2011: A watershed year for Lebanese wine

2011 may prove to be a watershed year for Lebanese wine as I can reveal that Marks and Spencer recently announced that they would be carrying as many as three Lebanese wines by May of next year. Could this be the moment that Lebanese wine moves out of the Lebanese restaurant segment and into the consciousness of the mainstream consumer? We hope so. Now it’s just up to the producers to take advantage of this opportunity and really position Lebanon as the must-drink wine of 2012.

Outstanding wine of 2011: Domaine des Tourelles (white) 2010

Funny that t should be a white in a country more known for its reds, but I call it how I see it. DDT really did up its game with its white, a wine that I previously thought was the weak link it its entry-level trio. Not the 2010, a blend of 85% Viognier and 15% Muscat, which eclipsed the more celebrated rosé and red. This is not to everyone’s taste; a bit sweeter than consumers expect perhaps, but I found the sweetness to be carried by a wonderful freshness and the merest hint of savory flavors on the nose. In short, there is a complexity that belies its $8.60 price tag and it is not surprising that there are only a few bottles left. Under owner-winemaker Faouzi Issa, DDT is poised to be at the vanguard of the Lebanese charge for a genuine global breakthrough.

Winery of the year 2011: Ixsir

Ixsir, situated just above the North Lebanon coastal town of Batroun, is one of Lebanon’s newest producers and certainly the most glamorous newcomer to the local wine industry. The winery is a testament to the growing optimism within the industry and the burgeoning reputation of Lebanese wine in the world’s markets. It has shown what doing the basics well can do. The brand has captured the public imagination at a time when the Lebanese are waking up to the idea that their country produces world class wine. Ixsir is very much part and parcel of this new movement.

Other oustanding wines of 2011

Rosé: Ixsir Altitudes 2010 (Basbina, Batroun)

White: Marsyas 2009 (Kefraya, Bekaa Valley)

White (oaked): Chardonnay 2010 – Château St Thomas (Qab Elias, Bekaa Valley)

Red (Light and fruity): Maison 2009 – Karam Winery (Jezzine, South Lebanon)

Red (Medium bodied): Selection 08 – Massaya (Tanail, Bekaa Valley)

Red (Full bodied): Reserve 09 – Massaya (Tanail, Bekaa Valley)

Surprise of 2011: Pinot Noir – Château St Thomas (Qab Elias, Bekaa Valley)

Regional wine of the year: Domaine Bargylus 2006 (Jabal Al Ansariyeh, Syria)

Best Newcomer: Krumna (Niha, Bekaa Valley)

Winery to watch in 2012: Domaine de Baal (Zahleh, Bekaa Valley)

Best destination micro-winery: Coteaux de Botrys (Edde, Batroun)

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