~*When it’s wine, It varies…

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“I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines and old cheeses”…

I also love the old glory days of my country, known before the war as “the Switzerland of the Middle East”, hustling and bustling with hotels, opera houses, cinemas, cafes, beaches, etc. that I often read about or get exposed to through older generations’ stories and photos…

I love this sort of nostalgia for the past that somehow frames our hopes and wishes and besides years of devastating war, inspires us to master all circumstances and strengthen our faith …

And what I love the most, is meeting citizens that decided to come back to Lebanon to pursue their dreams, despite the economic crisis, instability and uncertainties we are still experiencing…

Eddy Naim is one of those citizens who, after living his entire life outside of Lebanon, decided to quit his job as a management consultant in Dubai and come to Lebanon to pursue a dream.  Eddy was born in Greece and had lived in Belgium, USA, Canada, and Dubai before embarking on this journey with his father, George Naim.

George who had left Lebanon at the dawn of civil war in 1976, came back earlier than Eddy and began planting vines on an ancestral parcel of land in Qanafar as a post-retirement hobby, making wine for family and friends for the first time in 2004 … His exceptional elixir took his hobby to another dimension, evolving into a successful family business selling natural wines made with the best techniques and the highest quality of grapes.

With a certificate in winemaking from the University of California, Davis, Eddy added to the know-how of his father George who initially had a degree in chemistry and learnt from reading oenology books and other reference material. Nonetheless, the expertise of local and international oenology consultants that also had a share in perfecting the winemaking explains the story every bottle of Château Qanafar has to tell!

I got the chance to visit the winery located on the oak-forested mountain above the beautiful village of Khirbet Qanafar, in West Bekaa, which overlooks the Qaraoun Lake and is about 65 km away from Beirut.

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Besides having an ideal terroir for hosting vineyards and growing high quality grapes, the village is also home to an abundant production of olives, apples, peaches, melons, as well as beans, potatoes, onions and tomatoes (also beautifully ripened to produce tomato paste)…

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Origin of the name

Qanafar derived from the two Ancient Greek words, “ano” and “pharos”.  Ano means “above” or “elevated” while pharos means “light” or “beacon”, effectively meaning “elevated beacon”.  In Babylonian times, merchant caravans travelling in the summer through the Bekaa Valley opted to journey at night in order to avoid the higher temperatures.  To help guide them, several beacons were placed along their route and the highest one was believed to be located where what is now the village of Khirbet Qanafar.  Hence Château Qanafar’s lighthouse logo.

Presumably, the village was ravaged by an ancient earthquake, leveling it along with the lighthouse and led to the village being referred to as “the Ruins of Ano Pharos”, translating into Khirbet Qanafar.

My first coup de foudre 

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Blanc de Qanafar! Discovered two years ago at Bergerac Restaurant which specializes in south-western French cuisine, including delicious duck and foie gras dishes and other specialities.

The first sips of Blanc de Qanafar, I had back then, for the first time, drew a large smile on my face and a big Yes in my heart. A 100% sauvignon blanc that matches your expectations with brilliant aromatics and a balanced acidity. It is a very refreshing wine that offers flavors I would like you to discover!

Qanafar’s vineyards get exposed to sunshine during the day helping to fully ripen the berries, and experience cool temperatures at night (because of the high elevation of 1200 meters) which preserves the grapes’ inherent acidity and makes this white potion exceptional!

My second coup de foudre: 

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Château Qanafar 2011; the haut-de-gamme red wine produced with the noble grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Merlot (33%) and Syrah (33%) and aged for 12 months in primarily French oak barrels. It is an exquisite balance between ripe yet vivid fruit and silky oak tannins.  It is bold without inducing heartburn.  In a nutshell, it represents the best of Château Qanafar’s terroir.

For those who prefer to go for a lighter and fruitier Red, Paradis: a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%), is the right choice! On the nose it brings a fruity and slightly floral component with a touch of vanilla.  It has a medium to full body on the palate with a powerful attack and lingering finish.

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Vineyards 

With an aspiration of focusing the production on the highest quality rather than a large quantity, vineyards are fully controlled by the Naim family. The majority of the vines is bush trained and lies above the village at an altitude of about 1200m above sea level.  Some vineyards are at the valley floor which lies at around 900-1000m, but most importantly, all vineyards are within 10 minutes from the winery, meaning grapes quickly arrive at the winery once they are harvested to avoid unwanted fermentations and arrive cool at around 15-18 C.

The varietals in red include: mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.  A small experimental vineyard of Primitivo/Zinfandel was planted to see what kind of results could be obtained in Lebanon.  The varietals in white include: Sauvignon Blanc (majority) and Viognier, and a small vineyard of Riesling.

 

Wine making

“Natural” is the keyword when it comes to wine making at Château Qanafar. Its’ philosophy is centered on the idea that 90%-95% of a wine’s quality comes from the grapes themselves, resulting in the focus on viticulture and emphasis on preserving the quality “from berry to bottle” rather than fixing a poor quality wine with oenological products.  The grapes’ attributes are never modified; no adjustments in acidity, sugar, tannin, etc.

Sulfite is used to the bare minimum … For instance, the Château 2009 contains about 72ppm of total SO2 (in Europe, a wine can be considered organic if it has less than 100 ppm, but has to be certified to say it on the bottle).

The wines sometimes also taste quite different from year to year due to variations in the weather.  Wines made at a boutique winery are often at the mercy of such variations, since they cannot be blended with large productions to create something that tastes the same every year.  Château Qanafar actually embraces this and makes no attempt to make the wine taste the same, but rather wants to maintain the same quality level each year, and this sometimes requires changes in the blend.  For instance, the Château 2009 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, while the Château 2010 is a blend of just Syrah and Merlot. Eddy says the Cabernet Sauvignon wasn’t included because it would have lowered the quality of the resulting wine.

This philosophy is clearly yielding results, which every vintage winning awards and medals at global competitions.  The current wine on the market, Château 2011 has garnered numerous awards: the acclaimed French wine guide Gilbert & Gaillard scored it 93/100 (the highest among all Lebanese wines that participated in the tasting). At the “Ultimate Wine Challenge” in New York, it landed a 92/100 mark. And, it was also a finalist for the Chairman’s Trophy award. La Séléction in Switzerland awarded it a silver medal, while Decanter in Hong Kong awarded it a score of 90-94.

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When it’s Qanafar … It varies! 

Every bottle indeed tells a slightly different story, making the enjoyment of wine a journey of discovery.

Château Qanafar is a boutique winery; it cannot be found everywhere, but you can currently find their wines at the following locations:

Hotels: Le Gray, The Four Seasons, Le Vendôme Beirut, Phoenicia Intercontinental, and Soha Village.

Restaurants: The Hangout, Avenue du Parc, Bardo, Bergerac, Bread Republic, DT, Le Petit Gris, L’Autre, Liza, LUX, Stove, GRAMM, Cru, Casa Blanca, and The Gathering.

For purchase in-store: The Wine Teller (Jal el Dib), La Cave de Joë

l Robuchon (Beirut Souks), Les Caves de Taillevent (Tabaris), Carrefour (Beirut City Centre), Golden Star (Jounieh), Le Goût Frais (Broummana), Le Caviste (Broummana).

The best moments in life are the simple ones 

“Sometimes the best moments in life are the simple ones, like having cheese doodles and wine…”

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Consuming a glass per day (for women >18 years) and two glasses per day (for men >18 years) promotes a longer life span, protects against certain cancers, improves mental health and provides benefits to the heart!
And, in case you didn’t know: drinking wine (moderately) may reduce the risk of depression!

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I often enjoy snacking in the afternoon on a glass of Château Qanafar red wine and 4 chestnuts… In case you didn’t know, a glass of red wine has been found to curb sugar cravings and increase levels of the good cholesterol (HDL)… Moreover, a Harvard University study of 20.000 women found that those who drank half a bottle of wine a day had a 70% reduced risk of obesity compared to non-drinkers!
Chestnuts, unlike other nuts, are relatively low in calories! They contain less fat but consist mainly of starch! Each chestnut has around 18 calories and contains fiber!
Enjoy this snack in moderation and remember to avoid drinking if you’re under 18 Years old! Your body will be less well equipped to cope with the effects of alcohol, physically and emotionally; your liver’s not fully developed and neither is your brain!

Another joyful snack is a glass of red wine with 7 almonds!When Consumed a couple of days a week and within a balanced diet plan could help you lose weight!
Surprised ? Well, Red wine is loaded with antioxidants and Resveratrol-“an ingredient that increases gene expression that enhances the oxidation of dietary fats so the body won’t be overloaded.Resverstrol converts white fat into beige fat which burns lipids off as heat, helping to keep the body in balance and prevents obesity and metabolic dysfunction”…

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For the Love of wine 

For the love of wine and the love of local production; for the love of a stronger united country with an increased amount of entrepreneurs with a tenacious drive and self-initiative… For a wealthier country with more high quality goodness from its own soil and happy citizens with a satisfied pampered palate; Happy Valentine’s!

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Dietitian Nicole Maftoum

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