Italian wine is on the up in Lebanon

The first floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut was transformed into a Little Italy thanks to the Italian Embassy and the country’s Trade Agency.
Wines, cheeses, pasta, Aperol spritzes and other hallmarks of Italy’s culinary exports were laid out for tasting and Lebanese importers and distributors joined in workshops with food and beverage representatives - with more than 100 Italian producers showing off over 400 types of products - as part of the first Italian Wine Workshop.
A highlight of the event was a guided tasting of Italian wines led by sommelier and oenologist Paolo Peira. Despite some mistiming on the part of the hotel, the expert gave a thorough and evocative tour of 13 wines and a grappa, all part of the offerings from the distributors present at the exhibition.
It was an introduction to Italian wine for some, a welcome visit with some old friends for the Italian wine initiates. From the well-known classics of Pinot Grigio and Chianti Classico - of which Peira said “for foreigners Chianti is the wine of Italy, for Italians it is the wine of Tuscany” - to the newly trendy – rose is apparently all the rage in Italy in all weathers and all meals, according to Peira – and the unexpected – an almond infused Nero D’Avola had guests smacking their lips with the almost sickly sweetness.
With acumen and eloquence, Peira navigated the broad terrain of Italian wine, representing the diverse range that marks Italy as the largest wine producer in the world.
In Lebanon, Italy is knocked off the top spot by France, however. It holds the second largest market share in wine importation at 13 percent in 2017, paling in comparison to France’s 76.5 percent domination of the market. That percentage, however, represents a growing market for Italy, as its share climbed 27.8 percent between from 2016 to 2017. Prosecco has made even more of a mark, with a 51 percent jump in share of the market.
Francesca Zadro, trade commissioner with the Italian Trade Agency, was optimistic about the growing interest in Italian wine in Lebanon, and particularly prosecco as a celebratory drink that doesn’t dig as deep in the pockets as most champagnes. “The quality is the same but it’s less expensive,” she told The Daily Star, as guests sipped the four different types of prosecco on show at the reception that was attended by Italian Ambassador Massimo Marotti. She added that there is a plan to hold more tastings later in the year to continue to “show Lebanon what Italian wine has to offer.”
The Daily Star