Lebanese Pinot? Why not?

Pinot Noir

“Whenever I drink Syrah I look to the Rhone and whenever I drink Pinot Noir I think of Burgundy.” Thus proclaimed Martin, a passionate wine enthusiast from South Tyrol. I guess being a German-speaking Italian, it’s hardly surprising that he should always think of a spiritual home.

As a purist he was polite, but not gushing, about our Syrah, but what was encouraging was that he didn’t throw up his arms in horror at the Lebanese Pinot Noir he was served over a memorable dinner in Batroun last Thursday night, during which that and three other diverse Lebanese reds were used to wash down a wonderful assortment of fish dishes (yes, yes, I know, but it was one of those evenings).

Why might he have done so? Well Pinot may give great results but it has an, albeit unfair, reputation as a tricky grape to work with. So far, 99% of Lebanese producers have given it a wide berth. Too much trouble they say.

Not for Jean-Paul Khoury of Chateau Khoury whose Pinot it was and which he blends with Caladoc for his Cuvee St Therese. Originally bottled for a Riedel glass tasting held in late spring to launch the Wines of Lebanon @ Tawlet initiative, it was initially deemed too harsh by the Riedel taster, but as the evening progressed, the wine softened to deliver a wholly unique experience.

A few weeks later in mid-May, Joe Touma, the winemaker at Chateau St Thomas took his Pinot Noir to the London International Wine and Sprit Fair, where again one could taste the tell-tale Pinot character layered with definite Lebanese DNA.  This is what Harpers Wine Weeklyhad to say about it: “This uniqu

A south Tyrol vineyard

e example has a nose of currant, fig and ripe red fruits, leading to a succulent fruited lively palate and a smooth finish”.

Jolly good! So here were two wines that retained the Pinot’s silky body and perfumed aromas, while still reminding the palate of the sun-baked Bekaa and doing all this without throwing up the ‘jam’ one might expect from such an early ripening grape in a hot climate. Maybe, altitude and the cool Bekaa nights have contributed to helping the Pinot cling to its aromas and acidity.

Either way, both wines prove it can be done if one is prepared to work with such a tricky grape. What excites me is there is now another style of Lebanese wine for me to taste.  Is it essentially Lebanese in style? No I don’t think so, but it’s fun nonetheless and that’s what counts, non?


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Daniel J said,

    Hello Michael, is the St. Thomas pinot also a blend or is it pure pinot?

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