Lebanon Wine Launch in Texas Uncorking 7,000-Year-Old Wine Region

HOUSTON, TX – North American Wine & Spirit Importers, LLC (NAWSI) has launched a new wine program, Wine from Lebanon, in Houston, bringing the taste of 15 innovative winemakers from one of the oldest and oldest wine regions of the world and the introduction of four unique native grape varieties to the state of Texas. Texas ranks 4th in the United States for wine consumption and Texans are hungry to explore new wine regions consuming 60.3 million gallons of wine annually. The Wine from Lebanon program includes 15 winemakers, including several wineries owned and managed by women, winemakers under the age of 40, and winemakers using indigenous grape varieties like Obaideh, Merwah, Meksassi and Sobbagiegh, some of which have never been tasted in the United States Interested wholesalers, retailers and restaurants can attend selected tasting events to try the wine firsthand. NAWSI is actively seeking distribution of the Wine from Lebanon program.

Sam A. Jaoude, who was born in Lebanon and one of NAWSI’s managing partners, saw this as an opportunity years ago while running his MadeNLebanon export business. “Lebanon’s wine history dates back to the Phoenicians and Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine,” Jaoude explained. “We have incredible terroir to grow grapes across the country and we felt it was finally time to share our story with the rest of the world. I am a proud Houstonian and how I have seen this city with his appetite for gluttony to grow, I knew the time had finally come to bring wines from Lebanon here as a springboard to the rest of the country,” Jaoude said.

Jaoude found a kindred spirit in her now business partner Constance McDerby, co-founder of Food & Vine Time Productions, producers of an extensive portfolio of wine and food-focused consumer lifestyle events for over 20 years. year. McDerby commented that “Lebanon enjoys a wide variety of wine production that is unique in both taste and culture, but we focus on wine made from indigenous grape varieties. We look forward to introducing this collection of wines to consumers thirsty for new and exciting flavors in the not too distant future,” added McDerby.

From the mountain peaks of the Batroun region to the fertile Bekaa Valley to Jezzine Caza in southern Lebanon and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, winemakers have been producing wine for generations. While there is truly a wine renaissance underway, it is a story of tradition, innovation and survival as old as civilization itself.

For history buffs, the story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding in the land of Cana is well known. But spoiler alert, Lebanon was part of the biblical land of Cana. And that’s where this story begins. 7,000 years ago, when the ancestors of the Lebanese people, the marine Phoenicians, domesticated grapes.

The term wine is derived from a Phoenician word describing the fermentation of grapes. While the Phoenicians may not have invented wine, they perfected viticulture and spread it throughout the Mediterranean between 2700 BC and 300 BC.

Two Phoenician ships dating from 750 BC. were found intact by Robert Ballard, who discovered the Titanic. On board, and still intact, was a cargo of wine. Protected from oxidation by a layer of olive oil then a seal of pine and resin.

Wine was an important trade item, but evidence of wine making was sparse until the recent discovery of a 2,600-year-old wine press unearthed at Tell el-Burak, about eight kilometers south of the coastal town Lebanese from Sidon.

Today’s winemakers in Lebanon are as unique as the grapes they make. Generational traditions carry on, while new winemakers look to the future trying to seduce new tastes like Couvent Rouge’s Pet-Nat Gold, Lebanon’s first sparkling wine. Domaine Wardy, a wine estate dating from 1881 and founded by a young widow, is run by the fourth generation of winegrowers. Mersel is committed to sustainable agriculture by supporting local farmers and raising herds of desert goats on their property, a symbol of the winery. Château St. Thomas focuses on growing local varietals, including its Obeidy St. Thomas, a dry white wine made from the Obadiah grape. A chapel dedicated to Saint Thomas adorns the vineyard park. Named one of the best wineries in the world in 2021, Château Cana is a father-daughter operation. Atibaia, which focuses its efforts on small yields, is located at the top of one of the oldest villages in Lebanon where a feudal castle was built during the crusades.

Programs like this allow emerging countries to gain a foothold in the wine giant. Thouraya Karam, of Karam Wines, said: “We are delighted to be part of the Wine from Lebanon program and to have the opportunity to market our wines in the State of Texas, as we believe this program will promote the Lebanon as a wine producing country and will create access to new markets with huge untapped potential for Lebanese wine sales.

“We have been producing wine for over 20 years. As managing partner of Château Cana, I envisioned reaching many places, spreading Lebanese culture around the world and raising the name of Lebanon higher,” said Joanna Gerges. “I am grateful for this program which will help us reach a market that has so much potential,” added Gerges.

Each bottle has a unique story to tell from the land of the cedars where the sun shines more than 300 days a year. And where the altitude, the protection of the mountains and the breezes of the Mediterranean Sea offer one of the best wine regions in the world.

Mark Rayner, a wine-buying grocer, said: “These varietals are new and I have never experienced them before. It’s eye-opening to discover so many new, untapped wine regions around the world. And great to enjoy them in an intimate setting like this.

A commercial tasting will be held Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Texas Wine School in Houston. Interested wholesalers, retailers and restaurants are welcome to attend. For more information, contact [email protected] or to learn more about this curated collection of wines, visit winefromlebanon.com.

Elisha A. Tilghman