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Senior Consultant / Winemaker
Jean-Baptise got his master’s in chemistry from Faculté de Bordeaux I, before getting his Oenology Degree from Faculté d’oenologie de Bordeaux. He started his career as a plant manager of a winery and distillery producing 10 million bottles per year. Since he managed to roam the world in different assignments as winemaker, today he is the senior winemaker at Armenia Wine. He is also the CEO of a consortium of six organic and biodynamic Chateaux in Bordeaux.
In 1959 Nahia Abou Raad asked the 15 years old Abdallah to help in distilling arak.
“a couple of weeks” she said, “three tops”.
Nahia was the sister of Michael Abou Raad, owner, along with Najib Gantous, and principle arak maker of Arak Gantous & Abou Raad.
Arak making in Lebanon is a family affair with recipe secrets passed down from generation to generation. Abdallah’s dedication and obvious passion allowed him to acquire these family secrets as he gradually became the main arak maker of Gantous and Abou Raad.
The distillery was situated in Haret Al-Rasiyeh in Zahle, Abdallah remembers that the grapes were sourced from several vineyards in the Beqaa Valley and transported to the distillery on horse and donkey backs. Aniseeds were brought from Hina near Damascus on camel backs.
Fermentation was carried out in clay amphorae, while copper stills were used for the distillation.
60 years on, the distillery moved to the Zahle Valley, the grapes are still sourced from the Beqaa Valley, the Aniseeds still come from Hina (by trucks rather than livestock), fermentation is carried out in stainless steel vats while distillation still takes place in copper stills and aging in clay amphorae.
And Abdallah, now 75 years old, still oversees the entire process, producing both Arak Gantous & Abou Raad and Arak Wardy, depending primarily on his legendary nose and an experience of a lifetime.