanese people ordinarily consume about eight million bottles of wine annually, half of which are Lebanese and the rest imported. Because the currency has been devalued, Lebanon can no longer afford imported wine.

Lebanese lamb meat is the perfect pair with a glass of Massaya wine
Lebanese lamb meat is the perfect pair with a glass of Massaya wine

Local food and wine

Lebanese cuisine is packed with colour and bold flavours and they need wines to match the food. Lot of food have a smoked and chargrilled element, the wine you choose to match must not be a pushover.

Falafels are one of Lebanon’s most well-known dishes. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, usually served in pita bread with tahini-based sauces.  An unoaked Chardonnay gives this dish lovely balance. This local wine stands up to the robust fried flavor of the falafel letting this specialty shine.

ITALIAN FOOD: IT´S SOMETHING ABOUT LUCCA

Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya a few years back. Meeting people, local food and engaging stories are my passion. I plan for ambitious once-in-a-lifetime trips. My delight is the prospect of Future Travels: Longer, Slower, Farther! I just want a tiny slice of adventure to be alive, and then excited to return home.

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