Nobody knows when wine was first made in Lebanon, although the Phoenician ancestors of today's Lebanese were certainly among the earliest winemakers. Later, in the Greco-Roman era, a wine cult flourished, as the ruins of the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbeck in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley bear eloquent witness.
In the heart of the Bekaa, near Baalbeck, lies the KSARA estate, so named because it was the site of a ksar, or fortress, at the time of the Crusades. The property was acquired by the Jesuit Fathers in 1857 when it was already famed as a vineyard and they perpetuated the tradition of winemaking.
In particular, they pioneered the introduction of high-quality vines in Lebanon. New varietals, enjoying the exceptional climatic conditions in the Bekaa, were cultivated at Ksara and later at Tanail, an estate of 240 hectares (600 acres) which also belonged to the Jesuit Fathers and which sent all its grapes to Ksara's cellars.
Ksara's natural wine cellar was a grotto discovered by the Romans who consolidated part of the vault and dug several narrow tunnels from the cave into the surrounding chalk. These tunnels were enlarged to their present size during World War I when the Jesuit Fathers sought to alleviate famine in Lebanon by creating employment.
One hundred men toiled with picks and shovels for four years to complete an underground network of tunnels stretching for almost two kilometres (about 2,000 yards).The temperature in the tunnels is ideal for wine, varying throughout the year from 11 to 13ºC. Ksara came into the hands of its present owners when the Jesuit Fathers decided to sell the estate in conformity with the directives of the Vatican II synod.
Today, Ksara produces wines with strong personalities, achieving a rare condition of dry fruitiness, delicacy and robustness. Wines that leave an imprint on the memory which is as long as their history.