Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley has evolved into a major wine-making region, with many wineries scattered along its wide, fertile expanses. It has been famous, over the centuries, for being the agricultural heart of the Middle East.
Vineyards were commercially exploited here by the sea-faring ancestors of the modern Lebanese, who introduced viticulture to Greece, Egypt and Italy. The Greeks named them ‘Phoenicians’ after the purple dye (‘phoinikèia’) they made from seashells. Famed for being able to revive their cities rapidly after destruction, the Phoenicians inspired the legend of the Phoenix. The region’s wines are mentioned many times in the Bible (as in Hosea 14:7), and Cana, where Christ turned water into wine, is near the southern port of Tyre. Baalbek, originally devoted to Phoenician fertility god Baal, is also the site of a vast Roman temple to wine god Bacchus. French in origin, the Hochar family (pronounced ‘Hoshar’) arrived in Lebanon with the crusades and have remained there ever since.