The sudden death of Lebanese king of wine, Serge Hochar, in January 2015 turned the world’s attention on the country’s wine industry – and it’s booming. Despite its own civil wars and intense fighting in Syria – which borders the Beqaa Valley wine region – Lebanon now exports twice as much wine to the UK as it did five years ago.
Popular wines at present include Domaine des Tourelless and Ixsir according to Victoria Moore from the Telegraph in which she highlights that Lebanese wine is booming.
Apparently, Tourelles can trace its history back to 1868 when it was founded by a Frenchman who came to the Middle East to help build the Beirut to Damascus road. It was then bought from his descendants by the Issa family in 2000.
When it comes to Ixsir, Moore describes winery as a flashier but no less serious set-up. Established only in 2008, its owners have built a great, palatial winery near the fish restaurants, lemon groves and Crusader ruins of the coastal town of Batroun.
However, Lebanon’s wine history does go back further with wine references found on ancient texts by the Israelite prophet Hosea (780-725 BC), who is said to have urged his followers to return Yahweh so that “they will blossom as the vine, and their fragrance will be like the wine of Lebanon” (McGovern, Patrick E. 2003 p. 202)*
In this century, it’s safe to say that the long lasting Civil War in Lebanon did little to stimulate growth in the wine industry there yet relative peacetime since 1990 has meant that there has been a resurgence of wine production.
More recently, the Syrian conflict on its borders is adding a certain degree of problems, yet Lebanese wine does seem to be flourishing again.
Where to buy?
Quite a few of the mainstream wine merchants stock Lebanese wine. Majestic Wines for example feature a collection of red wines by Château Musar (the winery of Serge Hochar) with a number of vintages from.
Marks & Spencer feature a Chateau Ksara Clos St. Alphonse from the Bekaa Valley, which is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Great Western feature 4 lush wines from Ixsir including the highly rated Ixsir Altitudes White.
I always get excited by wines from all corners of the world and Lebanese wine for me has a certain charm. Why? Quite simply with a country that has experienced so much turmoil and political instability, these wines showcase the true nature of the human spirit by persevering and producing something beautiful from the ashes of the past.
*Source: McGovern, Patrick E. 2003 p. 202 – Ancient Wine: The search for the origins of Viniculture. Princeton University Press.