Celebrating Lebanon's joie de vivre at Vinifest, Lebanon wine festival

Celebrating Lebanon's joie de vivre at Vinifest
Date: Thursday, October 09, 2014
By: -
Source: The Daily Star

BEIRUT: In an impressive show of Lebanese joie de vivre, hundreds of winemakers, professionals and amateur oenophiles have assembled once again for Lebanon's Vinifest.

Surmounting immense challenges posed by the country's political and security situation, this year's edition of the annual four-day wine bazaar and exposition reflects a particular Lebanese resoluteness of spirit and collective dedication.Strolling through dozens of stands representing wineries from across Lebanon and beyond, visitors are met with a decidedly epicurean atmosphere.

But one of the most impressive qualities of this year's Vinifest is the diversity of attendees: from suited businessmen and ladies who lunch to ripped jean and T-shirt clad students, the fete brings together bon vivants from all walks of life.
This year it's been a challenge for this in terms of creating an ambianceWhile it appeared that fewer wineries were exhibiting at Vinifest this year, a decided sense of pride prevailed at the hippodrome this week."I think this year marks somewhere and somehow the tenacity of the Lebanese people who, against all odds, continue to believe in their country and continue to survive and continue with their joie de vivre," viticulturalist and former Culture MinisterSalim Warde told The Daily Star."Vinifest is a celebration of the way of life of the Lebanese. We celebrate through and across everything," he said triumphantly from the stand of his family's winery, Domaine Wardy."Vinifest is joy and for this year it has a special taste, with everything that's happening around us and in the country," agreed Ramez Saliba, the manager of Chateau Ksara's domestic marketing and sales.

"As you know, everything this year is more difficult," he said.The tense security situation could be felt, even in the refuge of the Hippodrome. Armed soldiers stood between some of the stands, and at one point guests looked skyward as a hovering helicopter rumbled overhead.As she prepared a cheese plate at Chateau Nakad's kiosk, Lara Mariam Nakad said that the closure of Dahr al-Baidar road had made it difficult for some Bekaa Valley-based wine producers to prepare for Vinifest. The road, which serves as the main thoroughfare between Beirut and the Bekaa Valley, has been closed intermittently by families of servicemen held hostage by ISIS and the Nusra Front in Arsal.After setting up the winery's rustic stand at the Hippodrome Tuesday, it took hours for her to reach her home near Chtaura, in the central Bekaa Valley."I almost said 'Khallas!'" Nakad exclaimed.

"This year it's been a challenge for this in terms of creating an ambiance."In the end, Nakad was able to craft a creative kiosk space, complete with heirloom winemaking relics inherited from her grandfather, and freshly laid sod grass. "It's not about just coming and tasting the wine.
It's about creating a certain atmosphere," she said.Not all the wine stands were so well executed, however, and a brief shower Wednesday evening sent some organizers into a tizzy as they mopped up their stalls and exposed seating.But by the time European Union Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst and Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon arrived, the rain had stopped and a full moon peered tentatively through scattered clouds."This is a celebration of civilization, of peace, and Lebanon today has to both defend its sovereignty and defend its way of life," Pharaon told the Daily Star.

Vinifest also embodies Lebanese unity, Pharaon added. "It represents all the regions of Lebanon here together in Beirut – wine has become an ambassador of the regions," he said.But despite a number of political and security crises, the general atmosphere at Vinifest was, as in years past, one of merriment.Groups of friends and colleagues circumambulated the hippodrome, chatting and catching up.
Businessmen exchanged pleasantries and business cards. Enjoying the fresh evening, impromptu picnics were spread across outdoor seating.
The French grocery chain Monoprix has a stand at Vinifest this year and is selling baguettes, cheese, chocolate and other small snacks at affordable prices. A plane chock full of French cheeses will touch down before the weekend, replenishing the stand's stock, brand director Fayez al-Dahdah said. 



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