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Hong Kong is ‘buoyant market’ for Lebanese wine

Organic wine producer, Domaine Wardy from the Bekaa Valley has its sights set on breaking into Asia’s crowded wine market by “wooing the trade”.

Wardy_Vineyard2_1366Speaking to the drinks business Wardy’s winemaker, Diana Salame Khalil, explained that although its wines have been in Hong Kong for three years, the winery views the future in Asia as “an exciting one” due to its consistently good vintages that has “wooed the trade.”

“People in Hong Kong are always willing to try new styles,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to promote our wines, and we’re able to show them that our styles are not the same as other producers – not even in Lebanon.”

Salame studied oenology at the University of Burgundy before a stint of two years at biodynamic pioneers, Leflaive and joined Wardy in 2002 where she has helped it grow to be one of Lebanon’s most prominent winemakers.

Wardy is best known for producing Lebanon’s famed anise flavoured spirit, Arak which it has been doing for 130 years but 30 years ago realized the potential that its position in Zehle in the Bekaa Valley had for grape growing.

It now has 13 wines and uses only one of Lebanon’s two indigenous grape varieties, Obeideh, a late-ripening white which is the base grape for its Clos Blanc – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay and a drop of Muscat.

For the rest, Wardy uses the usual grapes favoured by other Lebanese producers, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Cinsault which has seen it receive plenty of international attention.

Wardy’s “grand cru” Private Selection won silver at the 2011 International Wine Challenge for its 2006 red and its Cinsault-driven Les Terroirs also bagged silver at San Francisco’s International Wine Competition in 2012. Wardy had a glimpse of its potential in Asia when its 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon won bronze at China’s Wine and Spirit Competition in 2003 but Salame remains confident that Wardy can make a reappearance in Asia’s competitive wine scene.

“We use international grape varieties as they grow so well in our terroirs. It gives us the chance to access a wider market as the Chinese are able to recognize them and see that although we use the same grapes, our wines are completely different. Our Sauvignon Blanc for example, tastes nothing like a Sauvignon from France or New Zealand. Our top markets will remain the US and France but we’ve had increased interest from the trade in Hong Kong and it’s looking like a buoyant market for us.”

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