We Should All Be Drinking More Lebanese Wine
April 29, 2021 6:56 PM   Subscribe

How and why we talk about it, though, needs to change. The modern nation of Lebanon might be only 100 years old, but the wine trade here has been around for more than 5,000 years, thanks to a longitudinal coastline that runs the entire length of the country.
posted by Ahmad Khani (19 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Thank you for the post.

When I try to describe Lebanon (of about 10-15 years ago, it's been far too long) to people, I tell them about being thrilled (despite my terrible French) by a staging of a version of the Manole legend (La légende de maître Manole) in Théâtre Monnot; or of experimental (and, to be honest, to me interminable) jazz played with stringed instruments and vibrators in a small room in the same place; of busy, energetic art exhibitions; of big, abundant restaurants, crammed with families, near Anjar; of feasts in celebration of (admittedly shamelessly rigged, although no judgement here: I know the guy who was rigging them) beauty contests; of getting stumbling drunk one evening in Hamra and the dreamlike moonstruck beauty of that night; of roasting a chicken for Christmas which had lived roaming monastery grounds and died without leaving the cloister; and, yes, of excellent and diverse wine, characteristic but often as modern and imaginative as anything else in the world.

I have no connection to Lebanon by blood, and it was only my home for short time, really. But it is the only country I love. The only place that makes me feel anything like what I imagine patriotism must be. My absence sometimes feels like betrayal. This makes no rational sense, but I suppose love rarely does.

Yes, the fact that Lebanon and Lebanese people do what they do and are what they are, despite war, incompetence, corruption and sectarian bigots is remarkable. But, as this article make clear, to focus on that is to miss the point, which is that they are utterly remarkable anyway.

Drink more Lebanese wine.
posted by howfar at 8:09 PM on April 29 [21 favorites]


Château Cana, a winery overlooking the Lamartine Valley, was established by Fadi Gerges but is now run by his daughter, Joanna. After taking over, Joanna revamped the brand identity, positioned the winery as a wedding venue
This is brilliant marketing
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:10 PM on April 29 [7 favorites]


I,m down with drinking some Lebanese wine!
posted by supermedusa at 8:14 PM on April 29


Because the sun still shines in the summertime
I'll be yours if you'll be mine
I tried to change but I changed my mind
Think I'll have another glass of Lebanese wine
posted by saturday_morning at 8:19 PM on April 29 [6 favorites]


So of course I went online to shop for the wines of Lebanon.
Ouch.
Maybe I'm spoiled living in California where right fine wine can be had for well under $20.
Can anyone suggest ANY (red or white) wine of quality from Lebanon in that range. Or at least not $35-plus?
A source for said wine would be nice.
posted by cccorlew at 8:34 PM on April 29 [1 favorite]


I realize that this article is partially about moving beyond Hochar's amazing gift to the world, but tasting a vertical of old Musar is one of my deepest bucket list desires.

One could do an excellent vertical of old Musar for $700. I want to do this over and above the first growths and great champagnes beloved of rich assholes and wine writers alike which would cost 10-40x that!
posted by lalochezia at 11:39 PM on April 29 [4 favorites]


It’s a rather silly article. The writer concedes that Lebanese wine production is tiny; so of course it can’t be well known everywhere. But given that, it’s very highly respected and far from obscure. He really has nothing to complain about. Claims like All things wine typically begin and end in France and Italy just highlight how outdated and parochial his own outlook is.
posted by Phanx at 12:39 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


lalochezia: "One could do an excellent vertical of old Musar for $700."

Brooding and somewhat translucent black cherry color with a hint of youthful blue. Very ripe and sweet-toned nose with rich aromas of licorice, wizened raspberries, some smoky tones, a little bit of sweet balsamic VA, light plummy tones, a hint of savory exotic spices and a touch of raisin. The wine is ripe, full-bodied and quite dense on the palate with somewhat dry, fruit-forward flavors of ripe cranberries, succulent red plums, some sour cherry bitterness, a little bit of balsamic VA, light brambly notes of black rasoberries, a hint of raisin and a touch of new leather. The wine feels very balanced, but the structure seems to rely a bit more on the moderately high acidity than on the ripe medium-plus tannins. The finish is ripe, somewhat grippy and enjoyably textural with savory flavors of dry leather, exotic spices, some wizened dark plums, a little bit of sour cherry bitterness, light boysenberry tones, a spicy hint of turmeric and a sweet, volatile touch of balsamico.

a snort or two of the 2009 Chateau Musar clearly unshackles the fruitiferous verbiage.
posted by chavenet at 12:59 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


I would temper this by saying that, IME, Musar is a bit Marmite in terms of reaction. Plenty of people are "what is this weird wine and why have you served me this?" because it's pretty distinctive. However, if you want a wine that tastes like Christmas then you are in luck.
posted by mr_stru at 1:54 AM on April 30 [2 favorites]


For the vegans among us wondering how to incorporate more Lebanese wine in their lives, my super quick googling has produced this list. Plus UK retailers.
posted by mkdirusername at 4:52 AM on April 30


Nice! The always interesting Wine for Normal People podcast has an episode from last year about Lebanese wine as well.

As for purchasing, I'm sure availability varies by location, but the Chicago area chain Binny's carries a few options, most $20 or less, so shouldn't be impossible for a normal person to get ahold of.

(About California availability, somebody can correct me if I'm talking out of my ass, but anecdotally from a trip a few years ago it seemed like affordable imports were way less common there than what I'm used to here in Chicago. I imagine it's easier / more economical for businesses to just stock local stuff and call it good. Which is fine if you want local, if you want anything else...?)
posted by gueneverey at 6:53 AM on April 30


how outdated and parochial his own outlook is
Um, that would be "her own outlook" (speaking of outdated and parochial).
posted by neroli at 6:54 AM on April 30 [3 favorites]


Having a quick look at local UK prices, the Musar seems to start from around UK£30 a bottle, but Tourelles is from £11, so might give it a shot next time we buy.
posted by biffa at 8:47 AM on April 30


At least within the US, a good source of Lebanese and Georgian wines is Whole Foods. I hate Whole Foods (morally), but their wine selection is good.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a city with a Lebanese population, of course, start there. In Portland, try World Foods.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:44 AM on April 30


Um, that would be "her own outlook"

It's also worth noting that she's essentially right, given that the omitted part of the quote makes clear that she's talking about the failings of wine education. As an example, the Court of Master Sommeliers syllabus for this year (pdf) refers to Lebanon in one place only, under its "Other New [sic] World" course, which is not even a component of its Certified Sommelier qualification, and will only be persued as part of an advanced qualification.

Meanwhile, popular wine books (of the sort that most people selecting most winelists for most restaurants, not being specialists, will generally be relying on, when not simply being overwhelmed by the blandishments of their suppliers), even extensive ones, generally ignore Lebanon entirely. For example, Karen MacNeil's The Wine Bible mentions Lebanon half a dozen times in its 1000-odd pages; none of these relates to viticulture more recent than the Phoenicians. Other popular, and even more specialised, wine books are similar. As one would expect, Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine does a better job, with the major wineries largely getting a mention, but the fact that one has to look to probably the most complete wine book ever written, by arguably the most knowledgeable wine critic who has ever lived, to get even a basic level of coverage, supports the writer's point.

Also, the original comment seems to suggest a misunderstanding of what people who care about wine think makes a region worthy of attention. The point is quality, not quantity. The fact that Lebanon doesn't turn out many bottles isn't a justification for critics, buyers and sommeliers to overlook its wines, any more than art dealers are doing a good job by neglecting significant artists whose work is not widely reproduced. Some of the world's most highly respected wines are made at a tiny volume.

I also don't think it's silly for a person (at least one living under capitalism) to argue that more attention should be paid to the business by which they make a living, and it seems nothing but a basic request for dignity to ask that the attention it receives should reflect the quality of the product, rather than pity for the producer.
posted by howfar at 9:47 AM on April 30 [4 favorites]


Also, to the extent that many regions of the world produce wine, so much of that production comes directly from the export of French, Italian, and *sometimes* Spanish, German/Austrian wine traditions. IIRC, Wines made in California, Chile, South Africa, Australia, tend to draw from initial attempts (improved an localized) to make versions of wines made popular by Western European exports.

Lebanese, Georgian, and other wine styles are from a different branch of the wine family tree, and do deserve a respect for that--there's a difference in goals and techniques, as well as in geography.
posted by pykrete jungle at 12:21 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I want to be proud of what Lebanon has accomplished, but applause doesn’t solve anything. As we wear our tenacity like a badge of honor, those responsible for the mess are clapping for us, too. Our undying spirit makes the news and it becomes our trademark, but I don’t want to wow or be wowed by our ability to overcome trauma anymore.
Too much sympathy, like too much of anything, can become another kind of problem.
I don't like wine, so if ever I encounter a glass of Lebanese wine, I will push the plight of Lebanon out of my mind, stay grounded in the moment, and dislike it on its own terms.
posted by otherchaz at 12:28 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


After several trips to London to source them, and the kindness of a Lebanese pal who found a 98 in Beirut, my pals and I were able to enjoy a vertical of Musar 98-03 back in 2015 for not too much money. I think we paid about $350 Canadian (at the time, around $280 US I think) for the six bottles, though prices have no doubt increased. Some of the bottles, the 02 in particular as I recall, were in the category of ‘drink every day and not feel like I was missing out on anything.’ UK drinkers can still find older bottles for decent prices - 35 quid for the 2000, I can only imagine what it would cost if it was French. The Musars are long lived, the oldest I had was an 89 in half bottle, which at the time must have been about 22 years old, and it drank superbly. I've heard good things about other Lebanese producers too, but haven't had many opportunities to sample.
posted by fellorwaspushed at 3:22 PM on April 30 [1 favorite]


I have no idea whether their wine is any good, but I thought this was interesting:
2,000 years later, Israel's #Negev desert revamps #wine production with 600 acres of vineyards and 20 winemakers 🍷🍇

Plus: fewer pest insects. Minus: more pest camels.

The Negev was at one time used for agriculture by, e.g., the Nabataeans; and you can still find remains of things like columbaria (dovecotes), which produced meat and dung, and ground structures designed to funnel moisture towards plants. Even without agriculture, you can see Israel's side of the border with Egypt is distinctly greener, because it's more protected from overgrazing. It's possible that the climate change that killed its settled communities might be reversible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:38 AM on May 6


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