Financial Time Article April 26, 2010

QUOTE from Financial Time magazine:

" Lebanon cultivates niche wine segment

By Ferry Biedermann

Published: April 26 2010 17:06 | Last updated: April 26 2010 17:06





Domaine des Tourelles and Coteaux de  Botrys are two very different vineyards, lying on opposite sides of Lebanon.                                                      

The former, in the eastern Bekaa Valley, is one of the country’s oldest wineries. Production was erratic during and after the 1975-1990 civil war when the vineyard was best known for its arak, an aniseed drink.

In contrast, Coteaux de Botrys was started near the costal town of Batroun in 1998 by Joseph Bitar, a retired general. Since his death, Mr Bitar’s daughters see it as their mission to carry on his work and to increase production from 40,000 to 65,000 bottles a year over five years.

Nayla Bitar muses on the explosion of small wineries in Lebanon. There are now eight near Batroun alone. “In 1998 people questioned my father’s wisdom of putting money in vines. Now they’re all doing it,” she says.

In the past 15 years, the number of Lebanese wine producers has exploded from five in 1995 to 33 this year – and counting.

Lebanon is a small country, covering just 2 per cent of France’s surface area. It has been wracked by violence for years and as a result wine production has always been small. Most vineyards aim at production in the tens of thousands of bottles rather than the millions of the big international producers.

With a total production of just 6m-7m bottles a year, of which about half is exported, Lebanese growers can only go the boutique way, says Michael Karam, an expert on Lebanese wine whose guide detailing all 33 vineyards is due to be published later this year...

“Lebanon is selling itself as a boutique destination in tourism and it is only logical that its wine industry, which is so ound up with tourism, also promotes itself as a boutique product,” Mr Karam says.

As a result, the Lebanese need to market their wines and educate the world that, as Mr Karam says: “Lebanon is not only a war country, it is a wine country.”

He is also convinced that: “Lebanese wine can be marketed as the sexiest wine in the world.”…

...The smaller wine makers, on the other hand, insist that they are the real quality producers, alleging that some of the larger and older wineries use grapes from different areas of the country rather than from well-managed vineyards. Some of them favour the introduction of what is known in France as the AOC, appellation d’origine controllé, which certifies the origins of grapes..." UNQUOTE




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