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The vines grow between the sects

About 20 minutes later, I turned off the main road - a little dusty, chaotic and definitely Middle Eastern - into a gorgeous patch of land that would not have looked out of place in Provence.

Jeremy Bowen writes about a visit to the successful Massaya wineary in the Bekaa valley, a "stronghold of Hezbollah":

Later [after lunch, co-owner] Ramzi Ghosn, choosing his words very carefully, explained their relationship with their Hezbollah neighbours.

"Honestly they have been very tolerant, open-minded about it. They know perfectly well that you're here. We carry on with our business and they don't mingle with our business, we don't mingle with their business. And I'm sure that some of our employees are sympathisers to Hezbollah. I'm sure. I don't agree with that, it's not part of my culture, it's not part of my way of living but they are open-minded and they carry on."

Lebanon's Christian community has been weakened by emigration and is no longer dominant but it is still a large chunk of the population and politically powerful. That is a major reason why wine production thrives in Lebanon in a way that it does not elsewhere in the Middle East.

Continuing a tradition from Phoenician times, revived by the French, Lebanon produces full-bodied reds.

Ironically, given their troubled history, Lebanon's only vinous rival in the region is Israel.

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