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finance & economyFebruary 25, 2021

IXSIR winery wins world’s best Rosé award

Plans to boost production to 800,000 bottles and increase exports to 60 percent of output


Wines of Lebanon (IXSIR) has won the world’s best Rosé award for its Grande Réserve Rosé 2018 in the Best Wine of the World Competition (BWW).

More than 190,000 wine professionals and enthusiasts voted for nearly 204,700 competing wines. This was followed by two blind-tasting sessions by wine experts such as the Masters of Wine and the Tastingbook to choose the best out of the top 100 of each category.

“The Grande Reserve Rosé was ranked together with the best Italian and French wines although it was of the 2018 vintage while our 2019 and 2020 vintages are fresher ad have stronger aroma,” said Etienne Debbane, Chairman of IXSIR.

Debbane said that his company has started a promotion campaign for all its wine varieties including red and white wines which are key products and require more effort and up to five years to produce while the Rosé variety takes four to five months. He said that they cannot increase the output of the Rosé in a short of period of time because it is produced from a specific variety of grapes. They would have to plant more of these grapes and this takes time.

“We will uphold the quality of our wines and we are not going to increase prices. We don’t want to take advantage of the award. We have positioned our products and we want to maintain this positioning. We want consumers to feel that our wine is worth the price,” Debbane said.

IXSIR produces 500,000 to 600,000 bottles of wine per year and plans to cultivate new grapes to boost production to 700,000-800,000 bottles within three years. It started producing arak three years ago. Its annual arak output ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 bottles.

The winery is currently exporting 40 percent of its output to 35 countries across all continents and plans to increase exports to 60 percent after three years from now. “The EU is the largest market but it is a wine producer. There is greater potential in the USA and in Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea,” Debbane said.

IXSIR is specialized in wine produced from grapes cultivated on the western slopes of the western mountain range while other major wineries focus on the Bekaa. It has six production sites at elevations ranging from 400 meters to 1,800 meters. The company enjoys the highest altitude of wine grapes in the northern hemisphere. “The large gradient of temperature between day and night at high elevations is good for grapes as temperature there could vary by 15-20 degrees Celsius while the temperature gradient is narrower on the coast,” Debbane said. The company has re-cultivated lands that were in the past vineyards and that used to yield good quality grapes. It owns part of the vineyards and rents the remainder.

“About half of the production cost of IXSIR consists of imported materials such as bottles, corks, and barrels so exportation is necessary to secure hard currencies to import these materials,” Debbane said. Manufacturing bottles locally requires large factories and the existence of markets to sell the output while cork production involves high technology.

According to Debbane, local consumption of wine has not weakened despite the crisis and the lockdowns that closed restaurants and other businesses. “On the contrary demand has increased a little as local wine has become more competitive price wise compared with imported alcoholic drinks,” he said.

At its inception, IXSIR hired Spanish winemaker Gabriel Rivero for his know-how and he is now the company’s Technical Manager. It also benefits from the consultancy services provided by Hubert de Bouard, a French oenologist (wine expert).

The shareholders in IXSIR include Debbane Saikali Group, Former Chairman of Nissan Motor Co. Carlos Ghosn, and Amber Holdings.

Lebanon produces around ten million wine bottles per year. It is competing with major producers in the world such as Italy, France, Spain, the USA, and Argentina. “China is expected to become the largest wine producer five years from now,” Debbane said.

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