Grape varieties grown in Lebanon Part II: Whites

The following white grapes, most of which have been introduced in the last 15 to 20 years, are all grown to make wine in Lebanon. They all thrive at altitudes of 600 metres and above (500 metres in North Lebanon) and have contributed to the improved quality of Lebanese wines in the last two decades.

Apart from a few areas in Batroun in the North and Jezzine in the South, almost all are grown in the Bekaa Valley, which, at an average altitude of 1,000 meters, enjoys dry summers and has the bonus of having its own natural water table, courtesy of the melting snow running off the slopes of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges.

Lebanon's indigenous Merweh

Chardonnay: It may have become a cliché among today’s white wine tipplers, but this should not detract from its popularity, versatility, consistency and quality. It is a grape that ranks among the most important and widely planted on earth and, in France, makes some of the finest Burgundies and Champagnes. In Lebanon, greater experience in working with this relatively new arrival, improved technology, and the Bekaa’s generous terroir, have all contributed to the creation of impressive Chardonnays in recent years. Try Château St Thomas Chardonnay

Clairette: Grown mainly in southern France, in Lebanon, it has been a stout performer and is still used in white table wines, but its presence is in decline. Try Château Ksara Blanc de l’Observatoire

Gewürztraminer: One of the great wine grapes of the world and the backbone of the Alsace wine region where it produces distinctive aromatic floral wines. It is used in Lebanon in extremely limited quantities. Try Château Khoury Reve Blanc

Merweh: An indigenous Lebanese white believed to be the original Semillon. It was popular with the ancient Greeks who knew it as Bybline, and the pre-Romans, who called it Polis. Archaeologists have not discounted that the Phoenicians introduced it, along with, viticulture to France. Try Château Musar 2001

Muscat: A famous family of white wine grapes, found all over the world, especially in France and Piedmont in Italy. Muscat is planted in limited quantities in Lebanon, where it is blended. Try Karam Winery Cloud 9

Obedieh: An indigenous Lebanese white grape, often cited (wrongly) as the direct descendant of the Chardonnay and which was taken to France by the Crusaders. Try Massaya Classic

Sauvignon Blanc: A grape that is the staple of Bordeaux and the Loire, although it is planted extensively all over the wine world. Thought to be the descendant of indigenous Lebanese Merweh (this has yet to be proven), it is a versatile, highly acidic, grape, it is also famous for its distinctive, so-called ‘cat’s pee’ aroma and is used extensively in Lebanon. Try Domaine Wardy Sauvignon Blanc

Semillon: is one of the most important grapes of Bordeaux and one that is used extensively in Australia. Try Ixsir Altitudes

Viognier: A grape giving aromas and flavours of apricots, peaches and flowers, and found mostly found in the Northern Rhone. A recent arrival in Lebanon, it has been blended successfully with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat to make premium whites. Try Château Kefraya Blanc de Blancs



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