Sunday Minute Monocle

Sunday Minute Monocle

Couvent Rouge’s concept is as unusual as its business model (writes Leila Molana-Allen). Founded in 2010 as part of a project to regenerate the small town of Deir El Ahmar, it’s the third highest-altitude vineyard in the world, or so locals claim. For years the area depended on cannabis crops until a new co-operative persuaded farmers to replant fields with grape vines. The founders of Couvent Rouge own plenty of vines themselves but sell their grapes to the co-operative and buy them back at a mark-up to help support the scheme. The “wine lab”, a refitted vintage minivan, was launched to introduce the product to new audiences. The wine-based cocktails, topped off with cordials made from Lebanese botanicals, were so popular that the lab is now a regular feature at events.

Make the scenic journey to the winery itself for a long, lazy lunch among the vines and a view that only grows more spectacular as the sun sets. “We’re looking forward to putting Lebanon back on the map of great wine-producing countries,” says co-founder Charbel El Fakhri. Couvent Rouge currently produces 100,000 bottles of wine per year but has the capacity for half a million. Its first wines hit the Lebanese market in 2018 and the current 10-bottle range is already being exported to Europe, North America and Australia. The co-operative now has more than 200 members, who own 240 hectares of land. “We wanted to do something very specific with the wines,” says Fakhri. “When you taste them you have spices and aromas very particular to this part of the country.”

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