The Wardy’s Near and Far and the Story of Domaine Wardy and Their Award-Winning Wines and Arak!
Let me start with a little history of where the Wardy’s began. My Great Grandparents were born in Zahle, Lebanon. My Great-Great Grandfather, Ibrahim Daher Wardy born in the early 1800s had four sons, Daher, Elias, Wakeem (my Great Grandfather) and Khalil. Below is a picture of my Great-Grandparents Wakeem and Fadua along with my grandfather, Amen Wardy Sr. (standing third from the left) and his brothers and sisters. My grandparents, Amen and Rose Ayoub Wardy loved food and to this day I can still taste their cooking deeply embedded in my memories and in my taste-buds. I inherited several of their pans, and I swear my food tastes extra delicious whenever I use them.
Wakeem Wardy and Family
I have yet to visit Lebanon, but I do hope to go someday soon and visit my incredibly talented Wardy cousins producing the fantastic wines of Domaine Wardy!
The Domaine Wardy vineyards spread throughout Zahle’s Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, a plateau with altitudes of 900 to 1,400 meters containing a variety of fertile soils. I am very proud to share the magical story of Domaine Wardy
, renowned for its premium red, white and rosé wines, Arak (a clear, colorless, Arabic alcoholic spirit with an unsweetened anise-flavor) and a rich history, with roots dating back to 1891.
Domaine Wardy offers several varieties of blended and un-blended aromatic whites and strong bodied reds, each possessing a unique character. Some notes include berries, tropical, spicy and nutty undertones. The wines offer a broad taste experience from the full bodies to the fresh and smooth.
Today Domaine Wardy is owned and operated by Kahlil, Sami, Rima and Rida the Great Grandchildren of Daher Wardy (my Great Grandfather’s brother). Khalil, his brother and sisters have completely redesigned the brand and labels.
Kahlil shares the following stories and history outlining their vision and plans for the transformation of the winery. I hope you will enjoy and try the wines and spirits produced by Domaine Wardy!
A New Beginning
Domaine Wardy turned 21 in 2018. Officially she’s an adult, and with adulthood comes self-awareness as well as new challenges and responsibilities.
With new ownership and new management, the logo – old fashioned, rigid, derivative – no longer reflects this coming-of-age of the brand.
As we go back to nature with our commitment to organic farming in our new vineyards (to be planted in 2019-2022) and respect for the environment with our switch to solar energy in the winery and a new waste water treatment facility, we wanted a logo that represents this evolution. A dynamic, nature-inspired logo.
We engaged the renowned designer Tarek Atrissi to come up with a new logo as well as design new labels and refresh the brand’s image.
What he came up with was ingenious. The new logo is simply the main body of “Wardy”, written in Arabic calligraphy which happens to resemble four rows of vine trellises.
The music chosen for the short animation, which is available to watch on Domaine Wardy’s YouTube channel, comes from Leoš Janáček’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen which deals with the relationship between man and nature, an issue at the core of all wineries. The theme itself depicts dawn / the start of a new day / a new beginning.
This is our new beginning as we take stock of our past and look to the future with joy, abandonment and a dedication to represent the Beqaa Valley terroirs in the most honest light.
[The new logo will feature on all bottles labeled after December 2018.]
An Extraordinary Woman
The stories are many, handed down from generation to generation, each version is slightly different, but they all start with Wardy — Wardy (Rose) Mousalem.
In some versions, she’s our great, great-grandmother, which would place her in the late 18th or early 19th century. In others, she’s even older. What they all have in common is how remarkable she must have been.
Living in the lush Zahle region of Lebanon, her husband — a tough guy, possibly a freedom fighter — worked the fields and owned orchards and vineyards at a time when making wine and arak was common in all Lebanese homes. He was ambushed and killed by the Ottoman army. Wardy, left a young widow with three young children, came into her own and assumed the role of matriarch to the entire family. So much so, her children started to be referred to as Wardy’s Children, the house became Wardy’s house, the orchard Wardy’s orchard, the vineyard Wardy’s vineyard — Her name became more important than her husband’s surname.
They became the Wardys.
We became the Wardys.
A young Middle Eastern woman — a widow, a single mother — working the fields to support her young children. Fearless, strong, confidant, intelligent, tough. She must have been an extraordinary woman.
We at Domaine Wardy like to think that this is her “domaine”, her vineyards, her wines, and her arak.
In her honor, an artisanal rose, will be featured on all our packaging.
We also commissioned the outstandingly talented Lebanese artist Raya Mazigi, to draw an imagined portrait of her that will be displayed at the winery.
Products of a Winery
The Wardys are fourth generation of wine and arak makers — wines and spirits have been intertwined in our lives since 1881 when our great grandfather, Rachid Cortas, started a winery in Zahle.
Arak Gantous & Abou Raad was established in Zahle in 1893 and for decades has been the best-selling arak in Lebanon.
Each member of our family — the neighbouring Cortases and Wardys — grew to become accomplished wine and arak makers. It’s in our blood.
In the 1930s, Toufiq Wardy moved to the city of Aleppo in Syria to become a partner in a distillery. Habib Cortas followed, taking his wife and two young children for what was supposed to be a stay of a few months that ended up being a lifetime.
They went on to establish Arak Cortas & Wardy in Aleppo and made wine and other spirits.
Our father George Wardy emigrated to Australia in 1945, where he and his brothers opened a restaurant in Toowoomba, Queensland, then a cake shop in Sydney. Our mother Marleine Cortas was born in Aleppo.
George returned to Zahle in 1959 and Toufiq arranged the marriage of his cousin George to Marleine, the daughter of his partner. In a sense, we are the products of that winery in Aleppo.
George and his older brother Aziz bought the Abou Raad share of Arak Gantous & Abou Raad in 1971, and created, with the Gantous family, Solifed S.A.R.L (Societe Libanese de Fermantation et Distillation).
By 1996, the Wardys purchased the Gantous’s shares in the company and began producing wine under the Domaine Wardy brand as well as Arak Wardy, and in 2017 George and Marleine’s children bought the complete shares of Solifed and Gantous & Abou Raad.
So the family business came full circle. Back to Zahle and to the humble origins of the winery our forebears opened so long ago.
Claiming Our Heritage
For far too long, the Lebanese wine industry has shied away from its roots, preferring the safe and well-tried route of imitation French or the sleek ultra-modern in its labeling and designs.
Yet this is a region drenched with fine wine since the beginning of civilization. A region that has continuously produced wine and spirits for more than 5000 years.
Domaine Wardy has decided to display our heritage proudly by designing labels that are unmistakably near eastern, unmistakably Lebanese.
We looked at traditional architecture, tiles, carpets, fabrics. But what we were most drawn to were the incredibly detailed and beautiful wooden mosaics used for jewelry boxes, tables and backgammon boards.
These wonderfully intricate creations became the inspiration for our new labels, brought to life by the renowned designer Tarek Atrissi.
To make them more relevant to our single-variety wines, we used colors based on the aromatic and flavor profile of each variety.
[The new labels will appear gradually throughout 2019-2020]
Next time you find yourself at a fine restaurant or wine purveyor anywhere in the world, ask if they offer any of the Domaine Wardy wines and enjoy some of the most beautiful wines Lebanon has to offer.