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Lebanese wines bring villages back to life and citizens home

Lured by Lebanon’s wine-making potential and nostalgia for his homeland, Maher Harb left a Paris consultancy job in 2010 and dug vines into the soil of family land unused since the country’s civil war. Seven years later his Sept winery launched its first commercial vintage and is now looking to export as many European countries take an interest.

Lebanese wines bring villages back to life and citizens home
Representative image

The 36-year-old is part of an expanding wine industry which is bringing life back to land abandoned during Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war and waves of economic migration. It is also bringing Lebanese - and their money - back home. “Giving up a career in Europe... is very hard; it is all because of how much we love this land and how much Lebanon deserves this,” said Harb. And as Lebanon wrestles with stagnant economic growth, heavy debts and political inertia, the industry’s success could serve as a model for other sectors looking to export. 

Lebanon, where wine-making dates back to the ancient Phoenicians, lies further south than most northern hemisphere wine-producing nations. But the mountains that rise up from its hot, humid Mediterranean coast provide the cooler, drier altitudes grapes need. Global interest in Lebanon’s wines is growing, but output is low - a mere 8-9 million bottles annually compared to 5-6 billion bottles from the world’s largest producer Italy - and production costs are high. Although the industry’s size is estimated by Lebanon’s wine production association UVL to be only around $500 million a year, the local impact of new wineries can be transformative in a country with poor regional development and job prospects.

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