Toulouse-trained wine specialist Elie Maamari was kidnapped twice during Lebanon’s civil war due to his winemaking: once by Islamist militants and again by gunmen who wanted money. During those grim years at Chateau Ksara, Lebanon’s oldest and largest winery, the labourers continued picking grapes, sometimes under gunfire.
Maamari, now Ksara’s export director, says the winery survived Israel’s 1982 invasion, which saw the Israeli armed forces take control of Lebanon’s wine country. The vineyard still made the harvest a decade later when Ksara’s buildings were occupied by the Syrian military. It survived the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. And, like many of Lebanon’s wineries, it didn’t miss the vintage in 2014, when Isis militants seized an area within the Bekaa Valley just 10 miles from Ksrara’s grapes.
But now, for the first time, the future of Ksara along with the rest of Lebanon’s celebrated wine industry is uncertain because of the economic collapse ravaging the country.