Chateau Ksara, Lebanon’s oldest winery, continues a wine making tradition that dates back to before the Phoenician era, possibly as far back as 7000 BC. In 1857, Jesuit French monks who settled in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, realized the potential for grapes made with French vines imported from Algeria, at the time the biggest wine hub outside France. In the beginning their production was limited to their personal consumption but with increased demand, particularly from French troops and administrators stationed in Lebanon during the post-WWI mandate period, the monks’ hobby became commercial.
In the first half of the 20th Century, Chateau Ksara, under the management of the Jesuits continued to grow and produce some of Lebanon’s best wines but in 1973, after a papal edict that decreed that the Catholic Church sell of its commercial concerns, the winery was sold to a group of Lebanese investors, much to the disappointment of the Jesuit brothers.
Lebanon’s leading wine writer, Michael Karam, contributed the following story about the history of Chateau Ksara under the Jesuits. Norbert Schiller took the contemporary photographs and the archival photographs used in both Karam’s piece and in the accompanying photo exhibition are from the Tanail Jesuit Monastery Collection.