Big Lebanese reds

I was recently asked by Executive magazine http://www.executive-magazine.com/ to provide a list of my dozen favorite full-bodied Lebanese reds.

For those who missed it, here they are.

Château Belle-Vue 2006

A blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine has a reddish purple hue with notes of bell peppers, leather and stewed fruit with a whiff of pork sausage. In the mouth, there is a lovely velvet texture with notes of plums and hints of cloves, leading to an outstanding finish. Winery makes only 18,000 bottles so these are not that easy to find, unless, I am reliably informed, you are dining at the Ritz Carlton in London.

Château Kefraya

Comte de M 2007

This behemoth of a wine is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It has a deep cherry hue with aromas of black pepper and thyme on the nose. In the mouth there it has a wonderfully elegant structure and a smooth finish. One of Lebanon’s most famous reds, and deservedly so.  The first Lebanese wine to be championed by US guru critic Robert Parker who was wowed by the ’96.

Château Ksara

Le Souverain 2006

Initially made to celebrate the winery’s 150th birthday, it has stayed on by popular demand. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon and the little-known Arinarnoa, it has a deep cherry hue with bell pepper and hints of figs on the nose. The Arinarnoa gives wonderful flavors of cassis and cured meats. Texture is silky, while the finish is dry and powerful.  

Château Marsyas

2007

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The color is a deep cherry hue. The nose is fruity and slightly toasted. In the mouth this sumptuous wine is balanced with a superb tannic spine dressed in a cornucopia of ripe forest fruits. A newcomer to watch, as is its Syrian stable mate Bargylus.

 

Château Musar 2003

A celebrated label made from Cinsault, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. All vintages are aged for seven years before release. The 2003 has a deep garnet hue and aromas of oranges and cinnamon with hints of berry fruits. In the mouth, there is a heady combination of peppers and fruits with hints of chocolate.

 

Château St Thomas

2006

A gentle giant made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. It has an intense dark cherry hue. Nose of strawberries and cinnamon. Texture is soft and warm and the tannins are integrated to give a wonderfully balanced drinking experience. Older vintages age wonderfully.

 

Domaine de Baal

2007

Wine from a micro-winery (only 12,000 bottles are produced each year) in Zahleh made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The color is dark purple and the aromas give off notes of black fruit with hints of soft peppers and licorice. In the mouth there are further flavors of blackcurrants, cloves and cured meats. The finish is powerful and sustained.

Domaine des Tourelles

Syrah du Liban 2006

Possessing a deep cherry hue. Nose is peppery with eucalyptus and roast coffee beans. Possessing a robust texture with nicely integrated tannins, there a lot of fruit on the middle palate and the finish is powerful and sustained. Good aging potential but drinking now. Syrah du Liban won many admirers at the recent London International Wine and Spirits Fair.

Domaine Wardy

Private Selection 2004

This elegant and suave wine is made with Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a dark ruby hue and an intensely smoky nose. Balanced in the mouth with a fruity finish. Good aging potential with well-integrated soft and velvety tannins.

Ixsir

Grande Reserve 2008

Ixsir is based in Batroun but has vineyards across Lebanon. Its top red is made with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has a deep purple hue and a menthol nose with hints of black pepper. Forest fruits on the mouth herald a sustained finish to bring out the spices.

Karam Winery

St John 2004

South Lebanon’s only producer (and no relation to moi). This gloriously playful red is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. It has a black cherry hue with a nose of chocolate, peppers and other spices. In the mouth, the tannins have developed well and in no way obscure the abundance of fruits that dance around the mouth. The finish is sustained and memorable.

 

Massaya

Reserve 2006

Massaya’s senior red is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Syrah. It has an intense cherry hue and a complex nose of green peppers, cloves and cedar. On the palate the texture is velvety and elegant. The tannins appear gradually and the finish smooth and underpinned with fruit.

Note: These wines are not for what people like to call easy drinking. They can be drunk now but most won’t have reached their best for at least seven to ten years after vintage, assuming, they are allowed to age properly. They should also be decanted at least three hours before serving.

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