Elie Maamari is anything but a job hopper. He has worked for 40 years at Chateau Ksara, Lebanon's oldest winery - without exaggeration the most challenging country in the world to make wine. On setbacks and prosperity, and Elie's taste.
Text: Niels van Laatum / Image: Chateau Ksara
Elie Maamari of Chateau Ksara in Lebanon
Elie Maamari is oenologist and export manager at Lebanese Chateau Ksara. And by that I mean: first oenologist and now export manager. As he himself says: 'You can make good wine, but you also have to sell it.'
After studying viticulture in Bordeaux, he was keen to put what he had learned into practice in his own country. There was not much choice in those days, we are talking about 1983. 'It was either Kefraya or Ksara,' says Elie. 'I knew the owners of Ksara, so I chose that one.' It can be that simple sometimes. Making wine in Lebanon is anything but simple. Back in time.
VITICULTURE IN LIBANON, A BRIEF HISTORY
From Mesopotamia, a historical region in western Asia, viticulture spread towards Turkey, the Persian Gulf and Palestine between 5000 and 1000 BC. Researchers believe that the first viticulture in Lebanon already existed around 7000 BC. Around 3000 and 330 BC, the Phoenicians really brought wine culture to life and started exporting wine to Egypt, Cyprus and Greece. Even to Rome, Sardinia and Spain. Lebanese wine remained famous all over Europe until, in the Middle Ages, Turkish rulers banned viniculture. With one exception: for religious purposes. Perhaps that is why a group of Jesuit missionaries from (then French) Algeria were able to revive Lebanese viticulture in 1857. They did so in the Bekaa Valley and that formed the basis for modern winemaking in Lebanon - right where Chateau Ksara now stands.
Further reading? You will find more information in WINELIFE Magazine, issue 85. You can order this here.
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