As some of you may know, I visited Lebanon for the first time this year and got to visit many wineries and to taste many different wines. Overall I was very impressed by the quality of what I found. I didn’t taste anything that wasn’t acceptable and most of what I tasted was very good indeed. Sometimes the prices would make the wines difficult to sell on the UK market, but then Lebanese wineries are mainly small boutique operations and making wine on that scale does unfortunately cost money. However some of the wines offered fantastic value for money and a great quality to price ratio, this delicious white from Domaine des Tourelles for instance.
One of the wineries that I visited was Château Ksara and they make a lovely, great value red wine that I have made this week’s Wine of the Week.
Founded in 1857 by Jesuit monks, Ksara is the oldest wine producer in Lebanon. Ksara had a bit of luck in 1898 when an extensive Roman cave system was discovered underneath the winery and this was expanded and repaired to become Lebanon’s only natural cellar system. It keeps at a steady 12˚C so is perfect to mature wine, as well as being an amazing place to visit.
Wine production flourished and by the 1970s Ksara produced well over a million bottles a years, 85% of all Lebanese wine. In fact it was so successful that the Vatican considered that it got in the way of the religious aspects of monastic life and so instructed the monastery to sell the winery. Château Ksara was bought by a consortium of Lebanese businessmen and has never looked back.
I was hugely impressed by the range of wines they produce. It seems to me that they make a marvellous range of wines that stretch from attractive, easy going wines – the Gris de Gris Rosé or the Blanc de Blancs – to superbly crafted serious wines that need time to show their true worth, wines like Le Souvrain, their Chardonnay and even their standard Château Ksara red blend.
Well, while you are waiting for those wines to come round you can drink this lovely more easy drinking red:
2011 Château Ksara Reserve du Couvent
Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
40% Syrah 30% Cabernet Franc and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, dry farmed without irrigation, cold fermented in stainless stell tanks and aged for 12 months in French oak barrels.
The colour is an enticingly deep and vibrant ruby.
The nose gives powerful wafts of rich cherry, blackberry and mocha, coffee notes together with a touch of earth too.
The medium-bodied palate is rich with sweetly ripe fruit, the generous fruit and ripe tannins make it soft and supple. The climate shows with a little bit of heat on the finish, but this is juicy, slightly herbal, lightly spicy, attractive and very drinkable indeed. Try it with lamb dishes, from roasts to tagines and casseroles – 88/100 points.
Available in the UK from around £9 to £11 per bottle, click here for stockist information, more stockists here, here & here
Available in the US from around $13 to $15 per bottle, click here for stockist information.
If you have never tried Lebanese wine before, or just never tried anything from Château Ksara before, I do urge you to give this wine a try, you will enjoy it.
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