Wine in Lebanon (August 1, 2008)
by Lindsay Groves
Prior to venturing into Lebanon from neighbouring Syria, I had written to Gaston Hochar, from the esteemed Château Musar, to get an honest opinion as to whether or not it was a good time politically to visit. The travel advisory posted by the Canadian government states that non-essential travel should be avoided (and I was fairly certain that winery visits would not fall into the "essential" category).
Gaston sent a very level-headed reply to my concerns: "Regarding the current situation in Lebanon, it is stable in its instability. Some visitors are coming to Lebanon, others are postponing their trips. We are still living here."
This was enough for me, so, shortly after arriving in Beirut, I met with the Hochars at the Château Musar winery in Ghazir, overlooking the hills and turquoise waters around the town of Jounieh. Oenologist and agro-engineer Tariq Sakr, who has now been with Musar for 17 years, proudly announces that Musar has received organic certification for their 60 hectares of estate vineyards in the village of Kefraya, the only winery in the Middle East to be Sincert accredited by the Instituto Mediterraneo di Certificazione (IMC). Musar also has access to 120 or so hectares of vineyard under contract, and many of these growers are also in the process of gaining organic status.
Soon I found myself down in the cellar in a state of amazement, watching Serge Hochar spit into buckets of sawdust with precision that would put a marksman to shame.
Musar produces three labels: Château Musar, Hochar Père et Fils and Cuvée Musar. Each label consists of three wines (almost exclusively blends) a white, rosé and a red. Each label (and each wine as a consequence) has its own unique personality not at all surprising after you meet the man who has been producing them for nearly 50 years.
Lindsay Groves at the temple of Bacchus at Baalbek
Lebanon's viticultural heritage dates back more than five millennia, the region itself including the ancient lands of Canaan and most of Phoenicia. The temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, dating from the 2nd century AD, is a testament to the area's rich vinous past. In the Middle Ages, merchants of Venice traded the wines of Tyre and Sidon, ports that belonged to Italy for much of the 13th century. In 1517, Lebanon was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, but even under the Caliphate, the Christian population was permitted to produce wine for religious purposes.
The roots of the modern wine industry were established with the arrival of Jesuit monks from Algeria, who imported vines and began production at Ksara in 1857. Just over a decade later, a French engineer by the name of Eugène François Brun followed suit and set up Domaine des Tourelles. After the first world war the Ottoman Empire was dissolved and Lebanon came under French mandate. The French occupation acted as a further catalyst for the wine industry, providing the demand as well as promoting wine culture.
After spending some time with the Hochars in Beirut, I ventured east to the Bekaa Valley and the town of Zahlé, where the majority of the vineyards are located. This region was one of the breadbaskets of the Roman world and it's easy to see why with the multitude of crops that thrive between the Mount Lebanon and Ante-Lebanon mountain ranges.
The Bekaa Valley
Viticulturally, the challenge in the Bekaa lies in attaining mature phenolic ripeness in the midst of rapidly rising sugar levels. Many producers are more or less organic (most are in the three-year process of certification), having been blessed with one of the most conducive climates in the world. Irrigation is generally not necessary, although young vines are carefully observed and may be supplemented by some irrigation in their early years.
The soils in the Bekaa are predominantly argilo-calcaire and extremely rocky. When planting vineyards, dynamite is sometimes needed to break up the rock. Traditionally vines were trained as gobelet (bush vines), but now more than half of all vines are wire trained, either as double guyot or cordon.
Lebanon is unusually lucky to have preserved some of its traditional varieties, unlike neighbouring Israel. Obeideh and Merwah, both white, are the two most common indigenous grapes, most famously used in the long-lived Château Musar whites as well as for arak, the local anise-flavoured spirit.
The first foreign varieties were imported in the late 19th century by the Jesuit missionaries of Ksara, who planted the southern French varieties Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache, Clairette and Ugni Blanc.
In the 1990s, producers with foresight such as Ksara began planting international varieties, beginning with the mainstream Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, which are now used in the majority of better quality blends. Popular white varieties, most obviously Chardonnay along with Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, were planted around the same time. More recent arrivals include Tempranillo, Viognier and Verdelho.
From an oenological point of view, winemakers are up against lofty potential alcohol levels along with an incredible amount of concentration. It requires great skill to produce a balanced final product. The Lebanese however are anything but lacking in the area of expertise. In fact, time and again I was blown away by the talent and professionalism of the producers I visited.
So what's happening now on the wine scene? Lebanon is currently producing 6 million bottles annually (7,000 tonnes of grapes processed), utilising 2,000 hectares specifically set aside for viniculture. Wine grapes account for only 13% of the area under vine, the rest of the 15,000 hectares is used mainly for table grapes.
The Union Viticole du Liban (LIVL) was founded in 1997, one year after Lebanon joined the Office International de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV), with the objective of giving a unified voice to Lebanon's wine producers and to build on and promote Lebanon's image as a wine-producing country. They were also responsible for lobbying for the new wine law that was successfully passed in 2000 in order to develop legitimacy for Lebanon's export ambitions in the European Union and other international markets. They currently have 11 members: Château Musar, Château Ksara, Château Kefraya, Clos St Thomas, Domain Wardy, Vin Nakad, Domaine des Tourelles, Château Ka (Kassatly), Cave Kouroum, Côteaux du Liban and Heritage. Many producers are not members of Union Viticole, including Château Khoury, Domaine de Baal, Château Belle Vue, Massaya, Terres et Vignobles, Château Fakra, Nabise Mont Liban, Karam Winery and Clos de Cana.
Ksara is the only winery able to boast 150 years of uninterrupted winemaking history. The Jesuit monks of Ksara were responsible for the original introduction of new French varieties as well as French-Algerian winemaking techniques in the 19th century. Ksara has been owned by a consortium of Lebanese businessmen since 1973, the monks having been encouraged by the Vatican to sell off any major commercial ventures. As a leader in the industry, Ksara had the foresight to begin wire training vines and also planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They are also the largest producer with an output of 2.1 million bottles annually. They have access to 300 hectares of vines from six different sites in the Bekaa, all of which are looked after by the super savvy (and very busy) Paulette Chlela, who has been the viticulturalist at Ksara since 1993. Paulette, who trained in Bordeaux, works alongside French winemaker James Palgé, who moved to Lebanon to join Ksara in 1994. The grounds at Ksara also include 2 km
worth of caves, which were extended from the discovery of a Roman grotto in 1898. An observatory, the first to be built in the Middle East in 1902, can also be found on the property.
Kefraya is the second largest winery, with production currently standing at just over 2 million bottles. Founded in 1979, it has 300 hectares of vines and uses only grapes from its own estates in the village of Kefraya. It was their premium wine, Comte de M 1996, a blend of Cabernet and Syrah, that gained Kefraya well-deserved international recognition. French-born winemaker Fabrice Guiberteau joined Kefraya recently and is definitely one to watch. Expect some stellar reds in the next few years.
Massaya is the result of a Franco-Lebanese alliance between the Ghosn brothers and Massaya's notable French partners Dominique Hébrard, formerly of Château Cheval Blanc, and the Brunier family of Châteauneuf -du-Pape's Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. Established in 1997, they produce 250,000 bottles of wine annually, plus an additional 50,000 bottles of arak, famous for its distinctive blue bottle. They have done extremely well in the export market, sending 90% of their production abroad, mainly to France. They have 7 hectares of estate vines and source additional grapes from the north-east and south-west Bekaa Valley, mostly situated on clay limestone soil at an altitude of about 900 metres. They are producing four wines, white and red "classic" blends, the Silver Rhône-style blend and finally the Gold Bordeaux-style assemblage.
Il faut en boire pour y croire (you have to drink it to believe it) is the clever slogan for Clos St Thomas winery, playing on the fact the family's name of Touma is derived from St Thomas, the "doubting saint." When I met Nathalie Touma, one of the first stops on the tour of her family's winery was the Chapel dedicated to their namesake saint, carved out of rock in the side of a hill. The Touma family has been producing arak since 1888, but made the switch to the production of quality wine with the establishment of Clos St Thomas winery in 1997. From their 65 hectares, they are producing about 400,000 bottles, over half of which are exported.
Domaine Wardy is the only winery able to boast three women winemakers since their first vintage in 1998. Talented oenologist Hiba Salloum has been in charge of the well-equipped cellars at Wardy for about a year, taking over from Diana Salameh, who is now the winemaker at Chateau Belle Vue. They produce wines from their 65 hectares of estate vines in addition to another 80 hectares that are on long-term lease. Wardy has been very successful as one of the few producers to concentrate on varietal wines instead of more traditional blends. In 2003 they released their small-production premium bottlings of Wardy Private Selection, comprising a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah and an unusual white blend of Viognier and Muscat.
The producer with possibly the most heart, Vin Nakad, is a small, family-run winery in the village of Jdita producing wines with excellent concentration. Established in 1923, Nakad is one of the pioneering wineries in Lebanon. The land on which the winery was built has a history of its own; some of the relics found on the site include a Bronze Age wine press and a massive stone fermentation vessel, as well as tombs (with their owners) that were unearthed when the old cement tanks were being enlarged. The winery is also very well known for its Samir arak.
Domaine des Tourelles is Lebanon's second-oldest winery, based in the town of Chtaura. Rather uncommercial in size as well as principle, they have leveled out wine production at 50,000 bottles annually. In addition, they also produce a respectable amount of arak, historically considered to be one of the best in Lebanon. Founded by French-born François-Eugène Brun in 1868, the winery continued in the hands of the Brun family for three generations. When Pierre, the last of the direct Brun line, died in 2000, it was bought by the Issa family, who continue to run the company as a small family enterprise. They currently produce four wines: an entry level white and red, a rosé, and their flagship wine Marquis des Beys. Winemaking will soon be taken over by the son of the owner, who is finishing his oenology training at Montpellier.
Belle Vue is a small boutique winery founded by Naji and Jill Boutros. After living in the US and London, the Boutros had a dream to return to Lebanon and initiate a project which could help revive the disheartened local community of the small mountain village of Bhamdoun, where Naji had grown up. Having a passion for wine and already aware of the historic reputation of the village's terraced vineyards, they decided to plant their first vines in the spring of 2000. With their Bordeaux-trained oenologist Diana Salameh they continue to work in partnership with the local community to make small production, hand-crafted wines. All the grapes they process are grown in their valley and are harvested by neighbours and friends, making this truly the efforts of the whole village. The mere 500 cases they produced in their first vintage quickly sold out. They are now processing about 23 tonnes of grapes from 12 hectares approximately 2,000 cases. Not only is this a heartwarming story, but the wines are top-notch
and structurally the closest to a Bordeaux style that can be found in Lebanon.
Domaine de Baal is a relatively new winery, founded by Sébastien Khoury (a cousin of the founders of Château Khoury), whose maiden vintage was 2006. From 5 hectares based on rocky calcareous soil (another 3 hectares will be ready to harvest next year) he is currently producing 3,000 bottles, and only making two wines: a white blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. About 70 per cent of production is red. Sebastien's first vintage was riddled with challenges. With the outbreak of war in the summer of 2006, he was forced to be resourceful when his French steel tanks failed to arrive in time for the harvest. Now that things are more established, I can hardly wait to taste what will be coming out of this promising venture.
Château Khoury is located on a 15-hectare property above the city of Zahlé. At an altitude of 1,300 metres, it is one of the highest wineries in Lebanon and receives substantial snow in the winter. Founded in 2004 by Raymond and Brigitte El Khoury, it has had wines made by their capable son Jean-Paul since 2005. He joined his parents after finishing his studies in oenology at the University of Reims, France. Château Khoury is the first and only producer to plant Alsace varieties in Lebanon (Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and Riesling), a move inspired by French-born Madame El Khoury's Alsace heritage. Khoury wines were only released into the market a year and a half ago, approximately 25 per cent being exported. Production varies from vintage to vintage, currently sitting at around 40,000-45,000 bottles per year. Château Khoury is also the only producer with their own water purification station on the property in order to lessen their impact on the surrounding land.
There are currently about 20 wineries in Lebanon, and I was not able to visit all of them. The producers I missed include: Château Fakra, Cave Kouroum, Heritage, Nabise Mont Liban, Clos de Cana, Karam Winery, Château Ka (Kassatly), Terres et Vignobles, Côteaux du Liban and Kfifane.
See below for tasting notes on current Lebanese wines.
Karam, Michael, Wines of Lebanon, London, Saqi Books, 2005.
Karam, Michael, Chateau Ksara 1857-2007: 150 Years of Winemaking, Lebanon, Chateau Ksara in conjunction with Vine house Media.
Lebanese wines the tasting notes
Ch Musar, Cuvée White 2007 Bekaa Valley
A blend of all white varieties (Chardonnay, Viognier, Vermentino, Obeideh) excluding Merwah. Full malolactic fermentation. Beautiful and pronounced aromatics of apricot, peach, apple and almond blossom. Dry and medium to full bodied accented with fresh acidity. A very harmonious blend with no single variety standing out, round and curvy on palate with lemon drops, candied pineapple, apple and peach. Nearly seamless. (LG)
Ch Musar, Cuvée White 2006 Bekaa Valley
A blend of all white varieties (Chardonnay, Viognier, Vermentino, Obeideh) excluding Merwah. Nose of ripe apple, peach, lemon, honey and yogurt (some slightly lactic aromas). Dry and medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity. Ripe and round on the palate, has lost some of the fresher and more delicate aromas found in the 2007. (LG)
Ch Musar, Cuvée White 2004 Bekaa Valley
Obeideh. Dry, medium bodied with fresh acidity. Custard, lemon, honey, beeswax, honeysuckle. With a little time, aromas then progressed into fresh green herbs, pear and lemon chiffon. (LG)
Ch Musar, Cuvée Rosé 2007 Bekaa Valley
Dry and medium bodied with crisp acidity. Cherry, cooked strawberry, rhubarb, roses, red currant, sweet herbs. Structured with ripe phenolics and complexity. (LG)
Ch Musar, Cuvée Red 2006 Bekaa Valley
Cinsault, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Complex nose of pomegranate, cherry, cassis, rhubarb, game, mint/eucalyptus. Dry, full bodied with velvety tannins rounded out with aromas of bushberries, cherries, rhubarb, cassis, game and cured meat. Savoury, long finish. (LG)
Ch Musar, White 2001 Bekaa Valley
Blend of two local varieties, Merwah and Obeideh. Both varieties are partly fermented in oak barriques where they mature for a further 9 months. They are then blended, bottled and aged for a further 4 years before release. 25% new barriques each year. Intense nose. Dry, full-bodied with more subdued aromas on palate of lemon, cashew, coconut, marzipan, toast. Round and strong with a lasting finish.
Ch Musar, White 2000 Bekaa Valley
Blend of two local varieties, Merwah and Obeideh. Both varieties are partly fermented in oak barriques where they mature for a further 9 months. They are then blended, bottled and aged for a further 4 years before release. 25% new barriques each year. Dry and full bodied. Round and rich on the palate with lemon, pear, vanilla, pudding, butter and yogurt. (LG)
Ch Musar, White 1991 Bekaa Valley
Blend of two local varieties, Merwah and Obeideh. Both varieties are partly fermented in oak barriques where they mature for a further 9 months. They are then blended, bottled and aged for a further 4 years before release. 25% new barriques each year. Dark tawny-pink colour. Nose of raisins, papaya, candied pineapple, brazil nut. Dry, full bodied and pronounced with noticeable tannin (yes tannin in a white!) and acidity. A definite toasty nut-skin character. (LG)
Ch Musar, White 1989 Bekaa Valley
Blend of two local varieties, Merwah and Obeideh. Both varieties are partly fermented in oak barriques where they mature for a further 9 months. They are then blended, bottled and aged for a further 4 years before release. 25% new barriques each year. Loads of baked apple reminiscent of vintage champagne with an old Chardonnay-like character, along with coconut and brazil nut. Dry and full bodied still showcasing crisp acidity. A very complex wine. (LG)
Ch Musar, White 1981 Bekaa Valley
Blend of two local varieties, Merwah and Obeideh. Both varieties are partly fermented in oak barriques where they mature for a further 9 months. They are then blended, bottled and aged for a further 4 years before release. 25% new barriques each year. Bouquet of butterscotch, marshmallows, cooked apple and lemon. Dry and full bodied with tart acidity. Very granny-smith apple on palate, with mineral notes. Very long, toasty caramel finish. (LG)
Ch Musar, White 1967 Bekaa Valley
Blend of two local varieties, Merwah and Obeideh. Both varieties are partly fermented in oak barriques where they mature for a further 9 months. They are then blended, bottled and aged for a further 4 years before release. 25% new barriques each year. Deep caramel colour. Dry, full-bodied with marked acidity. Vegetal character, with cooked apple, nuts and hay. (LG)
Ch Musar, White 1964 Bekaa Valley
Blend of two local varieties, Merwah and Obeideh. Both varieties are partly fermented in oak barriques where they mature for a further 9 months. They are then blended, bottled and aged for a further 4 years before release. 25% new barriques each year. Pronounced nose of caramel, candied fruit, pineapple and floral perfume. Dry, full bodied and pronounced. Complex with aromas of beetroot, banana, pineapple, pear. Remarkably fresh on palate with piercing acidity and long finish. (LG)
Ch Musar, Mosaic Red 2007 Bekaa Valley
Mosaic is a brand made specifically for the UK market. Dry and full bodied with super sweet fruit aromas on nose. Well structured tannins with wild blueberry, cassis, exotic spice, game and meatiness on palate. (LG)
Ch Musar, Mosaic Red 2006 Bekaa Valley
Mosaic is a brand made specifically for the UK market. Deep ruby colour, dry and medium to full-bodied. Leaner than 2007 with cherry, plum, cassis and blueberry aromas. (LG)
Ch Ksara, Château Blanc de Blancs 2007 Bekaa Valley
Blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon, 20% Chardonnay. No malolactic fermentation. Dry and full bodied with aromas of hazelnut, toast, lemon, creamed corn and apple framed by crisp acidity. 13% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Cuvée du Pape Chardonnay 2006 Bekaa Valley
Called "Cuvée du Pape" because the first year this wine was produced 1996 was the year the Pope visited Lebanon. Barrel fermented, portion of malolactic fermentation. Apple, lemon, almond, banana and toast on nose. Dry and full bodied with fresh acidity. Fairly lean and elegant on palate with apple, lemon, bitter almond, sour yogurt with a long finish. 13% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Blanc de l'Observatoire 2007 Bekaa Valley
Clairette & Muscat. No malolactic fermentation. Very aromatic nose showcasing Muscat character, with floral, peach, apple, lychee, orange blossom and lemon aromas. Dry and medium bodied with soft feel on palate, more subtle than bouquet with lemon, orange blossom, hints of caramel, cream. 12% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Sunset 2007 Bekaa Valley
60% Cabernet Franc, 40% Syrah. Bright cotton candy pink colour. Cherry, strawberry and sweet beets on nose. Dry and medium bodied with straightforward palate of cherry, strawberry and red currant. 13% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Gris de Gris 2006 Bekaa Valley
Grenache Gris and Carignan. Light salmon pink colour with a delicate nose of lemon, pink grapefruit and floral notes. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity. Faint cherry, cassis, lemon, grapefruit and wild flowers on palate. 13.5% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Cuvée de Printemps 2006 Bekaa Valley
Tempranillo and Gamay. 5-6 days carbonic maceration, then cool fermented for remainder. Medium ruby colour with very concentrated sweet, bright red fruit on nose almost candied cherry, raspberry, blackberry, stewed strawberries and jolly rancher candies. Dry with light to medium body. Fruits on nose mirrored on palate, fun and easy-drinking red. 12% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Le Prieuré 2005 Bekaa Valley
Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon. Funky, gamey, smoky nose with cherry, cassis, boysenberry, clove and pepper. Dry and medium to full-bodied with young and slightly unruly tannins. Aromas of clove, earth, cherry, pepper, smoke and cassis on palate. 13% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Réserve du Couvent 2006 Bekaa Valley
30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 40% Syrah. 6 months in barrel followed by another 6 months in tank prior to bottling. Cherry, cassis, spice, pepper and blackberry nose. Dry and full bodied with tame tannins. Nose follows through onto palate with a medium-long finish. 13% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Le Souverain 2004 Bekaa Valley
This is part of their top range. 2004 was first vintage of Le Souverain Limited Edition for 150th Anniversary. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Arinarnoa (local variety). 100% new barrels for 2 years. Cherry, cassis and black licorice nose. Dry and full bodied with refined tannins. Cherry, cassis, liquorice, blackberry, white pepper and faint meat spice on palate with long finish. 13.5% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Troisième Millénaire 2003 Bekaa Valley
This is part of their top range. Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot. 2/3 new barrels, 1/3 old barrels for 18 months approx. Cherry, cassis, meaty spice, pepper and a touch of cigar on nose. Dry and full bodied with refined, good quality tannins. Pronounced aromas of blackberry, cassis and spice. What mahogany would taste like. 13.5% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Troisième Millénaire 2004 Bekaa Valley
Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot. Dry and full bodied with velvety tannins and subtle hints of spice, cherry, cassis, blackberry and strawberry on palate. Not quite as decadent as the 2003. 14% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Cuvée Speciale 2003 Bekaa Valley
1/3 new barrels, 2/3 old barrels for one year. Blackberry, cassis, cured meat, umami, pepper and ripe black fruits on nose. Dry and full bodied with structured tannins and pronounced aromas of blackberry, cassis, meat, black pepper and soy. Medium-long finish. 13% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Château Ksara 2002 Bekaa Valley
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot. Meaty character fleshed out with black cherry, blackberry and cassis notes on nose. Dry and full bodied framed by muscular tannins, with pronounced aromas of cherry, blackberry, cassis, pepper and old leather. 13% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Château Ksara 1999 Bekaa Valley
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot. Bouquet of licorice, cherry, cassis and aged leather. Dry and full bodied with slightly rough tannins. Lots of cherry, cassis, liquorice, leather and some spice on palate carrying onto the finish. 13% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Chateau Ksara 1996 Bekaa Valley
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Syrah. Beefy nose with savoury elements, leather and dark berry fruit. Really starting to develop interesting tertiary flavours. Dry and full bodied with softening tannins, blackberries, cassis, savoury herbs, cured meat and lead on palate. Real potential of this blend is beginning to show. 13% (LG)
Ch Ksara, Chateau Ksara 1985 Bekaa Valley
Carignan & Grenache. Moving from ruby into garnet colour. Complex nose of mint/eucalyptus, meat, earth, barnyard, cherry, cassis, pepper and clove. Dry, full bodied and pronounced on palate with good tannin structure still present. Cherry, earth, soy, cured meat, slight manure. Full of personality with a lasting finish. 13% (LG)
Ch Kefraya, La Dame Blanche 2007 Kefraya
Blend of Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, Bourboulenc, Sauvignon Blanc and Clairette. Pale straw colour with apple, nectarine, grapefruit and floral notes on nose. Dry and light-medium bodied with similar aromas on palate. Fresh and pleasant. 13% (LG)
Ch Kefraya, Blanc de Blancs 2007 Kefraya
Blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Clairette, Sauvignon Blanc and Ugni Blanc. Peach, apricot, citrus, grapefruit, honey and floral nose. Dry and medium to full-bodied with peach, apricot, ripe apple, beeswax and meadow flowers on palate. Nice and round. 13% (LG)
Ch Kefraya, La Rosé du Château 2007 Kefraya
A blend of six different parcels of Cinsault. Pale salmon pink colour, with cherry, strawberry and red currant on the nose. Dry and medium bodied with generic red fruit on palate. 13% (LG)
Ch Kefraya, Rosé 2007 #2 (not yet released) Kefraya
Medium salmon pink. Delicate red fruit on nose. Dryish and medium bodied with cherry, strawberry, raspberry and red currant on palate. Lighter red fruit aromas and more elegant than Rosé du Château. (LG)
Château Kefraya, Château Kefraya 2003 Kefraya
Deep ruby colour with cherry, cassis and raisin bouquet. Dry and full bodied with moderate tannin. Cherry, cassis, blackberry and dried fruit character verging on raisin and prune. 14% (LG)
Château Kefraya, Château Kefraya 2002 Kefraya
Ruby-garnet colour, with aromas of cassis, pepper, blackberry, savoury herbs, prune and raisin. Dry and full bodied, a little tannin structure left but most of the fruit is gone. 14.25% (LG)
Ch Kefraya, Comte de M 2002 Kefraya
Cabernet-Syrah blend the "Grand Cru" of Château Kefraya. 12 months French oak Dry and full bodied with moderate tannin. Cherry, meat spice, raisin, cassis, prune and roasted nuts on palate. 14% (LG)
Ch Kefraya, Lacrima d'Oro 2003 Kefraya
Made by adding alcohol to partially fermented clairette grapes. Bright deep gold colour, honey and peaches on the nose. Sweet and luscious with pronounced aromas of peach, apples and nuts. 15% (LG)
Ch Kefraya, Mistelle Nectar de Kefraya Kefraya
Made by adding cinsault-based alcohol to Ugni Blanc grape juice then aging for 6 years in barrel. Medium-deep gold colour. Sweet and full bodied with concentrated aromas of honey, ripe apple, caramel and nutty tones reminiscent of walnut and roasted hazelnuts. 18% (LG)
Massaya, Classic White 2007 Bekaa Valley
60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Obeideh plus a tiny amount of Clairette. Dry, light to medium-bodied with aromas of lemon, lime, popsicle, sugarcane juice, herbal with light floral notes. 13.5% (LG)
Massaya, Classic Red 2006 Bekaa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend, unoaked. Nose choc full of strawberry jam, raspberry, cherry, cassis and plum. Dry and medium bodied with light, friendly tannins. Cherry, plum, cassis and ripe cranberry on palate. 14.95% (LG)
Massaya, Silver Selection Red 2005 Bekaa Valley
40% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Mourvèdre Fermented in burgundian-style foudres. Juicy blackberries, bumbleberry pie, boysenberry, raspberry, cassis bouquet. Dry, full bodied with good tannin structure and cherry, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry on palate. 14.5% (LG)
Massaya, Gold Selection Red 2004 Bekaa Valley
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah. Strawberry, rhubarb, stewed cherries and cassis nose. Dry, full bodied with grippy tannins. Strawberries, rhubarb, black cherry, cassis and blackberry on palate. Very fruit forward and elegantly structured with a lasting finish. 14.5% (LG)
Nakad, Prestige 2007 Bekaa Valley
Deep ruby purple colour. Black cherry, blackberry, raspberry, pomegranate and faint floral notes on nose. Very unadulterated, pure fruit. Dry, full bodied with cherry, blackberry and deep black fruit on palate. Very strong tannins. (LG)
Nakad, Château Nakad 2007 Bekaa Valley
60% Syrah, 40 % Cabernet. Blended during fermentation, still in tank waiting to go into barrel when tasted. Deep inky purple colour, excellent concentration with lots of black fruit. 14% (LG)
Nakad, Château Nakad des Coteaux 2004 Bekaa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, Merlot. 12 months French oak, unfiltered. Deep inky purple colour, blackforest cake, dark cocoa, cassis, blackberry nose. Dry and full bodied with slightly gritty tannins. Lots of supple black fruit on palate carried over from nose, almost like drinking chocolate liqueur cherries. (LG)
CLOS ST THOMAS
Clos St Thomas, Les Gourmets Blanc 2007 Bekaa Valley
Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and 5% Muscat Blanc. Bouquet of grapefruit, apple, quince and banana. Dry and medium to full-bodied, with lots of banana and ripe apple and citrus on palate. Very ripe and round in the mouth with nice weight. Well blended as varieties complement each other without any variety overpowering the others. 13.5% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Chardonnay 2006 Bekaa Valley
100% barrel fermented. Lemon, citrus sorbet, apple, straw and canned corn nose. Dry and full bodied with pineapple, lemon, apple and corn on palate. Medium long finish, somewhat disjointed. 14.5% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Les Gourmets Rosé 2007 Bekaa Valley
Syrah, Cinsault, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Pale salmon colour with delicate strawberry and grapefruit on nose. Dry, light to medium-bodied with lots of strawberry, watermelon, grapefruit and guava on palate. 13.5% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Les Gourmets Rouge 2006 Bekaa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. Pronounced nose of raspberry, cassis, cherry and strawberry very juicy fruits. Dry and full bodied with young tannins and concentrated ripe red fruits carrying over onto palate. 13.5% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Les Gourmets Rouge 2005 Bekaa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. Red fruit on nose, with some spiced fruitcake notes. Dry and full bodied with moderate tannins and cherry, cranberry, cassis and baked red fruit in the mouth. 14% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Les Emirs 2005 Bekaa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache. Not yet bottled. Nice exotic spice showing through on nose in addition to red fruits. Similar aromas on palate, dry and full bodied with nice tannin structure a bit of a show-off! 14% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Les Emirs 2004 Bekaa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache. Dry and full bodied with fine tannins. Cherry, cassis, stewed strawberries, rhubarb and restrained spice notes. 14% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Les Emirs 2003 Bekaa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache. 12 months in older oak. Cherry, cassis, bush berries, brambleberry nose. Dry and full bodied with still muscular tannins. Pronounced cherry, plum, cassis and raspberry on palate more intense than on nose. 14% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Château St Thomas 2005 Bekaa Valley
Merlot (dominant) and Syrah. Exotic spice, red fruits, ripe watermelon and roses with hints of caramel. A lot going on. Dry and full-bodied with polished tannins. Long toffee-like finish. Follows in footsteps of 2004. 14% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Château St Thomas 2004 Bekaa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon (dominant), Syrah, Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot. Yielded 800g per vine. 18 months in new oak. Sexy nose of pomegranate, exotic spice, cassis and black cherry. Dry, full bodied with very polished tannins. Pronounced aromas similar to bouquet, along with some savoury herbs. 14% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Miel du Clos 2005 Bekaa Valley
Muscat de Hambourg. Made by adding alcohol to half fermented must. Medium red garnet colour. Complex nose of rose petal, sweet turnip, beets, rhubarb and sweet dried flowers. Sweet and medium to full-bodied with raisin, dates, plums, rhubarb, stewed fruits and dried flowers on the palate. 18% (LG)
Clos St Thomas, Délice 2005 Bekaa Valley
100% Grenache. 3 months in barrel, made as a vin doux nature, almost port-like in style. Medium deep garnet colour with a meaty, savoury-sweet nose. Sweet, medium to full-bodied with aromas of raisins, dates, dried fruits with some delicate clove and meat spice. 18% (LG)
DOMAINE DE BAAL
Dom de Baal, White 2007 Bekaa Valley
Tank sample. 55% Chardonnay, 45% Sauvignon Blanc. French oak 35% new barrels for 8-10 months. 30% barrel fermented. Elegant, fresh fruit character with balanced use of oak. Lots of Sauvignon Blanc character. Balanced and classic wine. 13.5% (LG)
Dom de Baal, Red 2006 Bekaa Valley
Barrel sample. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Syrah. Natural yeast, minimal handling, no aeration, no filtering and no fining. 16-18 months in French oak Very supple, feminine nose flaunting violet, cassis, cherry, ripe plum. Dry and full bodied with quality tannins. 15% (LG)
Dom de Baal, Red 2007 Bekaa Valley
Barrel sample. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Syrah. Natural yeast, minimal handling, no aeration, no filtering and no fining. 16-18 months in French oak Very ripe fruit nose with generous amounts of cassis, strawberry and field berries. Dry and full bodied with concentrated red fruit aromas on palate with fine, structured tannins. 15% (LG)
CLOS DE CANA
Clos de Cana, Cuvée Lamartine 2002 Bekaa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot. Earthy nose with spicy notes of cumin, lots of thyme and pepper, along with subtle red fruit. Dry and full bodied with approachable tannins, more fruit was displayed on palate, cassis and cherry complemented by almost garrigue-like notes of earth and dried herbs.
DOMAINE DES TOURELLES
Dom des Tourelles, Rosé 2006 Bekaa Valley
Strawberry, cherry, cotton candy on nose. Dry and medium bodied with similar red fruit on palate: strawberry, cherry, red currant with some floral layers. 13% (LG)
Dom des Tourelles, Domaine des Tourelles 2004 Bekaa Valley
Aromas of cherry, cassis, earth, mushroom, raisin and prune. Dry and medium to full-bodied with moderate tannins. Palate of dried fruits, earth, stewed mushroom a little funkiness. 14% (LG)
Dom des Tourelles, Domaine des Tourelles 2006 Bekaa Valley
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah. Buckets of black fruit and raspberry on nose with almost carbonic maceration like character. Dry and full bodied with light tannins. Great concentration and freshness with red and black fruit carried onto palate, although lacking structure and personality. 14%
Dom des Tourelles, Marquis des Beys 2005 Bekaa Valley
Triple meaning of Beys referring to the city of Beyrouth (Beirut), the local word for "master" and play on French word for berries (baies). 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Syrah. 2 years in French and American oak. Dark, plush, sexy nose. Deep black fruits: blackberry, cassis, raspberry, boysenberry and black cherry. Dry, full bodied with velvety tannins. Intense aromas of black fruit adorned with sultry exotic spices and peppercorn. 14% (LG)
CHÂTEAU BELLE VUE
Ch Belle Vue, Renaissance 2003 Mount Lebanon
Deep purple ruby. Blackberries, black cherry, cassis, cured meat, spice, cedar, earth on nose. Dry, full bodied with velvety tannins. Standing up incredibly well considering vintage still a very young wine. 13.5% (LG)
Dom Wardy, Clos Blanc 2007 Bekaa Valley
Blend of all white grapes (50% Chardonnay, 45% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Viognier). Aromas of apple, citrus, nectarine, pineapple, melon and almond. Well balanced with a long finish. 13% (LG)
Dom Wardy Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Bekaa Valley
Lemon, sweet pea, sweet herbs, honeydew melon on nose. Dry and light bodied with aromas from nose carrying onto palate along with a little unripe peach. 13.5% (LG)
Dom Wardy, Perle du Château Chardonnay 2006 Bekaa Valley
Classic lemon, apple, sweet corn and light condensed milk on nose. Dry and full bodied with impression of sweetness, very round mouthfeel. Butterscotch, stewed apple, light spice on palate with a butterscotch finish. 14% (LG)
Dom Wardy, Rosé du Printemps 2007 Bekaa Valley
Light candy apple red. Cherry, strawberry, pepper, red currant, ripe watermelon. Tiny bit of residual sugar (3.2g/l), medium bodied with strawberry, watermelon, cherry, red currant and light pepper mirrored on palate. 13.5% (LG)
Dom Wardy, Terroir 2005 Bekaa Valley
2 years in inox before bottling. Blackberry, raspberry, cassis and a little pepper and spice on nose. Dry and full bodied with slightly astringent tannins. Concentrated black cherry, cassis, overripe blueberry, berry pie on palate. 13% (LG)
Dom Wardy Merlot 2005 Bekaa Valley
Cherry, cassis, game, plum, red berry aromas. Dry and full bodied with powerful tannins. Same fruit in the mouth with the addition of a little spice and pepper. 13.5% (LG)
Dom Wardy Syrah 2005 Bekaa Valley
Cherry, cassis, candied violets, plum, pepper and spice on nose. Dry, full bodied with supple tannins. Cherry, strawberry jam, plum, pepper, cooked blueberries and floral notes on palate. 13.5% (LG)
Dom Wardy Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Bekaa Valley
Stewed spicy fruits, wild berries, cassis, clove, brambleberry and meat spice aromas. Dry and full bodied with muscular tannins and sweet cured meat, spiced fruit pie, cloves and pepper on palate. 13.5% (LG)
Dom Wardy, Château les Cèdres 2002 Bekaa Valley
33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Syrah, 33% Merlot. (2006, 2007 blend changed, and Tempranillo added.) Cherry, cassis, cured meat and rubber on nose. Dry and full bodied with well structured tannins. Rugged palate of cherry, cassis, meat, earth and blackberry. 13.5% (LG)
Ch Khoury, Rêve Blanc 2006 Bekaa Valley
Dry and light bodied with crisp acidity. Aromas of citrus, lemongrass, herbs, lemonbalm, wildflowers, honey, beeswax. Fresh, lengthy finish. 13.5%
Ch Khoury, Cuvée Ste Thérèse 2005 Bekaa Valley
Dried fruit on nose. Dry and full bodied with moderate tannins. Aromas of raisin, licorice, prune, cassis, cherry and pomegranate. 14% (LG)
Ch Khoury, Symphonie 2004 Bekaa Valley
Blend of 25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 25% Syrah. Dry and full bodied with fine, structured tannins. Deep red fruit aromas, earthy layers, licorice, cherry, cassis with a long finish. 14% (LG)
Ch Khoury, Pérséïdes 2005 Bekaa Valley
50% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc. Dry and full bodied with fine grained tannins. A lot of weight in the mouth with plump blackberry, cherry, cassis, plum, raisin, cocoa and subtle spice (cedar, clove, meat spice). 14% (LG)
Ch Khoury, Pinot Gris Vin Doux Naturel 2005 Bekaa Valley
67 months in tank prior to bottling. Medium straw colour with a delicate nose of pear, apricot, honey, field flowers and apple. Sweet and medium to full bodied with a slightly grainy mouthfeel. Apple cider, flowers, pear and citrus on palate. Pretty and graceful wine. 15% (LG)