While it is not so well known in the west, Lebanese wine is grown in some of the oldest wine producing areas in the world. The wine from this area is mentioned in the Bible and dates from at least 700BC. The wine became famous in antiquity after being widely traded by the seafaring Phoenicians, who took the wine with them across the Mediterranean Sea. More recently, the country has suffered from considerable political unrest, which has hampered the wine industry. In the last few decades, however, the production of Lebanese wine has increased, with the number of vineyards growing from single figures to more than 30.
The varieties of Lebanese wine
In recent times, Lebanese wine makers have looked to France for inspiration and have concentrated on growing French grape varieties like Cinsault, Grenache, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is not to say that Lebanon does not have its own varieties, however, and these indigenous grapes, such as Obeideh and Merwah, are beginning to attract more attention. The Lebanese are also fond of creating hybrid wines, such as Clos Blanc, which is a mix of Viognier, Muscat, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the local Obeideh grape.
The regions of Lebanese wine
All of the large Lebanese wine producers are based in the south Beqaa Valley. The largest of these wineries is Château Ksara, which makes an astonishing 70% of all Lebanese wines. Tanail is another big producer, specialising in growing Carignan and Cinsault to produce red and rose wine. Château Kefraya is the third largest producer but perhaps the best known Lebanese vineyard is Château Musar, which has won a number of awards in the west and is particularly enjoyed in the UK.
Getting to know Lebanese wine
The growing Lebanese wine industry is an exciting development. It mixes New World innovations with ancient grape varieties and a rich history. The Gilbert & Gaillard wine guide is an excellent tool to help the wine lover get the most from this little known wine country. The guide features a simple 100 point rating system and has helpful tasting notes to inform the potential wine buyer of the character and quality of the wine before making a purchase. With recommendations for matching the wines with food and even recipes to try out, these wines can be enjoyed with confidence.