Château Kefraya: In Conversation with Winemaker Fabrice Guiberteau
Château Kefraya is a pioneer in putting Lebanese winemaking on the world stage as a producer of exceptional wines with deep terroir expression. Winemaker Fabrice Guiberteau joined Xavier Flouret for a discussion on Kefraya’s unique history and their commitment to blending tradition with modernity.
“I want to make wines that express their origin.
I don’t want to copy a Bordeaux or Burgundy wine, for example.
It’s very important that our wines show this singularity:
that they’re truly coming from Château Kefraya.”
– Fabrice Guiberteau
Château Kefraya was the only winery created during the Lebanese Civil War. Winemaker Fabrice Guiberteau calls that “a symbol of resilience” that defines the spirit of their team today as they face both local and global challenges. “What I love in my job,” says Guiberteau, “is the huge humility you need to have day after day. It’s ALL about humility.”
Often Lebanon is labeled as “New World” but in fact, it’s the exact opposite. There’s a long history of wine culture in Lebanon, starting with the Phoenicians more than 6,000 years ago. They spread viticulture to the Mediterranean countries and traded wines with Egypt. This continued with the Romans, and artifacts from these periods are often still uncovered in the vineyard today. They honor this heritage through aging their wines in amphoras, once used by the Phoenicians to transport wine between Lebanon and Egypt. “We wanted to discover what the effect the clay had on the wine as it aged,” explains Guiberteau, “and we learned that it provides purity in the wine. What I really love is this singularity we can have from aging our wines this way.”
A lot of diversity in soil and subsoil types can be found in the Bekaa Valley, and more than fourteen different grape varieties are grown in the Château Kefraya vineyards. Although Cabernet and Syrah dominate, there are a large number of indigenous grapes as well, which are used in the cuvées. Kefraya’s blending of old-vine Cabernet with native grapes is a major contributor to the unique terroir expression found in the wines. Kefraya’s high altitude is key as well, since the climate is very hot and irrigation is not used. With a 20-degree difference between day and night, the grapes mature at a steady rate and can achieve high quality with good tannin structure. Guiberteau avoids learning about his grapes through sterile analysis, and instead spends time with the vines, tasting and testing the maturity. “If you want to understand your terroir,” he says, “you need to live with it. And to live with it, you need to be in the field. 98% of wine quality comes from the grape, so you need to go and taste it and know it as it’s growing.”