New wines on the block

Two new labels released in 2015

Greg Demarque | Executive

Although 2015 did not see the launch of any new wineries in Lebanon, two existing wineries have nonetheless expanded their product offerings to introduce new labels to both local and export markets.

Executive provides further insight into these new vintages in the profiles below, including their positioning within the wineries’ product lines, their target clientele and the market’s response.

B-qa de Marsyas

According to Karim Saade, who co-founded Chateau Marsyas and Domaine de Bargylus along with his brother Sandro, new wineries typically begin their productions with entry or mid-range wines before adding high-end wine to their portfolio. However, he explains that he and his brother chose to do it differently by starting their winery with Chateau Marsyas, their high-end wine, before launching B-Qa de Marsyas, a mid-range wine, in April 2015.

“It made more sense to us as we were focusing on quality, and having B-Qa de Marsyas now will not only provide consumers with an easy to drink wine but, at the same time, this process will allow Chateau Marsyas to perfect itself because our younger vines will go in B-Qa and the estate’s older vines in the Chateau,” he says, explaining that mid-range wines such as B-Qa de Marsyas are only aged for four to five months as opposed to a year and a half or more for Chateau Marsyas, and so are more readily available to the consumer.

The target production number for B-Qa de Marsyas is a total of 100,000 bottles which will be realized by the end of 2016. The wine is distributed both locally and in Chateau Marsyas’s export markets in restaurants, supermarkets and wine shops.

Saade describes B-Qa as a “cool wine”, an image which is communicated through the bottle’s minimalistic labeling and packaging which was designed internally, according to Saade. The pronunciation of the wine’s name was also designed to evoke curiosity around the brand as French speakers pronounce it one way and English speakers another. The Saades launched an advertising campaign for B-Qa early in November 2015 with billboards promoting the wine across the city.

For now, B-Qa is only available as a red wine, but Saade says plans for a white B-Qa are on the way. Entry range wines, however, will not be part of the Chateau’s future, insists Saade.

Obeidy by Chateau Saint Thomas

In 2013, Joe Assaad Touma, winemaker and owner at Chateau Saint Thomas, was approached by Wine Mosaic, an international association for the protection and preservation of local grape varieties of wine producing countries, who inquired whether a monovarietal wine [wine made with just one kind of grape] could be produced from indigenous Lebanese grapes. 

After some brainstorming, Touma thought of experimenting with the Obeidy grape typically used for the production of arak in Lebanon. While some Lebanese wineries, such as Chateau Musar or Massaya, had used Obeidy in their white wine blends, no winery had yet produced a monovarietal wine from it (Wardy later produced one in 2013).

Still, Touma was excited for the project and sent a trial quantity of the Obeidy-produced white wine to Wine Mosaic. “I wanted to do it because I wanted to preserve the local grape variety of Lebanon,” enthuses Touma.

The wine was met with a lot of appreciation, recounts Touma, especially since Wine Mosaic already has a database of those who enjoy local wines and promoted Obeidy among them. This success encouraged Touma to produce a bigger number (around 8,000 bottles) for the export market in 2014.

In 2015, Touma introduced Obeidy to the Lebanese market during a launch event held at the winery’s premises midyear.

Touma says the Lebanese responded well to the wine because it is light and refreshing, which makes it good for food pairing, and also because of the grape variety’s origin. “People appreciated that it’s a local variety. They liked this idea and liked the wine because of it,” says Touma, explaining that he is marketing the wine as representative of Lebanon’s people and land.

Today, Obeidy is available at supermarkets, restaurants and wine sellers both locally and abroad.

Touma complains that the Obeidy grape variety is hard to work with as only 60 percent of its juice can be used for wine, and also because it is becoming very hard to find since farmers prefer planting more lucrative and well-used wine-producing grape varieties.

Still, he says he will continue to produce Obeidy white wine and is eager to experiment with other local grape varieties to see what else he can come up with.

Nabila Rahhal

Nabila is Executive's hospitality, tourism and retail editor. She also covers other topics she's interested in such as education and mental health. Prior to joining Executive, she worked as a teacher for eight years in Beirut. Nabila holds a Masters in Educational Psychology from the American University of Beirut.