TBY talks to Michel De Bustros, Chairman of Château Kefraya, on developments in the vineyard, tourism opportunities, and export markets.

Michel de Bustros
Michel De Bustros was born in 1929 in Beirut. He has been the owner of Château Kefraya since 1950. De Bustros is a member of numerous wine associations, including Compagnie des Mousquetaires d'Armagnac, Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, Commanderie de Bordeaux, Lebanese Academy of Gastronomy, Échansons de France, and Union Vinicole du Liban.

What have been the most important developments for Kefraya?

One of the most important developments was the decision to build the winery, because we were selling our grapes to other wineries previously. During the so-called civil war in 1979, we decided to produce our first wine. Other highlights included enlarging the winery, planting trees, building gardens, opening the restaurant and wine shop, and, above everything else, making our work accessible to tourists who want to learn more about Kefraya. I believe the most beautiful sight to see in springtime and in June is the vineyard. Everything is green, all of the vines are healthy, the soil is plowed, and the areas are cleared of weeds. A great moment was also when we discovered six ancient tombs on our grounds. They have been cleaned and are now open for visitors.

Where do most of your visitors come from?

We receive around 35,000 visitors a year. Of that total, approximately half are Lebanese and the other half are foreign citizens.

How is the wine culture in Lebanon developing?

The Lebanese are becoming more and more accustomed to wine, and awareness is better now than it was 30 years ago. Many people appreciate Lebanese wine, but sometimes they are more interested in foreign wines that are widely recognized abroad. Several wine critics, such as Robert Baker, have advocated our wine. In Baker's magazine, Wine Advocate, our wine was tasted and analyzed by him and he said it was an amazing accomplishment in Lebanon. That was also the title of the article. We frequently attend a number of expositions. We have been to the London International Wine Fair, France, Germany, and Sweden. We participate in those events and our brands are present at many cocktail functions where wine is served.

“ We export to many countries around the world, such as the UK, the US, and Sweden. "

Where do you export to mostly?

We export to many countries around the world, such as the UK, the US, and Sweden. There are perhaps 40 countries we export to. We are always looking at new countries to access. In the next year, we hope we will be in Asia, because that region seems very interesting—India, China, and Singapore in particular.

What is your annual production?

When we launched the company, arak was very important as a northern wine. We used to produce around 14,000 cases. However, now we only produce 3,000-4,000 cases. As for wine, we produce around 2 million bottles per year.

What is your outlook for the future of the company?

Our strategy is marked on the bottle in Latin, semper ultra. Although nobody sees it or even notices it is there, it is written on every bottle. Semper ultra means never stop, or go further and better, and that is our aim. Of course, we are always experimenting with new wines.