BEIRUT: Wine is most often a partner for food, but Thursday night saw a different kind of pairing that brought together wine and a charitable cause in an event to raise much-needed funds for a Lebanese nonprofit. Held at the newly opened Aaliya’s Books in Gemmayzeh, the wine tasting was held to support The Nawaya Network, which seeks to help unemployed Lebanese and refugee youth reach their full potential in the professional world.
In terms of the wines on offer, it was a strictly Lebanese affair with wines from more than 15 of the Cedar State’s vineyards on offer.
Entitled “Batroun vs. Bekaa,” the event was the scene of a showdown between Lebanon’s two wine-producing powerhouses, and some of Lebanon’s most prized wines were on display.
Red, white and rose from wineries like Chateau Ksara, Northpath and Chateau Faqra were all up for tasting.
Event organizer Sara Allen told The Daily Star, “I love wine, I think it’s a shame that Lebanese wine never gets in the media. Everyone who thinks of Lebanon thinks of ISIS [Daesh] and sectarianism, they think of Hezbollah, but Lebanese wine has such a long history, it’s one of the oldest wine-making nations on the planet, why not celebrate that?”
With more than 50 wineries in Lebanon, producing upwards of 250 different bottles, Beirutis are spoiled for choice, yet many of even the nation’s finest wine are not well known – even within the areas in which they are produced.
While a vintage Lebanese industry was being promoted to aid a Lebanese cause, the patrons were as cosmopolitan as one might expect in Beirut. “Look at the crowd, we could be in London, we could be in Paris, we could be in New York,” Allen said.
And it wasn’t just the wine that was a success – the stocks were drunk dry, but the event also raised more than $1,000 for The Nawaya Network, a nonprofit run by Zeina Saab.
The organization aims to empower and provide opportunities to young people from marginalized backgrounds across Lebanon in order to help them reach their true potential. It was founded in 2009, by Saab, who formerly worked for the World Bank, after a young girl approached her with fashion sketches. “I saw she had talent, and I founded The Nawaya Network to help girls like her achieve that potential,” she told the crowd.
Now, some eight years after its founding, the network is encouraging Lebanese youth to engage in everything from coding, to graffiti to entrepreneurship. Their work has helped over 3,000 young Syrians and Lebanese become small-scale entrepreneurs in the past two years alone.
At the end of the evening, as the empty glasses were collected and the takings counted, it was clear there might be a few sore heads Friday morning. But with more than $1,000 raised for some of the most vulnerable in the country, there was consensus that hangovers and the $40 entrance fee were more than worth it.