A CHÂTEAU OR TWO

Lebanon 2012 | AGRICULTURE | B2B: WINE INDUSTRY

Growing domestic demand and expanding international attention is driving the wine production sector in Lebanon.

Michel de Bustros
MICHEL DE BUSTROS
General Manager
Château Kefraya
Zafer E. Chaoui
ZAFER E. CHAOUI
Chairman & CEO
Château Ksara

How has your company developed over the years?

MICHEL DE BUSTROS Château Kefraya began operations prior to 1951 planting vineyards, not as a winery, which it later became in 1979. At that time we had such quantities of grape that we decided to move into winemaking. It was a small winery until today, where we produce 2 million bottles per year. During 2010 we hit a problem—the temperature was too hot, almost 44°C, and this badly affected our white grape crops. We are, however, proud to say that our wine is produced using only Kefraya grapes, and we do not bring in any external produce. We have all qualities of wine, including white, rosé, and red, as well as a delicate wine named Lacrima d'Oro, and a cognac brandy called Nectar.

ZAFER E. CHAOUI When I became the chairman of Château Ksara the country had just exited a period of civil war. My target has been to modernize and invest in all necessary equipment as well as in the grapes that we brought in from Europe. We invested to make Château Ksara a piece of art. It is now a very modern facility and boasts the best equipment in the world.

What are your main export markets?

MB We initially began targeting France, and that country remains the number one market for us. We are proud to be successful there as France is a large producer in itself. Little by little our export destinations have developed to include countries such as Australia, Brazil, and Japan. We are now exporting to a total of 40 countries on five continents. Many things have contributed to making Kefraya wine appreciated and well known globally. In 1997 Robert Parker wrote an article entitled “An Amazing Accomplishment in Lebanon" in Wine Advocate magazine. Now, those who come to visit Kefraya will find that we are a modern winery with state-of-the-art equipment and the know-how to exploit our tourism potential.

ZC We produce around 2.7 million bottles a year. We export 40% and sell the rest locally. We are constantly sold out in white and rosé wines. We cover up to one-third of local production, and, for the moment, we see no need to expand further. The total production of Lebanon is around 8 million bottles per annum, and what cannot be sold locally is easily exported. Indeed, we export to over 30 countries. Our neighboring exports go to Syria and Jordan. We also export to European countries such as France and the UK as well as to the US, where we have three distributors.

What types of grape are you using for viticulture?

MB The grape that we produce in the highest quantity is Syrah. We also produce Chardonnay and Viognier for white wine, and Tempranillo for red. Around 15 years ago we also began planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, and Carignan, and we are just beginning to harvest those.

What range of wines do you offer, and which are the most popular for export?

ZC Roughly 60% of our wine production is red, 20% is white, and a further 20% is rosé. In red wines we have normal red, superior red, and château products. At the top of our range is “Le Souverain." This is a wine that we produced for the 150th anniversary of Château Ksara in 2007. Our most popular export wine is “Reserve du Couvent," which is a superior red wine.