Lebanon hails unique 2010 vintage

A freak heatwave this summer has left Lebanon’s winemakers promising not only a vintage of unprecedented character, but also great quality.

bekaa_valley.jpgMany wineries reported harvest dates a month or more earlier than usual and as temperatures in the Bekaa Valley hit the high 40s, vines shut down to create an unusual combination of both high sugar and high acidity.

Elie Maamari, export manager for Château Ksara, explained: “The heat stopped photosynthesis so we ended up with a very low yield, concentrated sugars and good acidity.” As a result of this, Lebanon’s winemakers remain largely unconcerned about the problems of longevity and freshness which plagued France’s heatwave-hit 2003 vintage.

Tarek Sakr, winemaker at Château Musar described 2010 as “unique”, while Habib Karam, owner of Karam Winery further south in Jezzine, admitted that it was also a “very difficult” vintage.

He explained: “Most of the grapes except those at high altitude dried out.” As Sakr confirmed a similar situation in the Musar vineyards, he highlighted that smaller-berry grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon proved more vulnerable than the better-adapted Carignan and Cinsault.

The high altitude selected by many producers to compensate for Lebanon’s lack of latitude also played its part this year in preserving freshness and extending the growing season. Ixsir, one of several new wineries to emerge in the last decade, has vineyards planted as high as 1,700 metres. As a result, general manager Hady Kahale finished his harvest at the very end of September, “one month later than the rest of Lebanon.”

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