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Cuisine & Wine of Lebanon
Lebanese sweets & culinary delights

Lebanon wine tastings
Tourists enjoy a tasting at one of
Lebanon's top wineries, Chateau
Kefraya, in the Bekaa Valley.

Hors d'œuvres, or mezzes, are the savory beginning to a traditional meal while traveling in Lebanon, and typically include hummus (pureed garbanzo bean dip), baba ghanoush (purée of eggplant), tabouleh (parsley and cracked wheat salad), and lebneh (yogurt dip with garlic). Hot pita bread, small bowls of olive oil, and fresh thyme accompany these dips and salads.

Entrées follow and could include any or all of the following: stuffed grape leaves, triangular pastries stuffed with meat or spinach, kibbeh (minced lamb, bulgar wheat, onions, pine nuts prepared in different ways), half of a chicken with rice, grilled chicken or lamb on skewers, or fish served with tahini sauce.

Platters of fresh fruit and bowls of roasted pistachios or almonds cleanse the palate. Desserts are traditionally sweetened with honey, jam, dried fruits, or molasses, such as baklava (a filo dough pastry layered with honey or molasses and crushed pistachios).

Of course, no meal is complete without the national drink, arak. Arak is an anise-flavored liquor similar to Pastis (the French version), Sambuca (the Italian version), or Ouzo (the Greek version). It is drunk as an aperitif or with mezzes and entrées.

Lebanon's great food culture is thought to be a major contributor to the success of its wine.

After all, excellent wine is best complemented with suitably inspiring food. Although inhabitants of modern-day Lebanon have produced wine for over 4,000 years, the past decade has witnessed a rebirth in the wine's reputation, with British, French and other European importers highly praising the wine.

Compared to other wine producing countries, Lebanon's production is very modest – 6 million bottles annually. Nevertheless, exports have doubled over the past decade, and Lebanon currently exports 40 percent of the wine it produces.

Wineries are primarily found in the Bekaa Valley, where arid, sunny days and cool evenings, create the perfect vineyard climate. The three big names in Lebanese wine are Châteaux Ksara, Kefraya, and Chateau Musar (located in the Mount Lebanon region near Beirut).

They all produce wines that have won international acclaim, in the wine press and in various competitions, and export a substantial portion of their wine to Europe, North America, and the Near East.Ksara is the oldest winery, founded in 1857 by Jesuit priests who brought vines from Europe. Château Kefraya is the largest winery, with vineyards that are 50 years old and a winery that is only 20 years old. Château Musar is located in an 18th century castle 15 miles outside of Beirut, but its grapes come from Musar vineyards in the Bekaa Valley.

Other wineries include Château Fakra (Mount Lebanon), Clos St.Thomas (Bekaa), Massaya (Bekaa), Nakad (Bekaa), and Domaine Wardy (Bekaa).

Increasingly, Lebanese wineries are marketing themselves to tourists with guided tours of the wineries and vineyards, dinners, wine tasting, and special evening and weekend events.

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