Elie Maamari and others…

Everyone knows that Lebanon has been riven by war for years.  Internally – a civil war – from 1975 to about 1990; externally – from Syria, Israel and Palestinians – even after the civil war ended.  War defines the image of the country.  The most famous story about Chateau Musar tells of how they harvested grapes in the Bekaa Valley with shells flying overhead during the civil war in the 1980s.

Wall of the Marontie cathedral in the centre of Beirut, pockmarked by bullet holes from the time of the civil war.

The country seems comparative peaceful now.  However, the threat to wine producers doesn’t disappear in perpetuity.  When Daesh was in the ascendant in Syria a few years ago they reached the border with Lebanon – hills looking directly down on the Bekaa valley – just a few minutes’ drive from Baalbek.  Elie Mamaari (of the UVL and Chateau Ksara) told us the first evening we arrived that ‘The first aim for Daesh was to destroy the wine… To arrive in the Bekaa valley and destroy the vineyards.’  Subsequently he told me that they said publically that they wanted to destroy wine.  Daesh call the producers non-believers who were corrupting the youth of Lebanon.  The wine producers were frightened.  Another person says to me that during this period some posters Chateau Ksara had put up were torn down with Islamic slogans scrawled where they had been.  But the majority of Muslims hated Daesh and would have fought them.  There were two weeks of fighting along the border and Daesh were kept out.  Interestingly it was in part the Shiite Hezbollah, often seen as terrorists themselves, who were active in keeping the Sunni fighters out.