Lebanon's most famous winery, Chateau Musar, has built a fence around its vineyards to stop thieves from stealing not grapes, but leaves from its grenache vines.
A fence costing 30,000 pounds ($45,725) now surrounds the entire Musar vineyard in the Bekaa Valley, said the company's winemaker, Tarek Sakr, at the London International Wine Fair. The estate has also had to recruit three guards and erect security lights to prevent opportunistic locals and Syrian immigrants from stealing the leaves.
The trouble started in the spring of 2010. “Fifteen to twenty woman attacked the vineyards and took the leaves [off the vines]," said Sakr. “Half of my vineyards had grapes but no leaves.”
The grenache grapevine leaves are considered a delicacy in Lebanon, as they are hairless. “The leaves are very desirable. People cook with them and stuff them with rice or meat,” Sakr explained.
The leaf-filchers were selling the leaves for around $5 per kilo at the Bekaa Valley's local market.
While Sakr believes that Chateau Musar was targeted because it farms organically, he revealed that leaf theft was also an issue for other producers in the region. The Bekaa Valley is responsible for 90 percent of Lebanon's total wine production.