Giving the World A Taste of Our Finest Wines

We Lebanese are a proud people. 

We exalt our relatively tiny country -- how many of you haven’t memorized our land area of 10,452 km2

We laud the glistening Mediterranean flanking us from the West, the Anti-Lebanon mountain range bordering us on the East, and the expansive greenery in between. 

And we’re damn proud of our wines issuing forth from our verdant landscape.

Rightfully so. They’re terribly good. So good, in fact, that they’re gaining real notice abroad.


A glass of Chateau Marsyas sipped near the vineyards in the Bekaa Valley


One such domain attracted a journalist from France’s esteemed Le Monde. Rémi Barroux trekked from Paris to Beirut to meet the sibling duo -- Karim and Sandro Saadé -- behind Chateau Marsyas and Domaine de Bargylus. In particular, Barroux was astounded by how the Saadés managed to push forward brazenly with grape harvesting and wine production in light of the numerous challenges facing this part of the world.


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Karim (left) and Sandro Saadé, the brothers behind Chateau Marsyas and Domaine de Bargylus


Bargylus is the only winery in Syria, nestled in the historic Lattakia area and reviving an ancient vineyard dating back to the time of the Canaanites. Marsyas, named after the Bekaa’s archaic christening, is situated near the villages of Kefraya and Tell-Denoub.

Both properties were carefully selected by the Saadés, whose father is Syrian and mother Lebanese. They turned to winemaking to complement the family businesses in land and maritime transport, tourism (Wild Discovery), and real estate.

Barroux was particularly impressed with how the operation has plowed on in spite of war conditions. Indeed, since 2011, grape samples have arrived from Syria to Lebanon via taxi, to assess when best to harvest. Sure, the logistics are not so straightforward and rather costly, but the Saadés push on. Thankfully, Bargylus has been mostly shielded from the war, though stray mortars have grazed plants, and occasional combat forces field workers to recoil from the action.

Unlike its Syrian counterpart, Marsyas is in an idyllic state of calm. We had the opportunity to visit the vineyards last week, and we were awestruck by the perfectly combed rows of wine-to-be at 1,000 meters' altitude. 


Marsyas' vineyards


Neighbored by other wineries like Kefraya, Musar, and St. Thomas as well as Daher Foods' Poppins plant, Marsyas sits on red, iron-laden terrain which together with white stones form a clay-limestone growing medium well-suited to the grape vines.

The cellar houses close to two dozen stainless steel tanks where the grape derivative is fermented. But the Saadé family isn’t looking for high volumes. Annual production of Chateau Marsyas—comprising red, white, and a medium range cuvée called B-Qa released in 2015—weighs in at 100,000 bottles. Bargylus is a hair less than half that.


Stainless steel vessels where fermentation takes place


And yet the world is getting a taste of this liquid gold. Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai, France, Germany, Belgium and the UK import and retail them at wine shops and restaurants, including the likes of Michelin-starred venues by Gordon Ramsay and Joël Robuchon.

And we Lebanese couldn’t be prouder. I mean, who wouldn’t be? We’re showing the world, like the hospitable hosts we are, how to throw a proper bacchanal. Cheers to that!


Kefraya Village
Jeb Jannine Road

Comments

  1. The west Bekaa area is perhaps my favorite in Lebanon, and this is exactly why. I really really enjoyed this read! Cheers darling!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Serene -- I have grown to eagerly anticipate your input on my posts. You should know how much I appreciate your readership and support <3

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