I drank my first Lebanese wine, a 1968 Ksara red, in 1970 during the early days of the Lebanese Civil War. I still have the wine labels, pressed and mounted. It was a smooth, hardy wine that was cheaper than beer – maybe $1.50 a bottle.
Now, there is a documentary on Ksara and other wineries in Lebanon that has me yearning to once again toast friends at the Samir Amis, a luxury Beirut apartment building which, soon after I left, was bombed to smithereens.
That pretty much sums up the focus of “Wine and War,” a documentary about the perseverance of wine-making amidst chronic wars, conflicts, and chaos. The story begins about 7,000 years ago in Lebanon where the oldest evidence of wine-making is found.
Serge Hochar, famed Lebanese winemaker of Chateau Musar, asks, “What is older, the wine or humanity?”
Hochar, who died soon after his interview for this film, explains, “The grape vines appeared first, dropping their fruit to the ground. Fermentation naturally occurred, making wine there before the people.” Now, the oldest remains of a winery in the world can be found in southern Lebanon.
“Wine and War” not only documents historical and Biblical references, it contains interviews of various winemakers who now run the present wineries in Lebanon during the current economic crisis and recent harbor explosion.
Unlike 1970, travelers today can travel to the Bekaa Valley where The Chateau Ksara winery and Roman caves are open to visitors year-round. There is a walking tour into the ancient wine caves and a train-ride through the vineyards and Jesuit monastery.
As a side-attraction visitors can visit ancient Roman, Phoenician and Umayyad ruins close by and then travel northwest to Byblos, a continuously inhabited city since 5000 BC.
All proceeds from the film’s release will be donated to CAP-HO, a charity providing much needed medical care at St. Georges Hospital in Beirut for children suffering most notably from the result of wars and the Aug. 4 explosion.
“Wine and War,” sure to whet curiosity about the taste of wine that has endured so much trauma and hardship, can be viewed online and wineandwar.com.
Directors: Mark Johnston and Mark A. Ryan
Producer: Mark Johnston
Writers: Mark Johnston, Michael Karam and Mark A. Ryan
Featuring: Michael Broadbent, Elizabeth Gilbert, Paul Grieco, Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar, Janis Robinson, Michel de Bustros of Chateau Kefraya, Karim and Sandro Saade of Chateau Marsyas, Naji and Jill Boutros of Chateau Belle-vue, Faouzi Issa of Domaine des Tourellesh,
Domaine Bargylus and Ramzi and Sami Ghosn of Massaya, Neila Bitar, coteaux de Botrys, Father Joseph of Le Couvenet St. Sauveur des Trappistes and John-Pierre Sara, George Sara with James Palge, Zafer and Tonia Chaoui, of Chateau Ksara along with others
Music: Karim Douaidy
Music Department: Brian Deming
Cinematography: Mark A. Ryan
Editing: Matthew Hartman and Malek Hosni
Released: Sept. 24, 2020
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