Tuesday, April 11, 2023

April - May 2023 USA Tastings

 I am delighted to share with you that in April and May of 2023, I will be touring New York, Philadelphia, and Massachusetts. you'll be able to taste and purchase our portfolio of whiskies and arak available in the US. 

We will be launching Athyr's first New York exclusive release and tasting several expressions of Athyr, Levant Heights, and Arak Al Jouzour.

Below you will find a list of events that you can attend, also I'll be constantly updating it for any changes:

Thursday, April 20, 2023 

Location: Albany, New York

Venue: Exit 9

Purchase Available: Yes

Charge: Free

Friday, April 21, 2023 

Location: Saratoga Springs, New York

Venue: First Fill Spirits

Start Time: 7:00 PM

Purchase Available: Yes

Charge: Free

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 

Location: Manhattan, New York

Venue: Brandy Library

Start Time: 7:00 PM

Purchase Available: No

Charge: Free for industry professionals

Wednesday, April 26, 2023 

Location: Manhattan, New York

Venue: Park Avenue Liquor Shop

Start Time: 6:00 PM

Purchase Available: Yes

Charge: Free 

Thursday, April 27, 2023 

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Venue: Fine Wine & Good Spirits

Purchase Available: Yes

Charge: Free 

Sunday, April 30, 2023 

Location: Manhattan, New York

Venue: Salma 

Start Time: 2:00 PM

Organizer: The New Mosaic 

Purchase Available: Yes

Charge: $65/ Person including Lunch

Wednesday, May 3, 2023 

Location: Norfolk, Masatchusettes 

Venue: Norfolk Wine &Spirits

Start Time: 6:30 PM

Purchase Available: Yes

Charge: Free 

I'll be constantly updating this list for new tastings during my visit to the US. 

I've also included a link to the portfolio that will be available below. 


Looking forward to seeing you there. 


Monday, June 29, 2020

The 2019-2020 Lebanese Financial Crisis - Causes, Implications, & Possible Solutions

Part 1: Causes

Even though economics is not my profession, I’ve had the privilege of having some economic training in my undergraduate pursuit, and it was highly relevant when I practiced management consulting and still is highly relevant to me as an entrepreneur and a business owner. I felt like writing about the current economic situation, in order to help my friends and family form a better opinion of what’s going on, especially information relevant to the crisis is disseminated on the news in a scattered and reductionist manner, which doesn’t allow people to form a holistic idea of what is going on.

The past year was bleak in terms of what has went on in Lebanon from popular uprising, devaluation of the national currency, siphoning of depositor funds, sovereign debt default, blatant corruption and incompetence, and the cherry on top was the global Coronavirus pandemic, which has made our already horrible economic situation worse. Before going into how all that affected the devaluation of the Lira, it is important to go over a few concepts and definitions.

What is currency/money? (Webster, 2020)

                According to classical economic theory, currency or money is anything that fulfills the following requirements:

1.       Medium of exchange

2.       Store of value

3.       Unit of account

Does the lira fulfill all of the above requirements?

The Lira is used in circulation and can be exchanged for anything in Lebanon, so it is a medium of exchange, it also used to be a store of value until it started devaluating, as for unit of account, here is where it gets tricky. The Lira in itself has no intrinsic value because it wasn’t measured relative to how well the economy was producing/doing, instead it simply derived its value by pegging/fixing it to the US dollar, Therefore, in essence, the “real” unit of account was the US dollar, even before the crisis. So does it fulfill all the requirements of a currency? Hardly and it’s the fault of those who have set our weak monetary policy (Furness, 020).

Moreover, the concept of value is abstract, psychological, and difficult to quantify. How can you really know what anything is worth what? Whether its economic value or psychological value, it all breaks down to usefulness/utility (Baumol, 2020). For example, if you are a cyclist, a bicycle will likely be more valuable to you than a pair of skies, especially if you don’t ski. Same principle applies to money, if you are an importer or manufacturer of goods, and can’t use the currency to purchase what you require, your perceived value of that currency will diminish.

How are national monetary policies set?

Simply put, monetary policy is how a country’s central bank manages money supply in order to stimulate domestic economic growth (Economic Times , 2020). There are two other variables that are linked to monetary policy which are the free flow of capital and fixed exchange rates, however they are mutually exclusive to each other and to monetary policy, resulting in what economists deemed as a Trilemma or Impossible Trinity. This means that countries can only choose two at a time. The options are follows: a) free flow of capital b) fixed exchange rates c) independent monetary policy.



How did the Lebanese government take into account the Trilemma?

(Majaski, 2020)

Lebanon imposes minimal restrictions on the flow of capital in and out of the country, and even after the financial crisis hit, depositor accounts were frozen, but whomever has paper international currency such as USD, EUR, GBP, etc. can freely transfer the money abroad with no questions asked (TDS, 2020). As for the exchange rate it’s officially pegged i.e. fixed at 1507.5 Liras to 1 USD while maintaining and independent monetary policy where the central bank is issuing and managing government bonds, lending to the government, managing bank reserves, managing exchange rates, etc. In other words, the Lebanese state gave its citizens the illusion that it had resolved the trilemma, but in reality our exchange rates were not fixed and were backed by foreign currency reserves that belong to depositors and not the central bank.

Lebanese monetary policy

Ideally, monetary policies are set to stimulate domestic economic growth (Economic Times , 2020). In other words, they are macro financial tools to aid in building a stable, productive and self-sufficient domestic economy that is able to compete and survive in the international economy. Instead of building a strong domestic economy by using those tools to finance productive sectors such as agriculture and industry. The government instead gave the illusion of financial stability by fixing the exchange rate of the Lira, in order to encourage the remittance of expatriates, in order to finance government spending plagued by embezzlement and corruption through central bank lending, where the central bank itself borrowed money from local banks that used depositor’s funds for lending and payment of profits made by accrued interest. Therefore, the current Lebanese monetary policy was designed to siphon depositor funds, making it the largest and most scandalous heist in history.

So what devaluated the Lebanese Lira and amplified the financial crisis?

There are multiple variables that have influenced the devaluation of the Lira, almost all of them were caused by the government.

1.       The Lebanese Lira was pegged to the US dollars since 1997 and the central bank was backing up this peg with foreign currency reserves that belong to Lebanese depositors.

2.       The government has been operating at a deficit for the past 30 years and was borrowing money to cover that deficit, then it was borrowing money to cover its maturing loans and interest payments, and eventually defaulted with no plan of how to move forward.

3.       The main creditor of the government was the central bank which borrowed money from the banks, which used their depositor’s funds, which the government defaulted on paying.

4.       Lebanon has a negative balance of trade, meaning we import more than we export, in other words the dollars that we transfer out of the country are more than what we get in.

5.       The Lebanese economy is a consumer economy rather than a productive one, that is due to the government’s focus on tourism and services sectors to bring in foreign currency rather than relying on productive sectors, such as agriculture and industry.

6.       Aside from lending to the government, in the past 10 years, the banking sector investments were focused on a non-productive sector, real-estate.

7.       The government has transformed the Lebanese economy from a regulated economy reliant on banking transactions into a deregulated and untraceable cash based economy that facilitates corrupt financial activities, money laundering and capital flight.

8.       Corruption, embezzlement, and incompetent public administration is probably the main reason that is behind all of the above.

2: Implications


How did the government deal with the financial crisis that it caused?

The Lebanese government appears to be colluding with the banking sector instead of regulating it, which is further amplifying the crisis. Since the banks lent the government from depositor’s funds and the government spent it, instead of addressing the situation head on and allocating responsibilities and losses, they decided to leave the nominal values of the depositor accounts in foreign currencies intact, but froze them indefinitely while allowing them to only withdraw at reduced rates of 3,900 LL of the actual dollar at a certain limit and the rest at 1500 LL to the dollar (TDS, 2020), while the exchange rates have been rising beyond 8000 LL to the dollar (at the time of writing) in the cash market. Therefore, if you take the limits on withdrawal at the 3900 LL rate and the rest at 1507 LL rate, in reality, this results in a haircut above 80% on withdraws from depositor dollar accounts when you withdraw above the set limit by the bank that permits withdrawals at 3800 LL.

Moreover, the shift from a banking economy into a cash economy is also forcing depositors to withdraw cash from banks at undesirable rates, which is accelerating the haircut on their foreign currency deposits (Schneider, 2019), which in turn is leaving the bank shareholder assets intact and richer since they are reducing their liability in actual/real currency.

Shifting into a cash economy has more dangerous implications, which is deregulation of financial transactions. Banking transactions are easily regulated because they are traceable, whereas cash transactions are much more difficult to trace. The main beneficiary of a cash economy is anyone that is complicit in an illegal activity of any kind. The main loser is the government in lost tax revenuelegitimate businesses which have decreased access to international currencies and shrinking markets, the consumer in price inflation in Lebanese Lira, and employee layoffs and devaluation of salaries. This is an explosive cycle which is reducing productivity, shrinking the market and raising unemployment and poverty.

Moreover, a cash economy with the current framework where outbound international transfers require cash currencies without any regulatory limitations is facilitating capital fight and money laundering activities, transforming Lebanon into a money laundering hub, where anyone that has cash, especially corrupt politically exposed people, can easily transfer his or her laundered cash abroad. In addition to that, the central bank is siphoning depositor’s funds from its reserves and injecting it into domestic cash circulation under the pretext of stabilizing exchange rates (Yassine, 2020), which eventually end up sold in the domestic economy at higher black market rates, shorting the Lebanese Lira and devaluating it, transferred abroad, funding illicit activities or stashed in people’s safes as long-term savings, which in turn makes the dollar a scarcer commodity in the domestic market and devaluates the Lebanese Lira further.

What are the implications of the devaluation of the Lebanese Lira?

As mentioned earlier, a currency is a medium of exchange, store of value, and unit of appraisal. In lay terms currency is the facilitator of economic, social, psychological, biological, and political transactions. So, since we are having this facilitator drying out from the market, the following implications are certain to arise.

1.       Economic implications:

This model is reductionist in order to simply explain what is happening in Lay terms, there are other variables that influence this model, such are expat remittances, emigration, political spending, conspiring bankers, just to name a few, can influence this cycle in many ways. However, putting aside the multiple causes and influences that can and possibly are occurring, we are currently stuck in an explosive cycle where the lira devaluation is reducing purchasing power. Most consumer goods, even commodities like wheat and refined sugar are imported, which means they are imported in foreign currency, and people will have to pay for it in Lira. When the lira is devaluating, prices will inflate in local currency and deflate in foreign currency at the same time, this means that it becomes too expensive for the Lebanese consumer to buy while at the same time erode the margins of businesses. So people are buying less of goods that are becoming less profitable, hence the local market shrinks and business close down due to both eroding sales and margins. Also, when margins shrink, inefficient businesses close down, and those that are attempting to survive will cut their fixed expenses, and a huge chunk of their fixed expenses are payroll, so unemployment will rise. As businesses close and businesses are understaffed, productivity in the economy goes down, there are less business and less employees in the market, so the chances of bringing in more export revenues will go down, and that’s without factoring in a global economy disrupted by Coronavirus. Less exports means less influx of foreign currency into the domestic market, which means that foreign currencies become an even more scarce commodity, which would drive their prices up if left unchecked, and the explosive and vicious cycle goes on and on (Amadeo, 2020).

2.       Social and Political Implication


This crisis has dire consequences on both, people’s psychological wellbeing and on the fabric of society as a whole. Psychologically, when people are threatened with their livelihood, it is normal to feel negative emotions (Jost, 2020), but it doesn’t mean that its healthy mentally and physically. Negative emotions such as fear and anger can make people distrustful and unwilling to collaborate with each other. Anxiety is another dangerous negative emotion that is brewed by uncertainty stressors, eroding one’s sense of control over one’s life, which also can result in loss of hope and motivation to move forward.  Not to mention the multitude of psychological disorders that can arise from negative emotions, and worse is the high correlation of negative emotions with chronic disease, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease (Rob-Drove, 2020).

A poor society with a high incidence of negative emotions will surely result in an atmosphere where people will compete for resources. When people that hate and distrust each other compete for resources, it is sure bound to result in increased violence and crime (Jost, 2020). Not to mention a deranged political class that is willing to do anything to stay in power, who knows what evil they might concoct?


Part 3: Possible Solutions

Full Disclosure: This is by no means the only or complete solution for the economic crisis, there are a multitude of variables that need to be addressed, however this essay is only intended to demonstrate that there are practical solutions to this financial crisis that can halt the collapse and pave the way into economic growth.

How can this crisis be dealt with immediately and efficiently?

                Left unchecked, Murphy's law will surely run its course, if it can get worse, it will. However, there is much that can be done. Let’s look at the situation from a macro perspective. To do so, we’ll revisit the economic Trilemma that was explained in part 1. It states that countries can choose from three options, and every two options are mutually exclusive, so you can only choose two at a time. The options are: a) free flow of capital b) fixed exchange rates c) independent monetary policy (Majaski, 2020).

So the options are as follows:

1.       People can transfer their funds in and out on the country freely with fixed exchange rates but can’t have an independent monetary policy.

2.       Have fixed exchange rates and an independent monetary policy but financial transfers in and out of the country have to be regulated.

3.       Money can be transferred freely while having an independent monetary policy while having fluctuating exchange rates.

Like anything in life, there is no such thing as one size fits all, each option should have its circumstances, because each variable has its benefits and drawbacks, however, to summarize we’ll go over the most important pros and cons, which are as follows:

a.       Free-flow of capital

Pro: attracts foreign investment and facilitates international trade

Con: less control over monetary policy and easy capital flight

b.      Fixed exchange rates

Pro: stabilize domestic markets and reduce domestic poverty

Con: reduce international competitiveness and political accountability

c.       Independent Monetary Policy

Pro: more control over the domestic economy, less exposure to foreign liabilities

Con: less control over domestic economy, exposure to foreign liabilities and control

Since Lebanon is suffering from hyper-devaluation of the Lebanese lira versus hard currencies, especially the US dollar, which is disintegrating our economic, social, and political fabric; for the very least in the short run, the indispensable variable is fixed exchange rate. This leaves us with a question of which is better for the coming period to be coupled fixed exchange rates, controlled flow of capital or forfeiting our independent monetary policy to third party multinational institutions or governments?

To answer this question, we have to look back at the root cause of the crisis, which is a banking crisis resulting from the banking sector lending a kleptocratic regime from depositor’s accounts.  Then it becomes obvious that you want to limit capital flight and tackle the causes one at a time until we have a healthy governance and economy.

The solution starts with capital control (regulating the flow of capital in and out of the country). There was a lot of talk by governing bodies in late 2019 and 2020 that capital control was being implemented in order to protect bank depositors. In reality, depositor’s accounts in foreign currencies were illegally frozen, and the free flow of capital in and out of the country was further liberated by allowing cash transfers. What should happen is the exact opposite, heavily regulate outbound international transfers, and liberate domestic financial transactions.

Another major reason why outbound transfers need to be regulated is due to the fact that the banking sector is insolvable and needs to be addressed by the government and the legal system. It is essential that whatever is remaining from depositor funds not to be transferred out by those who caused the crisis. How the banking sector is addressed is a subject on its own, however it can be summarized in the following example:

The banking sector behaved like a business that owed money and had bad debt in the market with managers and owners that were embezzling from the business.  The first thing the legal system does is remove the executive managers and owners and restrict their movement in territories under its jurisdiction, it then installs legal guardians to manage and audit the company to determine what had happened, quantify the losses, what does the company owe, who owes the company, and if there was any illegal activity going on. The legal system then decides what to do, usually some of the legal financial options are (Wex, 2020):

-          Company owners personally paying company debt

-          Company’s accounts receivable is distributed among creditors

-          Company is liquidated or auctioned off and proceeds go to its creditors

-          Creditors become its new owners

The above example demonstrates what could and should be done to the banking sector because a healthy banking sector is essential for a quick and healthy recovery.

As for choosing an independent monetary policy versus forfeiting it to international third parties has political and economic causes. Having an independent monetary policy gives the local government more control over the tools that it can use to stimulate growth while minimizing liabilities, and minimizing liabilities is essential since what has led the country to where it is now having to do with over exposure to liabilities and international markets (FT, 2020)

Moreover, an independent monetary policy facilitates implementing the following temporary measures:

1.        Address the insolvency of the banking sector, distribute losses equitably and restructure the sector (bail-in, haircut, liquidation) in a manner that makes it liquid again.

2.        Restructure failed institutions like EDL, sewage treatment, railway management, etc.

3.        Transform the economy from a cash based economy into a banking / digital economy.

4.        Abolishing the “fresh money” requirement for international transfers, all cash currency in circulation in Lebanon will be valued by a fixed exchange rate set by the government.

3.       Regulate and tax outbound cash transfers.

4.       Facilitate inbound cash transfers via any money transfer business in any currency.

5.       Reduce the amount of physical cash in circulation.

7.       Any funds that are transferred abroad should be traceable and taxable.

The idea is that if you can’t transfer cash dollars or any currency abroad freelyit will diminish its function as an international medium of exchange and lose its inflated value. Moreover, money in the banking sector is traceable, which makes illicit activities easier to stop and gives legitimate businesses a chance to access funding for essential import. As for inbound transfers, they should be facilitated by the government by reducing fees and lowering taxes on financial activities that encourage remittances. As for outbound transfers, they should be heavily regulated and categorized

There should be one exchange rate, but an incremental direct taxation policy that depends on what the government wants to prioritize or decrease its import/consumption. The government can tax outbound transfers or it can levy incremental taxes on imports.  The below charts can serve as an example:

Outbound Transfer Tax Example

Basic foods


Energy requirements


Agricultural and Industrial Raw materials


Consumer goods


Education & Family Aid


Foreign workers


Luxury Goods



Import Tariff Example

Basic foods


Energy requirements


Agricultural and Industrial Raw materials


Essential Consumer goods


Non-Essential Consumer goods


Private Cars 


Buses & Public Transport


Luxury Goods



Implementing such measures on a macro scale will stabilize the Lira because it will transform the economy from a consumerist into a productive economy, where the value of the lira is derived from its utility and the productivity of the country relative to the international market. Moreover, such measures restrict speculative devaluation because it will fulfill the three requirements of currency.

To summarize and reiterate, the monetary policy set by the government should halt the devaluation and boost the domestic economy by managing the flow of capital in and out of the country. Restructure the banking sector in order to shift the economy from a cash based economy into a banking / digital economy that is traceable and manageable by the government. Also, investments should be directed into productive sectors that can cater to the needs of the domestic market while exporting goods and services, which results in a sustainable and positive balance of trade.

 Even though this is one direction that can be taken to salvage the economy and put it on a growth path, I don’t believe that anything can be achieved if serious political reforms happen, especially since the people that caused the crisis in the first place are still running the show.



Amadeo, K. (2020). Hyperinflation: Its Causes and Effects With Examples. Retrieved from The Balance : https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-hyperinflation-definition-causes-and-examples-3306097

Baumol, W. (2020). Utility & Value . Retrieved from Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/utility-economics

Economic Times . (2020). Monetary Policy . Retrieved from The Economic Times : https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/definition/Monetary-Policy

FT. (2020, May 4). Bankrupt Lebanon’s turn to IMF is overdue. Retrieved from Financial Times : https://www.ft.com/content/ae2484c4-8bc1-11ea-a01c-a28a3e3fbd33

Furness, V. (020, May 7). Lebanese pound sees end of dollar peg. Retrieved from Euromoney: https://www.euromoney.com/article/b1lj8l1twpn8zh/lebanese-pound-sees-end-of-dollar-peg

Jost, J. (2020). Frustration Aggression Hypothesis. Retrieved from Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/science/frustration-aggression-hypothesis

Majaski, C. (2020). Trilemma . Retrieved from Investopedia : https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/trilemma.asp

Rob-Drove, K. (2020). How negative emotions affect health. Retrieved from FHE Health: https://fherehab.com/learning/negative-emotions-health

Schneider, F. (2019, August ). Restricting or Abolishing Cash: An Effective Instrument for Eliminating the Shadow Economy, Corruption and Terrorism? Retrieved from The European Money and Financial Forum : https://www.suerf.org/policynotes/6951/restricting-or-abolishing-cash-an-effective-instrument-for-eliminating-the-shadow-economy-corruption-and-terrorism

TDS. (2020, April 24). Bank Audi offers clients option to double fresh dollars if converted to local account. Retrieved from he Daily Star: https://www.dailystar.com.lb/Business/Local/2020/Apr-24/504877-bank-audi-offers-clients-option-to-double-fresh-dollars-if-converted-to-local-account.ashx

Webster, M. (2020). Money . Retrieved from Meriam Webster : https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/money

Wex. (2020). Insolvency . Retrieved from Legal Information Institute: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/insolvency

Yassine, H. (2020, June 17). Central Bank Injecting 5 Million Dollars a Day . Retrieved from The 961: https://www.the961.com/central-bank-injecting-5-million-dollars-a-day/




Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Winemaker's Masterclass


I've prepared this masterclass to serve as a fast and easy guide into the world of wine. It is by no means holistic or complete, that would require volumes to be written. Moreover there are plenty of books written on different aspects of the subject. I hope this will help you enjoy wine better. Cheers!

History of Wine

Dictionary Definition




an alcoholic drink made from fermented grape juice.

"he opened a bottle of red wine"


vin de table, vin ordinaire, vin du pays; 

informalplonk, vino, the grape


Ancient History

·         The earliest wine archaeobotanical evidence was found in Georgia, and date back 8,000 years to approximately 6,000 B.C. 


·         The earliest historical evidence of wine dates back 9,000 years to 7,000 B.C. China. Grapes were also wined with rice and other fruits.


·         The spread of wine culture westwards is credited to the Phoenicians some 2,750 years in the past. The main vessel of transportation was the clay amphora.

·         The use of wine in religion was significant in ancient mythology and religion. 3100 BC till 30 BC, wine symbolized blood in ancient Egypt.


·         Ancient Romans planted vineyards in almost every settlement they’ve established.


 ·         Up until the Iron Age 900 B.C. there were no wooden barrels for wine transportation.


·         77 AD The Roman Pliny the Elder writes “vino veritas” or “In wine there is truth” in Naturalis Historia.

The Romans were also the first to talk about how "terroir", the concept of where and how you plant the vines will affect the wine. They were also among the first to use sulfur as a wine preservative some 2000 years ago. 

·        In 380 AD Rome adopts Christianity; wine symbolized “the Eucharist”.

Medieval History    

* 1000 AD Château de Goulaine is built. Possibly the oldest operating winery.


                      * 1629 AD Spanish missionaries introduced vitis vinifera to America.

              * 1500 AD wines that may have been sealed and stored in stoneware jugs re-fermented causing them to have spritz. These creamy or “Crémant” style led to the creation of French sparkling wine and British cider.

·                         * 1600 AD the most highly desired wines of the day are sweet white wines such as Sauternes of Bordeaux, Riesling of Germany and Tokaji from Hungary.

Enlightenment to Modern History

·                *1600AD glass wine bottles were first popularized in Portugal in an attempt to age Port wines, inspired by records of amphorae. Unfortunately, bottles stood upright and the corks would dry out and lose their seal.

·         1650 AD Somewhere in Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc naturally cross to create Cabernet Sauvignon.

·         1737 AD the first demarcated wine region of the world is Tokaj in the foothills of the Zemplén Mountains of Hungary.

·         1740 AD bottles were redesigned to be laid on their side, creating the ability to age wines long term.

·         1855 AD the demarcated Bordeaux wine region was established.

·         1862 AD Louis Pasteur discovers oxygen’s harmful effects on wine causing the industry to adapt to wine bottles.

·         1890 AD Zinfandel (Primitivo) is the most planted grape in America.

·         1900 AD 70% of vineyards in France were killed by the Phylloxera, and to a lesser extent in the rest of Europe.

·         * 1950 AD French wines, in particular "Bordeaux" are popularized in the United States.

 ·         1964 AD the first bag-in-a-box wines are introduced.

       ·         1976 AD Steven Spurrier made California wines famous in a blind tasting in Paris. 

            ·         2010 AD Cabernet Sauvignon is the world’s most planted wine grape.

            ·         2013 AD China becomes the world’s largest consumer of dry red wines in the world.

Lebanese Wine History 

·         Wine has been produced in the region since its discovery 6000 BC

·         Jesus turned water into wine in a marriage in Cana, a southern village in Lebanon


·         Wine culture survived ottoman occupation in Christian territories


·         Pre-French colonization Lebanon had only two types of wine, cooked sweet wine and cooked dry wine (Faqsh)

1839 AD Moussa Riachi founded Riachi Winery & Distillery. 

·         1920’s the French bring with them the Phylloxera to Lebanon, killing off most of the indigenous grape varieties

·         1923 – 1943 the French export French wine culture and French winemaking processes to Lebanon


·         1940-2000 Riachi produced wine for several brands, most notably Touma, Kefraya, Asrar, Cave St. Jean, etc.

·         1975 – 2000 most of the old family wineries of Lebanon close down

·         1980 – 2000 wine mass marketing takes off

·         2000 – Present more than 50 new wineries open

·         2005 Michael Karam published his fist book “Wines of Lebanon”

·         2007 The first exhibition dedicated to wine “Vinifest” was launched.

·         2010 – National wine production at 7 million bottles per year

·         2017 – National wine production at 10 million bottles per year

What are the different types of wine? 

er     Wine can be classified according to color, sweetness, and winemaking style (sometimes called regional style). 

     The main wine colors are red, white, and rose.
        Red Wines 
  •      Red wines are made from red grapes where the juice and skin are fermented together.
  •      Red wines that have a lot of tannins are called full bodied and those that don't are light bodied.
  •      Full bodied reds are usually darker than light bodied ones.
  •      Red wines can be either sweet or dry
  •      Red wines can be drank fresh if they are light bodies
  •      Dry red wines have a maximum aging potential of 25 years, and that depends on the tannins content. 
  •      Their color gets lighter tending to brick red as they age. 
  •      Average drinking temperature ranges from 14 C to 21 C. 
  •      Red wines can be aged in oak barrels. 
 Rose Wines 
  •      Red wines are made from red grapes where the grapes are pressed or bled and the juice is fermented without the skin.
  •      Rose wines that have more of tannins are called full bodied and those that don't are light bodied.
  •      Bled or ( Saignée ) rose wines are usually darker and more full bodies since they've had a longer contact time with the skin. 
  •      Full bodied rose are usually darker than light bodied ones.
  •      Rose wines can be either sweet or dry depending on sugar content. 
  •      Rose wines can get darker as they age
  •      Dry rose wines have a maximum aging potential of 7 years, and that depends on the tannins content. 
  •      Their color gets darker as they age.
 White Wines 
  •      White wines are made from white grapes where the grapes are pressed and the juice is  fermented without the skin.
  •      White wines are more acidic than red wines, and that's where they get their freshness from. 
  •      Some white wines are made from red grapes, where the grapes are pressed using a technique that removes the juice with minimal color effect from the skin.  
  •      Full bodied white wines are usually darker and less acidic than light bodied ones.
  •      White wines can be either sweet or dry depending on sugar content. 
  •      White wines can get darker as they age
  •      Dry white wines have a maximum aging potential of 15 years, and that depends on the tannins content. 
  •      Some white wines can be aged in oak. 
  •      Their color gets darker as they age.
Sweet Wines 
  •      Sweet wines are wines that have sugar content after fermentation if done. 
  •      There are several techniques used to produce sweet wine. 
  •      Sweet wines can be made from white grapes and red grapes. 
  •      Late harvest sweet wines are made from grapes that are harvested past their due and have  higher sugar content.
  •      Straw wines are made by drying the grapes after their are harvested.
  •      Fortified wines have sugar and spirit added to them after fermentation is complete.
  •      Cooked sweet wines have the juice cooked pre-fermentation.
  •      Sweet wines have the longest aging potential, which can reach up to 100 years, and that depends on the tannins, sweetness, and alcohol content. 
  •      Some sweet wines can be aged in oak. 
  •      Their color gets darker as they age.
Lebanese Wines 
  •      Lebanese wines are wines that are made in Lebanon.
  •      Lebanon produces red, white, rose, sweet, and faqsh wine.  
  •      Sweet wines are usually cooked wines, where the grape must is boiled pre-fermentation.
  •      Faqsh wine is the traditional dry wine of Lebanon. It is cooked pre-fermentation, however when it comes to a simmer, it is removed off the heat and fresh grapes are crushed on their  surface, in order for wild yeast to activate the fermentation. 
  •      Red Lebanese wines are known for their intense black fruits flavor due to the warm climate of the Bekaa valley. 
  •      Obaidi is the dominant white grape that is used for white wine and also for the production of arak.
  •      White wines are fresh and zesty, especially those that are coming from high altitude vineyards. 

      Photo credit: https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/complete-wine-color-chart/

     How wine is made?

The above illustration summarizes how most dry and still white, red, and rose wines are made.

      Both white and rose have the juice fermented without the skin. Both can either have the grapes pressed directly after they are crushed or macerated for a few hours with the skin before they pressed. The juice undergoes alcoholic fermentation at a cool temperature with an average of 17 C. The majority of white and rose wines don't undergo  malolactic fermentation and are usually fined quickly with minimal aging and bottled to preserve freshness and acidity. Sparkling wines have a similar fermentation method, but usually at the end of the alcoholic fermentation a small percentage of sugar is added into the wine and then bottled, the wine referments in the bottle producing a bit more alcohol and CO2 gas, which is where the bubbles come from.

      As for red wines, the grapes are crushed and alcoholic fermentation usually occurs with the grape skin in contact with the juice. Alcoholic fermentation in red wines is called primary fermentation and usually occurs between 21 C and 32 C. After the alcoholic fermentation occurs, red wine usually undergoes a secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation (MLF) after the wine is pressed, which converts the malic acid into lactic acid. This usually makes red wines more silky and savory. Then full-bodied red wines are usually aged in oak and light bodied wines are fined and bottled. Some wines also undergo bottle aging at the winery (also called cellaring) before they are released into the market. 

Wine Etiquette

In General

·         Always use stemware glassware to drink wine

·         Never put ice in your wine

·         Always hold the glass by the stem or base

·         When opening the bottle, do it quietly

·         When clinking: clink glasses bell to bell (it reduces breakage) and look your clinking-buddy in the eye.

·         When Pouring wine, hold the bottle at the base

·         Always fill your glass less than halfway

·         Pour wine for others before pouring to yourself

·         Avoid Flavor Interference: avoid strong flavors like gum, coffee, smoking, or other strong flavors when tasting wine.

As a guest

·         Everyone’s palette is different. By making negative comments, you might be ruining another groups’ experience at the tasting.

·         Try Everything: Try different varietals. It’s the only way to really get a feel for what you like and don’t like. If you constantly stick with the same few varietals, you will never know what flavors you are missing out on.

·         Spitting is okay when wine tasting. When you taste multiple bottles, you have a choice to overindulge and get overwhelmed by the flavors or to use a spittoon or cup.

·         Ask your host questions about the wine he or she is offering you

As a host

·         Uncork quietly

·         Equal Portions: Try to keep the keep the portioning equivalent among all guests, unless instructed otherwise by the guest

·         Pouring Technique: Hold the bottle by the base

·         The person who checks/tastes the bottle first, has his glass poured last

·         Offer Seconds: Always offer seconds to your guests before you pour for yourself. If you are serving a few different varietals, be sure you are pacing the serving so that everyone gets to try everything.

·         Know Your Varieties: Although you may not be an expert, you can share how you came to serve this particular bottle. You may even want to have a list of what you’re serving, in case a guest wants to find it for themselves.

      Wine Etiquette

Photo credit: Winefolly: Wine Tasting 

      Wine tasting involves most of your 5 senses, it's an immersive experience that helps you drown out the noise from the world around you and lets you focus on the wine that's in your hands. The steps are as follows:

     Step 1: Look

      In this step you look down at the wine to identify the color, which can indicate the age and body. Then you swirl and look at the legs which indicated the alcohol content, it's scientific name is called the Gibbs-Marangoni effect, simply put, its when alcohol evaporates from the wine. So when more legs/tears form faster, it means that the wine has higher alcohol content. 

     Step 2: Sniff

     This step helps you identify the aromas that are present in the wine. In general wine aromas are classified into primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas. The primary aromas are usually fruit aromas and reflect the varietal/grape expression. The secondary aromas reflect the terroir and winemaking process, and the tertiary aromas are aging aromas that develop as the wine matures. Even though most tertiary aromas are desirable, like wood notes, earthiness, etc. also some of them are wine defects, like acetic, moldy, chemically, etc. 

      Step 3: Taste 

      Tasting involves both the tongue and the nose, since the majority of taste is also smell. In other words, you can only taste salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and savory/umami without getting your nose involved. That's why you might have noticed a lot of wine geeks doing all sorts of weird things with their mouth as they taste the wine. However, to keep it simple, take a sip, swirl it in your mouth, then inhale from your mouth and exhale from your nose after you swallow, and marvel at what you've just tasted. 

The role of air and smell

Decanting or aeration is a controversial subject among wine enthusiasts; however air does play a role when it comes to sensing the wine’s aroma and taste.
Flavor is experienced though both smell and taste receptors in the nose and mouth. The organic compounds that contribute to the olfactory sensation are esters (aldehydes and ketones) and terpenes. Those compounds are usually soluble in lipids/oil. Lipids are soluble in alcohol. What happens when you swirl the cup and aerate the wine, is that the esters and terpenes rise to the top of the liquid, making it easier to smell and taste.

Moreover, it can also be aerated in the mouth, which boosts the dispersion of the wine on the tongue and release the odor while inhaling. For an optimal sensory experience, inhalation should be done with both the mouth and the nose at the same time. 

Pairing Tips

·       Body or heaviness. If the food is rich and heavy, choose a full-bodied wine that won't be overwhelmed. If the food is light and delicate, go with a light, delicate wine.

·         Acidity. If you have an acidic food, maybe with a lemon sauce, choose an acidic wine.

·         A light-bodied wine like a fruity white wine may taste like water when paired with a steak or roast.

·         The iodine in fish and the strong tannin in some red wines can combine to produce an unpleasant metallic taste.

·         Light acidic white wines including champagne with varying degrees of dryness are generally good aperitifs that go well with appetizers.

·         The goal of pairing wine with food is to have the two reach a pleasing balance, without one overwhelming or clashing with the other.

·         Contrast is usually good, especially when it’s a balancing act. Sweet red wine goes perfectly well with blue cheese and chocolate truffles.

Wine Defects

Wine Aromas

Wine aromas are the odors expressed by the wine.

Aromas fall into 12 odor groups which are:

1.      Animal

·         Even though most animal notes are negative or reducing, there are some that are positive.

·         Negative – defect  : horse sweat – wet dog – fish – sweat

·         Positive: Leather – tender meat

·         However, if positive notes are over powering, they can be indicative of wine defect.

2.      Aromatic Herbs

·         Most herbal notes are positive, however there are some that are negative

·         Negative – defect: Turpentine – camphor (waxy)

·         Positive: Thyme – mint – rosemary – basil

3.      Ethereal

·         Ethereal odors are odors similar to chemicals, and usually are negative and reducing.

·         Negative – defect  : paint – soap – iodine – ethanol – acetone – solvent – wax – Acetic – iron – sulfur

4.      Floral

·         Floral notes are odors that resemble flowers and are almost always positive.

·         Positive: Rose – lily – iris – violet – elder – citrus blossom – Melissa – peach flowers – dill

5.      Dried Fruit – Jam

·         Dried fruit notes are aromas that are also found in jam and cooked fruits.

·         Positive: dates – blackberry jam – strawberry jam – dried figs – peanuts – almonds

6.      Fruity

·         Such notes are almost always positive, pleasant aromas and flavors that are sometimes mistaken for sweetness in dry wines

·         Positive: plum – wild berries – strawberry – peach – apple – banana – melon – coconut – guava – passion fruit – cherry – mandarin – papaya – grapefruit

7.      Wood

·         Such notes are also desirable in wines, they add complexity and character. The main flavoring agent is the wood barrel that is used in the aging process.

·         Positive Notes: oak – cedar – sandal wood – bark – chestnut – walnut

8.      Mineral

·         Mineral or earthy notes are desirable when they are faint, however they can become reductive odors when they become too strong and mask other aromas in the wine.

·         Negative – defect  : chalk – iodine – silica – pencil

·         Positive: amber – river stone – mineral – wet clay – wet forest

9.      Spice

·         Such notes usually accompany wood notes; however some grape varieties that aren’t aged in oak can have some spice expressions, such as Syrah and Malbec.  They are generally positive, but can become negative if they mask the other wine aromas.

·         Negative – defect  : graphite – garlic – cumin – onion – green pepper – bell pepper

·         Positive: nutmeg – ginger – cardamom – tea – tobacco leaf – licorice root – cinnamon

10.  Toasted – Empyreumatic

·         Such notes also usually accompany wood notes.  They are generallym positive, but can become negative if they mask the other wine aromas.

·         Negative – defect  : gun powder – burning rubber – cigarette smoke – tar – rubber – burnt plastic

·         Positive: roasting – coffee – chocolate – caramel – toast – frankincense – wood smoke – cocoa – toasted almonds 

11.  Vegetal – Herbal

·         Notes resembling vegetables and legumes, sometimes unripe fruits and zest. When subtle, they are generally desired in white and rose wines; they can complement some fruity reds, but will become a defect when they mask other aromas.

·         Negative – defect  : raddish – geranium – cooked asparagus – cooked cabbage - artichoke

·         Positive: cut grass – celery – green coffee – fern – cucumber – hummus

12.  Wide – Different – Miscellaneous

·         Since smell is a subjective olfactory perception, people might pick up much more aromas that are not encompassed by the categories below, which can lie on either end of the sensation spectrum.

·         Negative – defect: celluloid – oxidized notes – ink – oyster – gasoline – ash – medicine – plastic – etc.

·         Positive: candy – ginger bread – honey – cookie – croissant – praline – beeswax – yeast – brown sugar – gum – macaroon – volcanic soil – etc. 

     Now that you have a decent idea about wine, I am confident that you will enjoy wine more. Also, the only way to become better at wine tasting it to enjoy more wines, more often. Also if you'd like to book a  live masterclass with me, with food and wine pairing, you can reach out to me on info@riachi.me