People have been growing grapes and making wine in the Bekaa Valley for millennia. “There was an uninterrupted wine culture in Lebanon even before the Jesuits [revitalized winemaking] in 1857,” says Michael Karam, the Lebanese-British author of Lebanese Wines. The Jesuits’ “game changer was that they made a dry wine” and “laid the foundations of the modern wine industry. Then, with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the arrival of the French, things really began to motor,” he adds.
But long before the Jesuits, the Phoenicians, a seafaring people who lived on the Levantine coast in ancient times, made and traded wine all around the Mediterranean. Locals kept making wine under the Hellenic, Assyrian, Babylonian, Roman, and Byzantine rulers that passed through Lebanon during the next couple thousand years.