The cradle of

the wine culture

phoenician traders
The earliest manuscript about the vinification of grapes was written by a the Phoenician writer and agricultural expert Mago. The Phoenicians weren't only great traders, salesmen, originators of our alphabet or the inventors of the glas, but also pioneers regarding agricultural science and developments. For them, agriculture was a science, which made them to valuable and respected farmers around the Mediterranean coast. Mago, who lived in the 2nd century BC, wrote a total of 28 agricultural books in Punic, which was the the language of the Phoenicians. His writings gained a lot of fame and attracted more and more cultures resulting in the translation of each book into Greek, Latin and later Arabic. Nowadays, we are only left with a few passages of his monumental work. And among them is his recipe of preparing the raisin wine, which was one of the most-wanted Phoenician products in the Roman empire:

"Pick some well ripened grapes and remove all berries that ate damaged or have mildew. Drive bifurcated branches or bundled rods into the ground with a distance of four feet from each other. Put reed over it and let the grapes lie in the sun. Cover them at night so that they do not get wet from the dew. When they are dry, pluck the berries from their stems and put them in a jug. Add a nit of unfermented wine until the berries a completely covered. They will be soaked and swollen after six days. Pour them into a basket, press them and collect the escaping liquid. Then press the pomace, adding fresh unfermented wine from the other grapes which have been in the sun for three days. In continuation, mix them well and press again. Pour the resulting juice immediately after pressing into tight containers so that it does not become sour. Pour it into a fresh containers, after the fermentation for 20 or 30 days and cover the container with leather."

The Phoenician Empire is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world. Archeological finds in the ancient and Lebanese city Byblos revealed vines which were over 5,000 years old. This indicates that there has been a wine-growing culture around that time. In ancient times this area belonged to the historical land of Canaan, which in the Old Testamen was known as the Phoenician "Land of the Red Purple" (the Phoenicians are named after Phoinix, the Greek word for purple). Furthermore, that is where Jesus transformed water into wine. And it were Phoenician traders who brought the first vines for wine production into the country from the southern Caucasus and Anatolia. Most-likely, it was the Vitis vinifera pontica, a presumed predecessor of Chardonnay.
Old Byblos
The polyglot and trade-friendly Phoenicians steered the most important trading deals and activities of the time in their trade centers such as the ports of Beirut, Byblos, Sidon and Tyros. All four cities were a crucial gateway of the Incense Road, now known as the Silk Road, into the Mediterranean sea and shipping roads. And since wine had an important role in the Phoenician religion, the wine culture was able to evolve around the Mediterranean coasts. In the 2nd century AD the Romans built a temple in Baalbek, which still exists today, to honor Bacchus, their god of wine. In fact, the magnificent temple of Heliopolis has many gotten many credits regarding the history of wine growing and consumption. The Old Testament mentions the Lebanese wine in the Genesis 14:18 where the Phoenician king Melchizedek gave Abraham bread and wine and Hosea 14:8 then indicates that "his glory shall be like the wine of Lebanon".
Phoenician Empire