Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Celebrate the End of the Semester with Some Old World Wine

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I finally sent out my last term paper this week, I felt like I both needed and deserved a good drink. So how ironic was it that during my post-semester celebration, I stumbled upon an article on CNN entitled “’Very Old World’ Wine Makes a Comeback in Lebanon and Syria” (http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/17/middle.east.wine/index.html). That got me thinking about this blog entry. In addition, I took a good long look at our blog recently, and I realized that there is a significant lack of positive entries on it. True, in following current events through international media, which seems to be the inspiration for many blog entries (myself largely included), there tends to be three main themes: 1) war, 2) potential war, and 3) terrorism. Yeah, I know, that’s a gross simplification, considering I’m writing this based on a news article I just read, but the point I’m trying to make is that we could use some more fun on here. Thus, in the spirit of my jubilation (and hopefully yours as well), let’s talk about wine for a little while.
The article I read discussed a recent reemergence in wine production within the countries of Lebanon and Syria. While wine production in the region dates back thousands of years and is not unheard of, the current growth rate of the industry along with its popularity among the local population is certainly interesting. According to Mr. Michael Karam, author of a regional guide to wine in Lebanon, the number of vineyards has more than doubled in the past five years. While Christians in Lebanon have always been reliable wine consumers, current studies have shown that Muslims are also taking part in the trend. Wine consumption generally, says the reporter, has been on the rise since the end of the Civil War in 1991. Furthermore, psychologists studying alcohol in the region claim that another variable is the return of people who have lived abroad in Europe and the United States, and been exposed to good wines, to Lebanon.
In neighboring Syria, the wine production industry is growing, albeit, much slower. While the largely Muslim population is much less liberal when it comes to wine consumption, a successful Lebanese-vineyard owning family known as the Saade’s have just opened the first private vineyard in that country. One Saade brother is quoted in the article as saying that it is the region’s “rich limestone”, “weather” and “high altitude” that contribute to the success of the local vineyards. The statistics cited do make one curious, as roughly three-quarters of their wine is consumed abroad and is not low-end. Apparently, a bottle of the Syrian wine produced by the Saade family will run about $58 for a bottle.
You know what? In spite of that pricetag, they’ve sold me. I now know what I’ll be toasting with for the rest of the week. But all kidding aside, as far as a potential research project goes, there may be a lot here to consider. The sociological/historical impact of a flourishing wine industry in Muslim countries poses some very curious questions, even if they need a bit more time to be objectively posed. Regardless, the field research would be a great time. Cheers, everybody.

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