The Bekaa Valley wine region of Lebanon is considered the home of the country’s modern winemaking industry. It is one of the oldest winemaking regions in the world and today produces more than 90% of all of the wine made in Lebanon. Throughout the history of the valley, winemaking has played a predominant role in its growth and development. Today, the majority of grapes grown in the valley are of French origins. Most of the vineyards in the region work the vines completely by hand and then use a mix of traditional and modern methods in wine production. The result of this is a portfolio of some of the best wines in Lebanon.
Wines from The Heart of the Lebanese Winemaking Industry
The Bekaa Valley in Lebanon is the home of the country’s modern wine making industry. This area is one of the oldest wine making regions in the world, and today produces over 90% of all the wine made in Lebanon. During the 1990s, the area experienced a dramatic growth in wine production. In this time the number of wineries in the Bekaa Valley grew exponentially from 5 to over 30.
The history of the Bekaa Valley has always been linked to viticulture. During the Biblical era the writings of the Israelite prophets mentioned the wines of Lebanon. Along with this, the Ancient Phoenicians also spoke in depth about the excellent wines produced along the Mediterranean. The wine industry in Lebanon flourished during this time until the Ottoman Empire when wine production almost came to a complete halt. This continued until after World War 1 when France began to play an active role in redeveloping and rejuvenating the Lebanese wine industry. The first vineyards in the Bekaa Valley were planted in 1857 with vines brought in by the French.
The climate of the Bekaa Valley is typically Mediterranean with dry summers, cool nights and a consistent level of rainfall. This ensures that the grapes rarely ripen before September, allowing them to develop a wonderful depth, strong flavours and high levels of intensity.
Vines in Bekaa Valley are planted at altitudes as high as 1000m above sea level. The soil is mostly limestone and clay. The mountainous landscape of the region provides the wines with exposure while still protecting them from harsh climatic conditions. The mountains of the Bekaa Valley play a key role in the terroir of the region. They protect the grapes from the desert conditions in the east and the intense maritime rains from the west. Mount Lebanon casts a rain shadow over the vines.
The most popular grapes that are grown in the Bekaa Valley are French in origin, specifically Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Other varietals grown include Cinsault, Carignan and Grenache. Along with the French grapes, some indigenous Lebanese varietals are grown such as Merwah and Obeidah. These grapes are used to produce high quality Lebanese wines such as the famous Musar White blend. Most of the vineyards in the region are worked only by hand. In the wine production, a combination of traditional and modern wine making techniques are used.
The wines produced in the Bekaa Valley take the name of the region rather than the name of the grape. The region has no clear appellation system but there is one IGP which is the Bekaa Valley. Bekaa Valley wines have a strong French influence. The red wines of the region are produced similarly to Bordeaux blends while the whites usually have a floral and fragrant style.
Arguably the most famous wine from the Bekaa Valley is the Chateau Ksara. This wine is complex and cedary and is made with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot grapes. These grapes are aged in the barrel for 12 months, giving the wine supple tannins and classic dry wine characteristics. Chateau Ksara is ripe and fruity and is very popular among those who enjoy Claret. The wine ages extremely well and mature vintages are also available.
Another popular white wine of the Bekaa Valley is the Chateau Kefraya Blanc de Blanc. This wine has a beautiful texture and is perfectly creamy with perfect acidity. Chateau Kefraya is made using a blend of Viognier, Clairette, Muscat, Bourboulenc, Ugni Blanc, Chardonnay and Verdejo grape varietals. Chateau Kefraya red wines are just as popular, particularly the Chateau Kefraya Rouge, which is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre that is aged in oak barrels. This wine has spicy notes and flavours of rich, black fruits.
Along with traditional table wines, the Bekaa Valley also produces Arak, an anise flavoured spirit that is considered the Lebanese nation’s favourite alcoholic drink.
Coteaux Du Liban is a family run winery in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. The winery was founded in 1999 on the hillsides of the valley where the vines are planted at an altitude of 1100m above sea level. The winemakers at Coteaux Du Liban are committed to producing the highest quality wines that are a direct reflection of the Bekaa Valley terroir. The estate produces four red wines, one white one and one rose that have all gained both local and international acclaim.
Domaine Wardy is a family-owned and run winery and distillery located in the center of the Bekaa Valley. The history of the estate dates back to 1881 and today the wines produced by the Domaine Wardy team are diverse, flavourful, and authentic Lebanese wines. The team at Domaine Wardy welcomes visitors for unforgettable wine tasting experiences and behind-the-scenes tours of their wonderful wine cellars.
Temple of Bacchus – The Most Beautiful Temple of the Roman world
The Temple of Bacchus is located in Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley. This temple is often described as the most beautifully decorated temple that exists in the Roman world. Bacchus is one of the most perfectly preserved Roman relics. Is has a portico with eight columns that form its façade and fifteen more columns along the side. The exterior ceiling of the building is made of curved stone that has been decorated with beautifully vivid scenes of Mars, Diana, Tyche, Vulcan, Ceres ad Bacchus. Local guides can be found at the temple and are always available to point out the various elements of the attraction. Inside the medieval towner of the temple there is a two-level museum which is extremely educational and houses a number of interesting relics.
Baalbek Ruins – The Most Mysterious Ruins of the Roman Empire
The Baalbek Ruins are located in the centre of modern Baalbek. These ruins are a magnificent Roman complex that is one of the major archaeological highlights of the Middle East. The ruins include a number of incredible features such as the Temple of Jupiter and the adjacent Temple of Bacchus. Underneath the complex is the museum in a tunnel which hosts. Wealth of information and artefacts from the Roman times. Not to be forgotten is the smaller Temple of Venus which is located right opposite the main entrance. During the summer months, the ruins are used to host the Baalbek International Festival.
Temple of Jupiter – One of the World’s Largest Roman Temples
The Temple of Jupiter is most well-known for its monumental scale. It is one of the largest Roman temples in the world. This temple was built in the 1st century BC as a dedication to Jupiter Heliopolitanus. Is it built on an enormous substructure that is more than 90m long. At the entrance to the temple there is a staircase that leads to a very unusual hexagonal courtyard. This leads on to the central courtyard that has two high alters framed by columns of pink and grey granite. From here there is another staircase that leads to the temple itself and the wonderful statue of god that it houses. The best way to visit the Temple of Jupiter is as a day trip from Baalbek. During the summer months be prepared for the intense summer heat!
The Bekaa Valley and Its Extraordinary Natural Beauty
The beautiful Bekka Valley is one of the most popular nature travel destinations in Lebanon. The increase in ecotourism to the region has led to a number of conservation and preservation initiatives for the local environment. This means that the local scenery and surroundings are wonderfully preserved and beautifully untouched – a wonderful destination for all nature lovers.
Yammouneh – The Nature Reserve of The Fertile Bekaa Valley
Yammouneh Nature Reserve is located in the lushest, green, and fertile areas of the Bekaa Valley. The location of the reserve means that it is beautifully surrounded by mountains on all sides. It is an extremely popular place to visit in the spring and the summer when the weather is perfect for being outdoors. Inside the reserve, there are a number of freshwater pools that are home to a wide range of flora and fauna. The main attraction inside the reserve is the Yammouneh Lake that is fed by the Spring of the Forty Martyrs. Along the shores of the lake, there are many cafes and bistros and a few Roman temples remains. On the south side of the lake lies the small village of Yammouneh. For hiking in the reserve, there are many organized trips that can be taken from the town of Baalbek.
Lake Qaraoun – The Largest Artificial Lake in Lebanon
Lake Qaraoun is located just west of Qaraoun Village and was created after the development if the Litani River Dam in 1959. Swimming is not allowed in the lake, but it is the perfect place to visit in the summer to enjoy a boat trip to see the spectacular views. There are also a number of restaurants on the western shores of the lake that are famous for serving the freshest fish in the region. For those looking to spend time enjoy the beautiful surroundings, there are a number of accommodation establishments around the lake offering various accommodation options.
The Aammiq Wetlands – Where Nature and Nurture Meet
The Aammiq Wetlands form the largest freshwater reserve in Lebanon. The wetlands have the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status which was received in 2005. The total area of the wetlands is 250 hectares of marches, ponds, and willows that form a natural habitat for a wide range of bird and animal species. Ecotourism is one of the main activities of the Aammiq Wetlands and it has become a place not only for the protection of the natural environment but also where the Lebanese people can celebrate their culture and traditions.
The wonderful Flavours of the Bekaa Valley
The food of the Bekaa Valley provides a true adventure for the scenes. The cuisine in the Valley ranges from aromatic to fresh and green. The rich culinary traditions of Lebanon can be experienced in all of the local dishes of the Bekaa Valley and there is always something for everyone to enjoy.
Sfiha – Delicious Local Flatbreads Packed with Flavour
Sfiha is a local dish of the Bekaa Valley that consists of a flatbread cooked with a minced meat topping. The meat that is used is often lamb that is flavored with tomato, onion, pine nuts, and spices. Across the Bekaa Valley, recipes for Sfiha have been adapted but the main ingredients are always meat, tomatoes, onions, pine nuts, salt, pepper, and spices such as cinnamon and sumac. Sfiha can be found on most local menus in the Bekaa Valley and is the perfect snack to enjoy while on the go.
Hummus Beiruti – The Lebanese Version of Hummus
Hummus Beiruti the Lebanese version of this famous dip made of chickpeas. What makes Hummus Beiruti unique is the addition of large amounts of garlic and spices. The dip is made with chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, tahini, yogurt, cold water, lemon juice, cumin, parsley, paprika, and chili peppers. These ingredients are all blended together, plated, and garnished with olive oil, chopped parsley, and mint leaves. It is best enjoyed with freshly baked pita bread or local lavash flatbread.
Tabbouleh – Colourful Lebanese Salad
Tabbouleh is the bright and coloured Lebanese national dish that is best described as a salad. The salad has a chewy and crunchy texture. Its ingredients include parsley leaves, olive oil, bulgur wheat, and chopped mint leaves. The recipe for the salad originated in the mountains of Lebanon where the fresh herbs were readily available. Tabbouleh is usually served as an appetizer with pita bread, hummus, and baba ghanoush. To make the salad a little bit more vibrant, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh lemon juice, and finely chopped onions are sometimes added to the recipe. Before serving the salad, it is best to refrigerate it for a few hours to enhance the flavours. Tabbouleh is the perfect dish to enjoy on a hot summer’s day in the Bekaa Valley and is rich in fiber, protein, and minerals.
Go on a Culinary Adventure in Tawlet Ammiq
For food lovers who are lucky enough to visit the Bekaa Valley, the Tawlet Ammiq should not be missed. The Tawlet Ammiq is set in the beautiful Shouf Biosphere Reserve. It is a market that gives local producers the chance to showcase their goods, local traditions, and food-making recipes and techniques. There is also a test kitchen where local cooks are rediscovering traditional recipes and making them their own. The best time to visit Tawlet Ammiq is on the weekend for a long and lazy lunch. Visitors can choose their meals from a buffet that is bursting with options. During the mid-morning, be sure to sample the manakeesh baked flatbreads with various toppings cooked over open coals. There is plenty of seating outside which is perfect for the warmer weather. The building in which the Tawlet Ammiq is housed was designed using sustainable principles and has some of the breathtaking views of the Bekaa Valley.