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WINE and WAR, The Untold Story of Wine in the Middle East


How did the idea for your collaboration with Mark Johnston and Mark Ryan come about?

They had made The Invisible Front a film about the Lithuanian Resistance in WW2 and were looking for a new subject. Mark Ryan also makes films about wine (he’s a wine enthusiast) and had read my book Wines of Lebanon. They decided that it could be the basis of fascinating documentary and came to Lebanon in 2013, initially to interview me as part of the filming, but then they asked me to collaborate on the writing of the film and the idea of WINE and WAR was conceived.


Why did the filmmakers want to associate wine with war?

The film not a wine film per se. It is a homage to the Lebanese entrepreneurial spirit and its constant triumph over adversity seen through the lens of wine and the colorful characters that inhabit our industry. Let’s face it, wine is more interesting and fascinating than most sectors but all Lebanese will identify with the struggle to prosper through war and instability.


As a Lebanese wine specialist, what is your opinion of the industry’s evolution over the past 10 years.

Let’s go back 30 years to the end of the war when there were just five wineries. Today there are over 50, all making quality wines in different styles with an exciting range of grapes. Wine is our most high-profile export and the world loves us. We can hold our heads high. We are as good as anyone else. Many Lebanese see our wine as second class but they are so wrong.


Do you think the current crisis will transform this sector?

The tragedy is that Lebanon has been hit by the double whammy of inflation and the global pandemic. The initial strategy at the end of 2019 was to redouble efforts on exports to generate “fresh money” but the world then shut down so even that is not an option. But if the message of WINE and WAR is to hold true, the Lebanese entrepreneur will always find a way to survive and adapt. This is our message of hope.


From UK where you have settled, how did you experience the tragedy of August 4?

I was on a train between London and Brighton and my phone went mad with alerts and messages. It took a few days for the scale of the destruction and the injuries to sink in. Many friends were injured and a few came perilously close to death. It was our 9/11.

But the response from the Lebanese public and the goodwill shown by the global community was proof that the world believes Lebanon and the idea of Lebanon as a beacon of inclusivity is necessary. I want to add at this point that in the wake of the blast, we decided to donate $50,000 from the proceeds of WINE and WAR to Cap-Ho a charity based at the St Georges hospital. 


On the occasion of the centenary of the « Grand Liban », what are your thoughts, your wishes?

I was born in London but I am Lebanese. I still have a house in the Upper Metn that has been in my family for generations and all things being as they should, we would still be living in Lebanon, a country where I was supremely happy for 25 years and which my family love and miss, but which eventually proved too frustrating. But give it security, electricity, water, good roads and a clean environment, the Lebanese private sector will do the rest. We are an amazing people, among the smartest in the world, and while that is an undoubted asset, I fear it could also be our downfall. 


WINE and WAR will be released on October 9 on and other online locations. It will be the first film to be released on the Laemmle Theater chain who have developed a new virtual cinema platform and will also be featured on the new Altavod digital platform. All proceeds from the film will go to the St Georges Hospital.



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