14 Jan 2011

Wines of Lebanon 1

Lebanon is where I am right now. I have forgotten my camera-to-computer link, so no pictures yet, and just a very short story about the wines I am tasting and some of the places I have visited so far.

Lebanese wines go back a very long way in time. In fact one of the earliest wines whose origins were fairly precisely situated was Lebanese, since one of the wine amphoras found in a pharaoh's tomb in the Valley of Kings in Upper Egypt bears a mark saying something like this: "Black wine from the Mount Lebanon", adding a date and somebody's name. And this was about 1700 BC!

Since then wine has come and gone from this ancient region inhabited at the time by the Phoenicians, who were instrumental in spreading wine all around the Mediterranean. It was more or less wiped out by the muslims, but has hung on through the Christian minority and, since the end of the civil war, has gradually gained momentum again, to the point that there are currently about 35 wineries, of very variable sizes, operating in various parts of the country. About 90% of the production comes from the vast Bekaa Valley, which lies inland, behind a high mountain range, at around 900 meters above sea level. Here are the vineyards (and sometimes the cellars) all the main producers, whose wines are to be found on major export markets. These are Kefraya, Ksara and Musar. But there are many new wineries that have opened in the past ten years or so. Many are of very high quality.

I did an extensive tasting of Lebanese wines a couple of days ago and was very impressed with the reds (less so with the whites). I will be telling you in detail about these in a short while. For the moment, here are a few of my favourites from my tasting. The top wines for me are in bold type.

Château Musar 2001
Hochar Père et Fils 2004 (also from Musar)
Château Khoury, Symphonie 2004
Château Bellevue, La Renaissance 2005
Wardy Private Selection 2005
Château de Botrys, Château des Anges 2007
Domaine de Baal 2007
Domaine des Tourelles, Syrah du Liban 2007
Domaine de Tourelles, Marquis de Beys 2008
Massaya Gold Reserve 2008
Château Marsyas 2008

For the moment, I have been visiting wineries not in the Bekaa Valley, but in the coastal-influenced region north of Beirut, inland of Batroun. Tomorrow I head for the Bekaa for 2 days. More on this soon.

To read more about this and some conclusions from this tasting, you might look at my more recent posting, Wine of Lebanon 2