In biblical times, the fame of the wines of Lebanon was widespread. The ambrosial nectar from the lush and vast vineyards in the fertile valleys was much prized and praised. In Hosea 14:7, the words of the Lord pronounced that men who walked in righteousness ". . .will grow like grain. They will blossom like grapevines. They will be famous as the wines from Lebanon."
The Ancient Vineyards
Five thousand years ago, Lebanon was already into wine making long before the Greeks and the Romans. For the ancient Lebanese people, wine was part of every meal and the highlight of every festive family event.
It was during a wedding in Cana that Jesus performed his first miracle; upon the prodding of his mother, he changed water into wine during a wedding feast. The significance of this miracle is not lost on the Christian world or to the imbibers and connoisseurs of fine wines. The miracle still lives - Lebanon wines are still the best you can find.
The Phoenicians, the ancestors of the present-day Lebanese, sailed the seas to sell their wines. Those who settled in certain areas established vineyards and perfected the technique of fermenting grapes, making their wines the finest in the ancient world.
Before the sun could bathe the valley with light, the field workers hied to the vineyards of Baalbeck Valley to harvest the grapes. The grapes were later pressed to a liquid and aged in large wine vats, subsequently sold to nearby countries and lands across the seas.
Lebanon's Wine Industry
Is it coincidence or accident that the French occupied Lebanon? France brought along new farming technology and wine making techniques. But it was only in 1837 that the wine industry was modernized. This helped the local vintners develop better wines that catered to different and more cosmopolitan tastes.
The country produces some 6 million bottles of wine yearly. By quantity standards, this number is small compared to other premiere wine-producing countries. But the Lebanese can boast of the quality of their wines, and the wine industry of the country is a fast growing one with 16 wine producers offering the best from their vineyards. The prominent wine producers are Musar, Kefraya, and Ch?teaux Ksara. These companies have the distinction of winning competitions and their wines are exported to North American and Europe. Their wines also find their way to nearby eastern communities.
The wines survived a troubled past of wars and civil unrest. The Chateau Musar started in 1931 is one of the old wines still produced and was lapped by a drinking public that loved how the wine was adulterated with foreign grapes. This wine is only marketed after six years of aging in huge oak barrels.
Another old wine producer is the Vin Nakad, which produces the favorite Chateau 2000, a full-bodied wine that has notes of fruit and corn. The Chateau 2002 from another wine producer Nabise Mont Liban has notes of musk and framboise and a touch of vanilla.
The Massaya, one of the newer Lebanon wineries, was put up in 1998. Among its offerings are the Massaya "Reserve" red 2000 (a spicy and fruity wine), the Massaya Classic Rose 2001 with its hint of fruity sweetness and herbs, and the fruity Massaya Selection Blanc de Blancs 2001 Bekaa.
Wine will always be part of the Lebanese culture today and in the future. Nations may rise and fall, but friendships will always be sealed with a toast and a quaff of sparkling wine. So drink your Lebanese wine with gusto.
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