Although the native Obeide grape was already being grown in the area, other grapes that were planted around 21 years ago have adapted well to the continental climate of the Northern Bekaa region.
The climate here is different to other parts of the Bekaa Valley which are wetter, more fertile and humid, often next to bodies of water. High altitude vines combined with hot summers, cool autumns and often harsh winters (characterised by substantial snowfall) make for bright, well rounded wines with distinct character and refreshing acidity. The terroir has a limestone dominance and the vineyards though high, are found on a 10km plain, protected from the winds by two mountain ranges.
The approach to growing as well as vinification is that of minimal intervention to show the true character of Lebanese wines and their terroir.
Walid recalls, “… the most beautiful moment in my life was the harvest of 2003 when we harvested 5 tonnes of grapes that were sold to other wineries in Lebanon.” It also acted as the turning point for Walid and the necessary prompt not only to sell the grapes to other wineries, but begin to think about creating their own production.
In 2010 Walid met Charbel Fakhry who shared similar philosophies about the region, its people and potential. They agreed to partner on a project that would see a physical winery being built and bespoke branding that fairly represented their values with a selection of wines of different levels of quality to suit the market.
With a background in architecture, but an eye for branding, and a great taste for winemaking, Charbel’s professional versatility and breadth of knowledge and skill, have been fundamental to how Couvent Rouge is positioned today. Humble in nature he seems as at home in the vineyard as he does hosting tastings. His displays at wine fairs, thoughtful labeling, imaginative marketing and catchy slogans “From Cannabis to Cabernet ”certainly raise the right kind of eyebrows.
Along with the inimitable help of Fawzi Issa of Domaines de Tourelles who has been Walid’s mentor during this project, the trio have left behind the advice of French consultants and have been plotting their own course for the future of the region and its vineyards. Vineyards now consist of grapes chosen specifically for the terroir and they are successfully trialing Grenache (blanc), Cinsault, Carignan, Tempranillo and Obeide as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.