Bruna Garcia Fonseca
São Paulo – Everything started in the capital city of Beqaa, Zahlé, Lebanon in 1881. The family matriarch Wardy Mousallem, a widow with three children, started producing arak, a common thing among local families at the time, as she grew grapes. Arak is a distilled spirit made of grapes and anis common in the Levant region. Her first name Wardy – which is Lebanese Arabic for “rose” – took the place of her late husband’s last name. The next generations took it as their last name and stayed in business, and the winery became Domaine Wardy, or Wardy’s domain.
In 1996, the family company started producing its own wine. Until then, they had sold part of the grapes to other wineries. Beqaa Valley is a fertile region in Lebanon 30 kilometers east from Beirut between Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountains. Now 138 years old, Domaine Wardy is seen as one of Lebanon’s most ancient and traditional distilleries and wineries.
The first wine produced was Château Les Cèdres. It’s a blend of red grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. “It’s still our best wine,” the company’s general manager Khalil Wardi told ANBA on the phone from Lebanon.
Khalil told that until 2015, Domaine Wardy had a representative in Brazil that sold arak and some few wine labels in the country. “We want a new distributor in Brazil, we still have no one. Our quality is our landmark. We’re a family company, a small winery; we focus on quality, not quantity,” said Khalil.
According to the general manager, 2018 saw 200,000 bottles of wine produced by the company. Out of those, 55% was sold in the international market to countries like France, Sweden, United Kingdom, Belgium, Swiss, Netherlands, United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates.
The winery currently produces thirteen wine labels. Among the whites, a highlight is the varietal (made with just one kind of grape) of Lebanon’s autochthone grape, Obeidi, traditionally used to make arak. “It’s an awarded wine with notes of white peach, pineapple, lavender, ginger, orange blossom, banana, grapefruit and almonds. It stays inside a French barrel for 15 months,” stressed Khalil.
They also have other varietal labels from white grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and chardonnay, and the blends Clos Blanc (35% Obeidi, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Chardonnay, 5% Moscatel and 5% Viognier); and Beqaa Valley White (44% Viognier, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 26% Obeidi). White wine prices range from USD 7.25 to USD 39, according to the company’s website.
Reds include varietals Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. The blends are Private Selection (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah and 30% Merlot) and Beqaa Valley Red (70% Cinsault, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah), as well as Chatêau Les Cèdres (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Syrah and 12% Merlot). Prices range between USD 8 to USD 36.
There’s also a rosé wine, Beqaa Valley Rosé, a blend of Cinsault (75%) and Tempranillo (25%) grapes. You can buy a bottle for USD 8,50.
Arak Gantous & Abou Raad and Arak Wardy are two types of arak produced by Domaine Wardy. “Arak Gantous & Abou Raad is the best-known and sells far more than Arak Wardy outside Lebanon,” Khalil explained. Prices range from USD 3.70 to USD 20.
This year, the family company started producing vodka to Lebanese domestic market. “We now produce vodka to reach a younger generation that enjoys this kind of drink. It was an easy adaptation since arak is basically vodka with anis,” Khalil explained.
Wardy vodka, he says, is gluten-free, made without any kind of grain. The bottle price is USD 5. “We also think on producing gin within the couple of two years because it’s another very popular drink among Lebanese young people,” he said. Vodka Wardy is not sold abroad.
Translated by Guilherme Miranda