Today the BBC Radio 4 broadcast a special programme on the wines of Lebanon, presented by Jeremy Bowen, called ‘Vines on the Front Line‘. The result was actually a very interesting human story, not one of grapes, and I was impressed.
To listen to the report, click on the link below:
(at least if you are in UK, not sure if it works elsewhere. If I find a permanent download file, I will add this in here later too.)
Vines on the Front Line, BBC Radio 4
Jeremy is best known, at least in this household, as an international correspondent for the BBC, reporting from the Middle East on conflicts, power struggles and diplomatic wrangling. He is definitely not a name I would have associated with wine reports, but, as he said himself,
“Grapes have been part of my life as a correspondent”
… and I can well imagine!
There are many directions a programme about wine in Lebanon could have gone. It could have been an excuse to treat the people involved as freaks in the context of a war – bombs and suffering sell news better than wine stories after all. It could have been another ‘introduction to wine’ programme rehashing basic wine knowledge with a bit of politics thrown in to make it a bit different.
Instead, Jeremy Bowen’s people skills, and his ability to sniff out real, personal stories, were well matched to his political and historical knowledge, and used to make us understand that what people are doing is neither odd, nor crazy, but actually part of a culture that is older and more enduring than the political, religious divisions that dominate our news of this region. There’s a lesson in there!
I like the fact that he doesn’t actually spend time giving us any detailed tasting impressions, or discussing wine making practices other than a few references. Wine doesn’t have to be about that. What makes Lebanese wine different is the combination of ancient & modern history, the attitudes to wine culture and the imported technology, the recent struggles to keep these traditions alive, and by people whose passion is simply demonstrated by the fact that they continue to do it despite the political, and violent personal, setbacks.
I’ve listened to the programme 3 times. I want to go out and drink some Lebanese wine and learn more about it. That’s the mark of a good programme. Well done Jeremy. Well done BBC.
Can we have a few more like this please?
By the way, if you are inspired to try some Lebanese wines too, here’s a list of key wineries and their UK importers who might be able to help locate a local stockist to you (list courtesy of @LebanonWines)
- Chateau Ka :: Alliance Wines
- Chateau Ksara :: Hallgarten Druitt
- Chateau Kefraya :: Enotria
- Chateau Musar :: Chateau Musar UK
- Chateau St Thomas :: Seeking distribution
- Coteaux du Liban :: Bekaa Wines
- Domaine Wardy :: Lebanos Food & Wine
- Domaine des Tourelles :: Lebanese Fine Wines
- Heritage :: Lebanese Fine Foods & Wine
- Ixsir :: Seeking distribution
- Karam Winery :: Seeking distribution
- Bacchus to Bekaa (bbc.co.uk)
- Lebanon’s government falls as Hezbollah pulls out (independent.co.uk)
- Lebanese wine: Edgy, exhilarating and drinkable (telegraph.co.uk)