A common phrase in the wonderful world of wine is the term “Old World”. Which pigeon holes all the wines from the classic European countries Spain, France, Italy and Zee Germans where they have been making wine forever.
However if you want to go way back, and look for something truly old school steeped in history and wine making tradition then you have to look much further afield to Lebanon!
The Lebanese have been producing and exporting wine for thousands of years! Exporting wines to the Roman, Greek and Egyptian empires Lebanese wine has been knocking about for thousands of years. When Lebanon was part of the Phoenician Empire, wine played a massive part in their religion and traditions and many scholars believe that the Greek and Roman gods Dionysus and Bacchus may have originated from the Wine rituals of ancient Lebanon.
But what about modern day Lebanese wine? The majority of the vines are located in the Bekka Valley which is an ideal place for vines to grow. The temperature is hot, real hot. However with the cooling breeze from the inland mountains and the Mediterranean on the West, paired up with a limestone heavy terroir growing conditions are near on perfect for all of the Cab Sav, Merlot, Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache that are favoured by Wine Makers in the region.
The French Influence during both World Wars has produced a similar style in the Wines that they make with probably the most famous being the Wines from Chateau Musar. A winery that despite Lebanon’s (lets say lively) political history have managed to produce a vintage almost every year since 1930. The only two years they failed to manage it being 1976 and 1992 (which were down to weak vintages). Stories of grapes being harvested in the region while you can hear the gunfire and shells in the mountains and explosions in Beirut are not uncommon. So truly a remarkable feat.
Another great thing about the wine being produced at Chateau Musar is Serge Hochar’s winemaking philosophy, every vintage tends to be unique and each vintage is notoriously different. My fave being the 1995, however we currently have in stock the 2003 vintage. A beast of a wine full of peppery fruit, spice and chocolate flavours this wine is defiantly one to decant sit back and take over an evening chatting with friends.
Since I discovered Lebanese wine a couple of years back I always have a couple of bottles in the rack ready to pop open at any given moment, and it’s my professional opinion as a Wine Advisor that you should as well! After all if it was good enough for the Caesars and Pharaohs!!!!
Virgin Wines – Senior Wine Advisor