BEIRUT: And Massaya makes 28. Joining the lineup Monday, the Taanayel-based winery became the latest stop on what is set to be the longest “Rue de Vin” yet at Lebanon’s annual wine exhibition.
Vinifest descends on Beirut’s Hippodrome on Oct. 9. According to organizer Neda Farah, it is likely to be the biggest yet.
Last year 23 wineries took part and 18,000 visitors attended. This year there are five additional wineries and Farah expects “more ... maybe much more” attendees.
This is the fourth consecutive annual showcase of Lebanese wine, although it is the sixth edition of the festival, Farah says. The inaugural event took place in 2004, but was canceled in 2006 because of the July war with Israel before being reinstated in the Lebanese cultural calendar in 2009.
“The first year was organized in the marina of Solidere,” Farah says. “We had maybe nine or 10 wineries. ... Maybe the attendance was 2,000.
“[Today] it’s almost becoming international. I have people who are asking from abroad about it. We are being covered sometimes by foreign journals.”
On this latter point, Farah proudly notes that well-known British food and drink writer Kevin Gould has said he will attend this year’s event.
Gould, if present, will be treated to four days of “wine, art and culture,” the theme of this year’s festival, Farah adds.
While Vinifest is intended partially as an economic event to promote the vineyards, it is also, she insists, “very important to educate people.”
To do this, the festival’s organizers have recruited Brigitte Leloup, vice president of the European Sommeliers Association, to deliver a series of free master classes throughout the festival.
Leloup will promote more conscious consumption of Lebanese wines, talking grape varietals and terroir as she leads her classes through the vintages of Lebanon’s diverse wine producing regions. A full schedule of what wines she will taste and when is available on the event’s website for those keen to plan their education ahead of time.
In addition to a full program of musical performances, poetry readings and dance exhibitions hosted by Nanette Ziadeh and Tanguy Faucon, Farah also highlights two competitions being held in tandem with Vinifest this year.
The first involves sculptures made out for wine bottle corks. All entries will be on display at the festival.
The second is a still life photography competition sponsored by Nikon, and the winning entries will be displayed on screens during the prize ceremony.
Back on the Rue de Vin, which runs around the edge of the open space at the center of the Hippodrome, six new Lebanese vineyards will exhibit for the first time: Look out for Chateau Wadih, Chateau Florentine, Clos du Phoenix, Chateau Barka, Cave le Noble and Chateau Sainte Andrée.
In the international pavilion, seven French vineyards are showcased this year – last year Spain occupied the space, and Italy the year before.
Otherwise, all the wine is Lebanese, with the exception of Bargylus, Syria’s only commercial wine.
Farah, a pharmacist by training, took the inspiration for Vinifest from a sight she saw while on a family holiday at age 15.
“When I was 15, I visited Athens with my parents and there was a wine festival there. ... I saw that the ambience was very, very nice, and the event remained in my memory,” she explains.
Today, Farah and her event planning company Eventions endeavor to preserve an “elegant” ambience at Vinifest. Visitors are invited to stroll down the Rue de Vin, taste at the various stalls, attend the master classes, take in the performances in the central stage area or adjourn for dinner at the food court.
Vinifest opens its gates at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 9-12 at the Beirut Hippodrome. A “solo” ticket costs LL20,000, while a “duo” ticket is LL35,000. For more information, visit vinifestlebanon.com.