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Five minutes with Etienne Debbane, IXSIR

Published:  10 January, 2022

Harvest in Lebanon delivered phenomenal challenges this year, as Etienne Debbane, president and co-founder of IXSIR explains to Andrew Catchpole.

Ever since we have had this economic crisis, everything is going down the drain. We’re missing some basic things – a lot of basic food, sometimes bread, sometimes milk. This summer was more severe. We were short of fuel and electricity, with two or three hours’ supply in the day. The rest you had to [either] generate or buy from private people who own generators. So the harvest was pretty tough.

We had some hot and strong winds in July that made the harvest 10-15 days earlier than usual. So the ripening of the grapes was much faster and sudden and we started the harvest on 9 August. We ended on the first day of October, when usually it would go up to mid-October. It was still a long harvest, almost 40 days, and the quality was acceptable to good, on some plots very good. But on some plots, we lost up to 40% of the crop because of hot rains.

It was particularly difficult because of the lack of electrical power when you need to control temperatures to function. Thankfully we generate part of our electricity from photovoltaic cells. We had forecast difficulties, so we had stocks of fuel and petrol, to operate and collect the labour we needed, to bring people to the vineyards to harvest. But it was quite chaotic with more grapes than expected on some days, and none on others, because of logistics. Thank goodness the climate was fine for harvest, with cold nights, and we are actually very happy with the wines. The whites and rosés are finished and the reds are coming along nicely.