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- History - A history of Lebanonian wine and winemaking

History of Lebanonian Wine

Winemaking began in Lebanon as early as 3000 B.C. by the ancient Phoenicians. Great travelers and explorers, they proceeded to spread viticulture around the entire known world all the way from Greece to Spain to Northern Africa. However, the Phoenicians lacked a powerful military and were conquered by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and several other empires including the Greek, Roman, Arab, French and the Ottomans. In fact, since the beginning of Lebanon’s recorded history, the region has been independent for only short periods of time. And even since its modern independence in 1943, Lebanon still struggled under a brutal civil war from 1975-1990.

Not only must Lebanese wineries worry about traditional issues like drought, frosts, and disease, but they also have to cope with Syrian tanks, local rebels, and the occasional Israeli jet. Remarkably though, a few winemakers have managed to persevere, and Lebanon has gained a hard-earned reputation for producing a few extremely fine wines.

- Overview - An Overview of Lebanonian Wine today.

Overview of Lebanonian Wine

Lebanon was making wine before the Greeks or Romans even existed. Viticulture goes back so far here that wine from the region is referenced in the Bible itself. In fact, Jesus Christ was recorded as performing his first miracle here, transforming water into wine. Though Lebanon’s recent history has been considerably more difficult than its glorious past, winemakers still manage to succeed and produce some award winning products. Though wine production exists throughout the country, most vineyards grow in the eastern Bekaa Valley where they bask in 300 days of sunshine per year.

Geography

Lebanon is located along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, with Israel to the south and Turkey to the North.

Temperature

The climate here is warm, though the nearby Mediterranean the inland mountains both have cooling effects. Lebanon’s vineyards are most well known for their remarkably sunny climate, with over 300 days of sunshine per year. The high altitude of the valley significantly lowers temperatures at night.

Topography

Vineyards grow mostly on the slopes and flat lands in the Bekaa Valley at elevation of up to 3200 feet.

Terroir

Soils in the Bekaa Valley are predominantly gravel-based, and are underlain by a thick layer of limestone.

Important Varietals

Cabernet Sauvignon
Carignan
Chardonnay
Chasselas
Clairette
Gamay
Grenache
Muscat
Obaideh
Pinot Noir
Riesling
Sémillon
Syrah
Ugni Blanc

Note: many of Lebanon’s best wines are a red blend with an emphasis on Cabernet Sauvignon.

Important Wineries:

Chateau Musar: the most famous of Lebanese wineries, a good Chateau Musar red can age for decades.
Chateau Belle-Vue
Chateau Kefraya
Chateau Ksara
Clos St. Thomas
Massaya
Wardy