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Intro

Situated in the Levant region of western Asia, this ~10.000 km2 big country has a recorded history of around 7.000 years and was home to the Phoenician civilization.

A (wine) country rich in history and steeped in tradition yet the diversity is displayed beautifully by its wines. The strong French influence reflects in the grape variety plantings and the Phoeninacs civilization is deeply rooted in the desire of the winemakers to explore, discover and most importantly delight.

My point of view

I thought about breaking this down into 3 bullet points: The perfect mix, fine wine & value

  1. THE PERFECT MIX: It is not very often that you find a country which balances the act of tradition and innovation so well. Yes, they use well known varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay but they manage not only to add personality to them but make them distinctively Lebanese – Lively, resilient and welcoming.
  2. FINE WINE: Tasting all of these Lebanese wines makes me really eager/hungry and essentially rethink how to stock my own wine cellar and increasing the number of Lebanese wines.
  3. VALUE: Is it worth a journey? Absolutely, because the likelihood of you flying business but only paying economy have never been higher.

A few facts

  • Size of Lebanon (160 km long and at its max. 56 km wide)
  • To put this in perspective the total surface of Lebanon is around 4.3% of the United Kingdom.
  • In 1990 there were only 5 wineries: Musar, Ksara, Kefraya, Domaine de Tourelles and Nakad.
  • Nowadays we have around 40 wineries. 
  • Strong French influence, which reflects in the grape variety plantings. e.g.: Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, etc…
  • Climate: Long growing season, hot and dry but key to overcome heat is altitude.
  • Altitude is important – vineyards in Batroun (up to 1400m) and Bekaa Valley (up to 1200m).
  • Bekaa Valley (between 2 mountain ranges 1st. Mount Lebanon up to 2500m and 2nd Anti Lebanon Mountains up to 2800m)
  • A country rich in culture e.g.: Baalbeck International Festival in Bekaa Valley

Tasting notes

Below you will find my personal tasting notes for 9 different Lebanese wines including some suggestions for food & wine pairing and my glassware recommendations.

RP: Retail Price £ =<£15 / ££=£15-£30 / £££=>£30

2019 Massaya Blanc, Ghosn, Brunier & Hebrard Vignerons

Highlights & Insights

  • Wonderful intensity – floral, flint and savoury
  • Made in foudre and demi-muid barrels (~600l)
  • Obeidi (35%) Clairette (35%) Sauvignon Blanc (15%) Chardonnay (15%)

Price: ££

Tasting note

Aromatic style at first, followed by flint, gravel and wet stones. Stylistic have-way between Chablis and Assyrtiko. White floral nose with delicate tea like character and texture. I think for me this is Clairette component – reminds me very much of Chateau Simone in Palette. Great now but certainly can age.

Glassware

A classic white wine glass like the Zalto White Wine or Riedel Vinum Riesling would do great here.

Food & wine pairing

Pair this with seafood and shellfish. I could see this working nicely with braised mussels. Otherwise simply with your own homemade hummus.

2019 Massaya Rose, Ghosn, Brunier & Hebrard Vigneron

Highlights & Insights

  • Refreshing, aromatic and delightful
  • Your perfect alternative to Côtes de Provence Rose
  • 100% Cinsault

Price: ££

Tasting note

Aromatic and fresh with delicate red berry fruits and dried cherries notes Nicely done. Perfect alternative for your Provence rose not only colour wise. Delicious and flavoursome. Love this dry finish and slightly crunchy fruit component. I mentioned the French influence so if you like Côtes de Provence Rose – please try this.

Glassware

Your prefered white wine glass. Great for your Zalto White Wine or Riedel Vinum Riesling.

Food & wine pairing

Great on its own on a sunny day on the terrace. Try with your favourite nutes.

2019 Le Colombier Massaya, Ghosn, Brunier & Hebrard Vigneron

Highlights & Insights

  • Floral scented – roses and violets
  • Cinsault (35%), Grenache (35%), Syrah (15%) Tempranillo (15%)
  • Vin Plaisir = Fun Wine at its best

Price: ££

Tasting note

Vin Plaisir is written on the back label = I think that is the best way of describing it. Friendly, charming and fruit driven – it’s simply aromatic and inviting. Every variety shows here with the fruit of Grenache, the spicy character of Syrah with grounded pepper, and the textural element of Tempranillo. Great interplay here of fruit yet serious enough to keep you interested.

Glassware

Medium sized red wine glass. I like it out of the Riedel Syrah Performance or try the Nude Stem Zero ION Shield Powerful Red.

Food & wine pairing

Best paired with your charcuterie plate.

2017 Terrasses de Ballbeck, Ghosn, Brunier & Hebrard Vigneron

Highlights

  • High altitude vineyards with the most Rhône like feel to it.
  • Layered, complex and complete.
  • Grenache (55%) Mourvedre (35%) Syrah (15%)

Price: ££

Tasting note

I don’t know how you cannot think about Rhône valley wines wenn smelling this. Full of rosemary, thyme and a real garrigue like feel to it. So wonderfully perfumed and full of dark fruits but it carries it weight rather wonderful. It’s the best “Hello here I am” you can get from a wine – like the warmth of an eye contact followed by a loving hug.

Glassware

Medium sized red wine glass. I like it out of the Riedel Syrah Performance or try the Nude Stem Zero ION Shield Powerful Red.

Food & wine pairing

Your prefered choice of game birds would be great choice; just make sure to sear the meat to get a lovely crispy rind. The slightly smoky character of the wine will match this perfectly.

2017 Cape Est, Ghosn, Brunier & Hebrard Vigneron

Highlights

  • High altitude vineyards – Grenache (50%) Mourvedre (50%)
  • Perfumed and spicy (Baharat)
  • Great overall balance

Price: ££

Tasting note

Wonderful perfumed but the most surprising thing is the sheer burst of fruit on the palate. There is a slight flinty, earthy undertone here, something intriguing although a bit wild and plenty of spices…Think of Baharat (blend of Black pepper, cardamon, cumin, cloves, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and paprika). Big wine, full of flavours and a mediterranean spirit.

Glassware

Medium sized red wine glass. I like it out of the Riedel Syrah Performance or try the Nude Stem Zero ION Shield Powerful Red.

Food & wine pairing

Slow cooked lamb leg rubbed with as many spices as you can find.

2018 Domaine de Tourelles White

Highlights & Insights

  • Masterfully blended and perfectly balanced
  • 65% Viognier, 20% Chardonnay, 10% Obeidi & 5 Muscat
  • Great weekday wine.

Price: ££

Tasting note

Viognier for me always add more body and this slight white peach layer to it but this particular example has the advance of getting the floral slight rose petal lift of Muscat with the creamy character of Obeidi and Chardonnay. Fuller in style but intriguing and very very enjoyable. Slight bitter nutty note which gives this beautiful dry finish to it.

Food & wine pairing

Try with Vacherin / Mont d’Or cheese.

2018 Cinsault Vieilles Vignes, Domaine des Tourelles

Highlights & Insights

  • Fruit driven with earthy undertone and great length
  • Possibly the best Cinsault I have ever tried
  • 100% Cinsault from old vines

Price: ££

Tasting note

Aromatic and plenty of fresh strawberries and cherries. There is an underlying herbal quality to it. Cinsault like this is just so delicious, its juicy and fresh but at the same time a serious layered complex wine. Slight undergrowth flavour and notes of freshly cooked mushrooms. Impressive balance and overall quality. Yes, I want more of this -especially considering that Cinsault has a certain imagine of a workhorse grape, how untrue when you try this.

Glassware

Large sized bowl shaped red wine glass. Great out the Riedel Performance Pinot Noir. Give it space.

Food & wine pairing

Try with your veggie quiche or mushroom risotto.

2018 Domaine de Tourelles Red

Highlights & Insights

  • Beautifully crafted with a powerful intensity
  • Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) Syrah (40%) Cinsault (15%) Carignan (5%)
  • High altitude vineyards (1050m)

Price: ££

Tasting note

Instantly Syrah is on the forefront of this blend in terms of aroma, Its presence with the peppery nose is just lovely. Yet on the palate is the moment where Cinsault and Cabernet take CenterStage with a combination of red and black fruit harmoniously combined together.

Glassware

Medium sized red wine glass. I like it out of the Riedel Syrah Performance or try the Nude Stem Zero ION Shield Powerful Red.

Food & wine pairing

I always think you can pair wines like this with your stews so nicely or your classic French Cassoulet. The have the energy and the power to stand up to it. 

Video

Conclusion

The resilient nature of this people truly reflects in their wine, their sheer will of being natural born survivors shows in their lively, pure and most importantly unique wines!

P.S.: Tasting this wines would have not been possible without the support of Madeleine Waters from The Co Company and Richard Lashbrook MW and Emma Hunt from Thorman & Hunt.

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