A mixed bag for January

New Year Resolutions

2012 must be the year the Lebanese government finally wakes up to the reality that Lebanon has a wine industry. For over a decade, and for obvious religious reasons, the state has not made wine a priority and address the sector’s obvious potential.

This it could get away with when there were a dozen wineries. Now there are 40 and interest in Lebanese wine is at an all time high. The industry needs funding for marketing and it needs funding and support (as opposed to red tape) in introducing much needed regulation before the inevitable ‘cowboys’ appear on the scene and degrade our brand equity.

Regulation must come from within the industry – the ministry of agriculture has already shown it is more of a hindrance than anything else by sending well-meaning but otherwise clueless monitors to ‘visit’ the wineries in the Autumn of 2011. The sector has done very well without government meddling and should manage itself but there should be a insistence from the state that even a basic set of quality and best practice guidelines are drafted and imposed. Then, a quality control symbol – a sign that best practice has been apllied in the making of the wine – on the back label, for example, would be one way to ensure that all producers have an incentive to join the Union Vinicole du Liban. The funding and the backing (rather than interference) of the state for such an initiative is all UVL needs. It would be would be a start in recognizing one industry that can punch way above its weight in terms of promoting all that is good about Lebanon.

Drinking in January

I am not given to public health announcements but the other day I read a blog post by fellow wine blogger Jamie Goode http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/uncategorized/wine-and-health in which he debates the supposed health benefits (and risks) of drinking red wine. It was very interesting with one-twitter post on the subject arguing that if wine were ‘devised’ today it would be banned. It seems hard to believe that wine could ever be ‘devised’ but I guess around 9,000 years ago it was.

But I digress. Many of us, myself included, no doubt woke up last Sunday morning clutching our livers and foreheads, vowing to make January a month of clean living and Corinthian endeavor at the gym.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to avoid a drink-free January and instead abstain for three days a week throughout the year. Similar advice was peddled by the London Independent (so it must be true).

But what about the other four days? A friend whose doctor in the London is a famous and respected physician told him that the ‘optimum’ – not the maximum but the optimum i.e. the best – amount of alcohol one should consume each day is “between half and three quarters of a bottle of red wine with a high tannin content”. Makes sense to me. If anyone violently disagrees let me know.

Turning Japanese

Next weekend will see the official launch of Ixsir in Japan, a country where Carlos Ghosn, one of Ixsir’s shareholders, has achieved almost mythical status as CEO of the automotive giant Nissan. It would hard to imagine that the Batroun winery will not be counting on Ghosn’s reputation to advance the brand in the local market and why not?

Indeed Ixsir has all the credentials to be a global ambassador for Lebanese wine. The five wines – two reds, two whites rosé – are all very good, the packaging is clean and elegant and the winery itself received recent international acclaim for its award winning ‘green’ design. There are tastings and two major dinners planned to celebrate the launch and hopefully we will have some pictures to show you next week.

Karam Winery @ Tawlet

Harvest lunch at the Karam Winery

South Lebanon’s Karam Winery (no relation) will hold four winemaker lunches throughout January, showcasing six of its eight internationally acclaimed wines in the popular weekly event that brings together producer and consumer. The first one was held on Friday January 6, but three more lunches will be held every Friday thereafter during the month.

The Karam Winery, South Lebanon’s only wine producer, was founded in 2003 by Habib Karam. A commercial airline captain on Middle East Airlines, Habib has not let his day job get in the way of his passion for wine. Today, his 10-hectare winery is producing internationally acclaimed wines, demonstrating that Jezzine can make quality wines to rival those of the Bekaa Valley. The Karam Winery makes five reds, a white, a rosé and a sweet wine.




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