It’s 10 pm and the place, like any others at the Gemmayzeh or Mar Mikhael districts, is packed. V comme Vin opened only very recently, but this is Beirut – a city renowned for its nightlife and matchless parties. The country’s golden youth and well-healed Lebanese have started to come here for its drinks and refined finger food before heading to one of the areas plentiful nearby restaurants. V comme Vin is a tiny venue subtly decorated with the right combination of old and new. Original stones for both the walls and floor and deep red velvet padded chairs and stools make the place sleek and modern. A simple and yet efficient combination for the self-proclaimed first wine bar of the Lebanese capital.
And yet, wine is no new affair to the Lebanese people. This long-lasting love story started a long time ago with the Phoenicians in 3000 BC and the Christians (from the 16th Century onwards) and has grown ever since. Maybe more than anything else in Lebanon, wine is historical and cultural. And in a country where celebrating and partying is so tangled with its own people, it comes with no surprise that they grow their own grape juice.
If the world famous Bekaa valley comes to mind when talking of Lebanese wines, it’s no surprise – the Batroun region was in fact the actual first wine-making area of the country. It only takes a forty minute drive from north Beirut to hit this Mediterranean coast line. Think blue deep sea, chirping crickets and hillsides showered with sun and olive trees and you’ll get a fairly good picture of the place. Here old and newcomers have (re)started giving back the region its raison d’être. From small producers like Atibaia, Coteaux de Botrys or Adyar to big player Ixsir, there are now eight serious winemakers in total congregating to create the “Route des Vins du Nord”.
Distinctive wines and this aforementioned business gathering have made the area a serious contender in the Lebanese wine-making trade. It has also fashioned to prop up a region hardly known for its grapes by foreigners and even, to some extent, some nationals who were more used to their Chateaux from the Bekaa valley. Some have also made the choice – seizing a fast-growing interest in wines – to diversify and open dandy venues in capital city Beirut. Like the recently opened Domaine des Tourelles (from the Bekaa Valley) smooth wine-tasting shop on trendy Monot Street. Or V comme Vin whose managing director is, on odd days, the Coteaux de Botrys’ oenologist.