Wines of Lebanon by Michael Karam

August 28, 2010  •  Category:


I am a wine ignoramus; it just so happened that  I had lunch with Kamal and his guests atTawlet recently; a man with a British accent sitting on my left was introduced to me as  Michael Karam, author of a book on Lebanese wines.

In the course of the following  months, both my English cousin in London and my dad in Beirut received this book as a birthday present.

Yesterday, I picked up this coffee table book, thinking I would spend a few minutes looking at the photos. I could not put it down.

Here is what I liked about this book:

  • This is not a pedantic book for  wine experts who are looking for detailed and technical exposés on Lebanese wines. This book is for people like myself, who are interested in stories. Frankly, the winemakers of Lebanon have quite a story to tell. Michael Karam knows how to draw them out and his tales are captivating.
  • The book is divided into three main sections: a historical background on Lebanese wines, dating back to Phoenician times and beyond. A section on the established winemakers in Lebanon, such as Ksara and Kefraya. Lastly, a series of small chapters focusing on the new arrivals on the Lebanese winemaking scene such as Massaya, Clos de Cana or Domaine Wardy.
  • The photos in this book, taken by famed photographer Norbert Schiller are as compelling as the stories. I especially liked the portraits of Bedouin women, who, as it turns out, play an essential role in the harvesting of grapes (and have for thousands of years).
  • This book informs, but in a leisurely and enjoyable fashion. I am now aware, for instance, that Lebanese winemaking goes back at least 7000 years. That the vast majority of the labor hired to pick grapes are Bedouin women (who get paid on the average $4 a day for their efforts). That winemaking in Lebanon, while ancient in tradition, has been strongly influenced and coached by Bordeaux winemakers. That Lebanon has indigenous varieties of grape that have not been touched by disease yet, unlike their European counterparts.
  • I felt through this book  as if  I knew  the winemakers intimately. Their childhood, their struggles (narrowly escaping bombing, looting, kidnapping), their challenges (trying to sell wine in a country that traditionally drinks arak), their triumphs. Château Musar, for instance, being singled out by a leading wine expert as one of the best wines in  the world.
  • This book managed to spark my interest in wine, interest that had been dormant up until now. I immediately took my daughter out for dinner and ordered a Kefraya Rosé blanc (sweet and delicious) and a Cabernet.

What I did not like about the book:

  • This book is not very technical; since this would have discouraged me from reading it, I don’t consider it a drawback, but I guess some people might.


14 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    I really would like to taste Lebanese wine. Here we can find a few bottles, but they are rather expensive…



  2. Anita says:

    I’ve seen this book on Amazon and now you’ve intrigued me enough to get it. I’m a wine lover and certainly not a expert, but Chateau Musar and Massaya wines are absolutely my favorites. They’re so deliciously smooth and flavorful. Thanks for sharing your experiences, there’s always something to learn here 🙂

  3. Christie @ Fresh says:

    This sounds like a very interesting book. I’ve had some amazing wines from Lebanon, mostly aromatic whites. It sounds like this book does a deep dive into the history and culture of grape growing and winemaking, which I always appreciate.

  4. Anna says:

    He descubierto tu blog y me encanta ya que me gusta mucho la cocina de ensalada está muy bien y espero seguir disfrutando de todo lo que haces.
    Un saludo.
    Yo tengo un blog que es:

  5. kristy says:

    Talking about wine! I am ain’t a good drinker at all. A few sips is OK but not a glass. I probably wll fall asleep straight away. haha…. Thanks for sharing & enjoy your day.
    Cheers, kristy

  6. Nadji says:

    Je ne connais pas du tout les vins libanais. Dommage!
    Bon dimanche et à bientôt.

  7. Stella says:

    It sounds like a wonderful book, Joumana, and I must say that I love the cover-so pretty. It’s interesting too that the Lebanese varietals grown in Lebanon have not been touched by disease. I suppose that would be a loved fact by those who believe only indigenous foods should be grown in any area-natural habitat being more protective and such. Plus, the Bedouin women probably have some tricks up their sleeves having worked so hard in the vineyards for so long…

  8. Alfonso Cevola says:

    thanks for the tip, I’ll pick it up. I represented Serge Hochar many years ago, selling his wine in Texas. Great story and the history of wine in the region is really seminal to wine history in the world.

    Travel well!

  9. Michael Karam says:

    Thankyou for your kind words Joumana.

  10. Faith says:

    I don’t know much about wine myself. This sounds like a wonderful book, Joumana!

  11. Conor @ HoldtheBeef says:

    Sounds like my kind of book – my favourite cookbooks are ones that tell a story, and I surely am a wine ignoramus, so I like the sound of this.

  12. heguiberto says:

    This book looks super interesting I am going look for a copy.
    I remember buying Lebanese wine at Sainsbury’s and Tesco when I lived in London back in the 90’s. They were yummy 🙂 I haven’t seen many here in California.

  13. Elie says:

    I like Lebanese wine much more than French one. It’s nice to have such book to learn more about Lebanese wine. A really good wine that I’ve tasted in Lebanon is the Cortbawi’s wine. They still produce it since 1887 using their traditional methods.

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