I was off to New York again today for a Master Class and tasting of Lebanese wines.
Am I loco? Who is their right mind would think of going to Lebanon? Since I like pushing the envelop, Crazy Vin wanted to at least try the wines and give them a chance to woo me.
The Master Class was conducted by Master of Wine, Christy Canterbury, a petite female who visited Lebanon last year. If she can visit and come back enthralled, then it’s worth considering.
Lebanon is not a big wine producing country. In fact it’s not even a very big country, barely the size of my home State of Connecticut. It produces only 9 million bottles total and has about 50 wineries. And 26 of them were at the tasting, including the Minister of Agriculture.
Lebanon also has something positive going for them: their French connection. French grapes and viniculture are part of their DNA. Although the wineries use mostly grapes with familiar names such as cabernet sauvignon and carignan, they also use 2 indigenous white grape varieties, obeiden and merweh. But their best wines were the reds; in fact some were outstanding.
The only winery that I was familiar with was Chateau Musar but that was not the best winery there, in my opinion. The moderator selected the best of the best to present so here they are:
Chateau Barka 2016 Barka White- a 4 grape blend that was aromatic
Batroun Mountains Riesling 2015- 100% riesling short on acidity but with good varietal aroma
Chateau Ksara Chardonnay 2014- from a single vineyard of 30 year old vines, golden color. This is one of the largest wineries with 2KM of historic underground cellars.
Chateau Marsyas 2013 White- a 50/50 blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc with chardonnay texture and the SB aroma and flavor. Lebanese SB is aggressive in line with New World interpretations
Chateau Ka 2012 Source Blanche, an intriguing blend of SB, viognier, muscat and chardonnay
Aurora Cabernet Franc 2013
Adyar Monastère de Mar Moussa 2012, lush aroma of ripe figs, still tannic
Chateau Fakra 2012 Pinacle de Fakra, a blend of cabernet, syrah and cinsault with dark cherry aroma and soft tannins
Chateau Kefraya Les Bretèches 2012- this is the 2nd largest producer and it was a supple blend of cinsault, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, carignan and mourvèdre
Atibaia 2011- only their 3rd vintage, a very nice effort blending syrah, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot
Chateau Belle-Vue La Renaissance 2009- this was the best red I tasted-full, round, muscular with good fruit and lots of soft tannin
Chateau Héritage 2008 Family Reserve-50/50 blend of cab sauvignon and syrah, still tannic after 16 years with tobacco overtones
Chateau Khoury Perseides 2008- this was my least appreciated wine of the class.
When you consider all this country has been through, it’s amazing that the wine culture is as vibrant as it is. Lebanon has gone from 2/3 wineries to 50 in under 20 years so it has an auspicious future. Hopefully things can settle so wine tourism can take place, because Wine Lovers will be there.