Most people love Lebanese food. Less well known is the French wine making heritage, producing top quality wines: red, white and pink.
The high altitude vineyards on the plateau of Bekaa Valley, with snowy winters and hot summers, grow French red varieties including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
White wines include Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat producing full, ripe, fruity yet fresh styles.
Lebanon‘s best known winery is Chateau Musar and has a ‘minimum intervention’ philosophy.
In the words of the inimitable, second generation patriarch, Serge Hochar: ‘We just grow the grapes to ripeness and then do nothing else.’ Their red blends are often thought of as the cru classé of Lebanon due to their complexity and ageability.
Chateau Musar is available from The Wine Society, 2005, £18 and Waitrose, 2004, £19.99.
Their white grapes include ancient, indigenous Merwah and Obaideh, believed to be ancestors of Semillon and Chardonnay. Serge was named the first ever Decanter Man of the Year in 1984 for his contribution to Lebanese winemaking.
However, Lebanon is not just about Musar. There are many other very high quality producers with excellent ranges of red, white and rosé.
For a newcomer to Lebanese wines, Chateau Ka is a good introduction, being of approachable, soft and juicy character. Chateau Ka, Source de Rouge is a pretty, fruit driven blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with a food friendly, savoury edge: a great alternative to budget Bordeaux, from Waitrose, £11.99.
Karam Winery was the first to plant outside the Bekaa Valley, in the far south, at altitudes up to 1400 meters. Hot days and cold nights give concentration and freshness. The airline pilot winemaker here believes flying and wine making are both: ‘Living life on the edge, with no margin for error.’
The range includes stylish reds as well as a full bodied pink, Arc en Ciel that packs a spicy punch tempered by mouthwatering zing. Perfect for gourmet salads, soft cheeses or a mezze lunch. Available via Kingswood Wines.
To try making Lebanese food, see BBC Good Food website for recipes. To buy a book on Lebanese wines by Michael Karam, see Amazon.
For more info on Lebanese wine and other producers, see Wines from Lebanon.