Marketing A Premium Bordeaux Blend From #Lebanon
The Most Ancient Region for Winemaking — Begun by the Phoenicians at least 6000 years ago
We are the most prestigious vineyard in Lebanon, famous since 1930 for producing premium reds based primarily on the equally famed left bank Bordeaux blend of grapes. We lead with Cabernet Sauvignon supplemented with Carignan and Cinsault which selection combines French tradition with attention to local conditions. This unique combination of advantages allows us to make wine of the highest quality in global terms and yet with relatively modest pricing.
We have continued to produce wine throughout the sometimes complex vicissitudes of Lebanese history. We produced throughout the second world war and even during the civil war in Lebanon which began in 1975.
Our wines have excellent ageing potential and we are confident that we will be able to celebrate our centenary next decade while looking forward to another 100 years. The depth of history we have on our doorstep is underlined by the nearby spectacular Roman ruins at Baalbek.
Location of Vineyards
The location of the vineyards is already something of a talking point among wine lovers. They are located some distance away from the winery — about a 2.5h drive. People have asked us why this is, because they know that Lebanon is a hot country and grapes can be damaged by heat stress in transit. While we take every precaution to prevent this, including picking in the cool hours of the morning, the question remains as to why the distance between vineyard and winery is relatively large.
The answer to this again lies in history and the difficult history of our land. Our founder was unsure of what the future would bring. He felt confident in siting the winery close to Beirut, near to workers and customers, handy for shipping links and definitely likely to remain Lebanese territory for the foreseeable future. The vineyards are in the agriculturally favoured Bekaa valley. This area is still in Lebanon today, but this could not have been said to be likely to remain the case at all points in history.
Vineyards in Harmony with Land and People
Our vineyards are amongst the most spectacular and remote in the world.
They are located in the quiet Bekaa Valley, at around 1000m above sea level. This relatively high altitude offsets what would otherwise be excessive heat for winemaking in the Lebanese climate more generally.
Each flank of the valley is made up of a striking mountain range with snow-topped peaks. To the east of the valley is the Anti-Lebanon mountains. To the west, Mount Lebanon separates the Bekaa Valley from the Mediterranean Sea. The Bekaa Valley is the north-eastern most part of the Great Rift Valley, which runs from Syria to the Red Sea.
The vineyards see 300 days of sunshine a year making for a leisurely growing season. The grapes are cooled by fresh mountain breezes from two directions. We have quite a high continual range despite the mediterranean climate elsewhere in Lebanon: we will often see snow in winter.
Winemaking: Methods and Philosophy
We aim to be natural and in harmony with nature and people in everything we do. We have a minimal intervention strategy without being afraid of adding value where it helps and does not cause damage to the land, the vines or above all the wine.
Our grapes are harvested by Bedouins between August and October. We will not move to mechanised harvesting because we want to continue to do things the way they have always been done. We will not abandon our communities of pickers merely to address the bottom line: many families depend on us in a region which is short of work.
We use ambient yeasts rather than adding cultured ones which can lead to homogenous wine production. We keep sulphur additions to a minimum: again, we are not afraid to use what is necessary but we do not keep to a pre-set schedule. What is needed and nothing more.
We do not make wine in a hurry. The premium red takes seven years before it is released. We ferment relatively cool: below 30C. This gives us gentle yet effective extraction of colours and flavour compounds such as tannins. After six months, we give the wine 12 months of ageing in French oak. There is then some blending and four years of bottle maturation.
Musar was the first vineyard in Lebanon to achieve organic certification (2006). We maintain the organic approach throughout the process: from grape growing to wine making.
Conveying the Brand Story in a Marketing Campaign
✦ Lead on history — emphasis continuity and quality
✦ Campaign can be highly visual in nature, using such sites as the Baalbek ruins — these are a USP for Musar since the ruins are only reasonably usable by wineries in Lebanon and Musar is easily the wine with the best brand equity in Lebanon
✦ Focus on the way the winery has continued to produce despite difficult circumstances — gives consumers a sense of connection and history stretching forwards into a bright future as well as having strong roots in the past
✦ Bring out the relative good value of the wines — Bordeaux quality at Lebanese prices
✦ Emphasise natural winemaking and environmental strengths since these qualities are highly fashionable and likely to remain so
✦ All of these factors highlight that Musar is unique — unusual grape varieties and a less- well known region are both highly sought after qualities among high-involvement consumers. This also represents an opportunity to gain greater exposure for the whites, which use grapes which will be unknown even to many experts.
✦ Care must be taken not to dilute brand equity. This is less likely to be a problem with the Arak, which is high quality and a product with a clear distinction to the flagship premium red blend. This is probably also true of the rosé product, though this is starting to encroach on the central territory. There have been efforts to broaden the appeal of the products to younger consumers by launching easy-drinking ranges of wines (“Musar Jeune”) which have less age and power. This is a highly questionable strategy and if it continues, should not feature heavily in the marketing.
✦ The flagship brand, while relatively inexpensive in comparison to Bordeaux, is still premium in pricing. This means that customers will be high-involvement. They are likely to fall into marketing segments of either “Experienced Explorers” or “Millennial Treaters.” The age of the former means that a social media campaign will likely be ineffective, but this is probably a group which in any case already has good familiarity with the brand. There is an opportunity nevertheless to reach Millennials via social media and a highly visual campaign based on the above parameters is recommended.
✦ Short form video on Instagram is the best near term opportunity. Use “Stories” to promote Baalbek and the vineyards. Focus on younger demographics (already partly accomplished by choice of platform) with interest in wine. Emphasis quality and USPs.
✦ Consider joint ventures with bodies promoting tourism to Lebanon — though remain pragmatic since sources of public sector funds are currently not flush.
✦ Look at offering free trips to the winery to influencers who will contract to produce Instagram stories in an “organic” way. It will be helpful if at least some of the resulting posts can avoid the “paid post” tag but this should be possible since the actual experience can be documented by the influencer and not every aspect of it will in fact have been paid for. Consider chartering private jet for super-influencers. This will be extraordinarily expensive but will result in literally millions of page views and will be widely shared by the right influencer. Product placement in the jet is an appealing option. This also adds interest to the region in general and since Musar has a good cellar door operation already. This can benefit from increased high-involvement customer traffic.