Described as a dedicated environmentalist, Michel de Bustros started planting vines on his family’s Kefraya estate in the 1950s. They would be the foundation of what would, in 1978, become Chateau Kefraya, one of Lebanon’s most acclaimed wines.
Starting a winery, three years into a civil war, was a brave decision. Bustros’s persistence and entrepreneurial daring enabled him to sustain the business, through conflict and occupation. In 1982 the winery was occupied and its French winemaker taken.
De Bustros was determined to highlight the quality of the Bekaa Valley’s terroir. Eschewing New World fashion, he insisted on blending his wines, all of which were made from grapes grown on his own 300ha estate in the western Bekaa village of Kefraya.
In 1996 he created the Comte de M, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah aged up to 18 months in new French oak barrels. The wine caught the attention of Robert Parker, who awarded the 1996 vintage 91 points, a first for any Lebanese wine, describing it as ‘‘an amazing accomplishment in Lebanon’’.
“Michel was a warrior and a visionary”, said Lebanese wine writer Michael Karam. “He never took no for an answer and refused to surrender even when his vines were caught in the crossfire of conflict. Lebanon has lost a giant of a man, one whose refusal to concede an inch of ground for his principles was tempered by gentleness and compassion.”