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Ksara pushes 'Lebanon’s answer to Greek Assyrtiko’

Published:  05 October, 2018

Native white varieties will be key in propelling understanding of Lebanon’s cool climate wines, Ksara estate’s George Sara has told Harpers.

In London to show an expressive single varietal wine made from Merwah – the first in the world - Sara explained that the white’s could help to swing the focus onto Lebanon’s high altitudes and cooler climate winemaking.

“This is the first single variety Merwah that has been made, but there is a lot of potential – it could do for Lebanon what Assyrtiko has done for Greece,” said Sara.

The aim is for Merwah to join fellow native grape Obeideh at the forefront of Lebanon’s indigenous white renaissance, with the former being widely planted as it is the main grape used in the production of Arak.

“Lebanon has been using many international grapes, and is best known for its Bordeaux-style red blends, but there has been a swing towards indigenous varieties, and the story coming out of Lebanon now is its whites,” said Sara.

“Lebanon needs a passport to present worldwide.”

He added that there has been significant progress in quality in recent years, with altitude and cool climate contributing to the fresh styles of both whites and reds emerging from Lebanon.

The main vineyard region of Bekaa Valley, for example, is 1,000 metres above sea level at its lowest point, also meaning that there are high diurnal shifts in day and night-time temperature, helping retain the freshness in the ripening grapes.

Ksara’s Merwah is made from 60-year-old vines, with 20,000 bottles to be produced a year. To help stress its Levantine heritage, the label also incorporates Arabic in its design.

Sara also predicted that red varieties such as Carignan and Cinsault would play an increasingly important role in Lebanon’s future as understanding of these varieties and their potential has grown.

“Winemaking [in Lebanon] reaches back to Phoenicians times, and was prominent during the Ottoman era,” added Sara. “ The DNA of the original varieties has adapted to Lebanon, and by focusing on these rather than international varieties it has gone full circle.”

Ksara’s Merwah has so far gained listings with Harrods and Whole Foods in London.