Snapshots of 2011

Invading the UK

The generic campaign to promote Lebanese wine in the UK is now in its second year. Organized by the Union Vinicole du Liban (UVL), the campaign has seen Lebanese wine shift from being seen as an ethnic curiosity and begin to knock of the door of mainstream acceptance. The campaign is run by Madeleine Waters, a partner in Coco PR and who has extensive experience in promoting wine in the UK, most notably those of Napa Valley. There have been two hugely successful press trips to Lebanon which included Sara-Jane Evans and Tim Atkin, both MWs, food and wine writers Fiona Beckett and Fiona Sims and the Daily Telegraph’s popular columnist Victoria Moore.

Wines of Lebanon@Tawlet

The Lebanese are waking up to the fact that their country makes really good wines, and Tawlet, the popular “open kitchen” located in Mar Mikhael has helped spread the word. While its not championing home cooking from local producers with a dizzying rotation of local chefs and a different menu each day, Tawlet also has the finest selection of Lebanese wines of any restaurant anywhere in the world with nearly 50 labels from over 30 producers. The wines can be either bought to drink on premises or to take out at off trade prices.

Wines of Lebanon@Tawlet, began in mid-March after owner/partners Kamal Mouzawak and Christine Codsi invited me to join them promote Lebanese wines in the same way they promote homegrown produce. The initiative was launched with a Riedel “glass tasting” in May and we have held regular Lebanese wine appreciation classes since then. In August, Tawlet began its winemakers’ lunches, held every Friday. The response from the wine industry has been fantastic and we look forward to building on this exciting venture in 2012.

London International Wine and Spirits Fair 2011

In May, eight Lebanese wine producers – Chateaux Clos St Thomas, Ka and Ksara, Coteaux du Liban, Domaine des Tourelles, Domaine Wardy, Ixsir and the Karam Winery – went to the London wine fair under the banner of Wines of Lebanon, the first time that Lebanese producers exhibited on a fully generic stand. Tim Atkin and I gave a masterclass (the first of five in 2011). Tim has box office appeal and the class was sold out weeks before.

Madeleine Waters had the vision to organize the masterclass and for being able to convince Tim to lend his name to the project. The fact that he did demonstrates his belief in the product – in this case Lebanon and its wine.  The week created a tangible sense of team spirit among the producers who surely must have felt the clear benefits of appearing on a generic stand. It tells a story; it places wines in context; it is credible and, last but not least, it offers a one-stop-shop for the trade to sample a country’s wines.

Arblaster and Clarke

Another first was the arrival in November of the first group of 25 wine tourists from Arblaster and Clarke, the up-market wine tour operator. I really hope they had a unique experience and A&C come back because more of the same can only strengthen Lebanon’s presence on the global wine map. The positive feedback should also make its way back to the UK wine trade, where I am still mystified that more importers don’t have at least one Lebanese wine in their portfolio.

Derek Smedley MW

The tour was ‘led’ by Derek Smedley MW and his brilliant tasting notes can be found as part of his extensive wine library at (http://www.edwardparkerwines.com/smedleys-wine-library).

The most notable entry was a score of 94 given to a Krumna’s Sensations Private Selection 07, a wine that is not even on sale to the general public. The winery is in Niha and the wine can be found, for the time being, at Tawlet. Here is what Derek wrote: “The nose is wild full of hedgerow fruit lovely brambly herbal and spicy. The rich start to the palate is refreshed by red cherry and bilberry the layers of flavour giving lots of complexity. The mid palate is fleshy and sweet fruited but towards the back the red fruits tend to dominate and the finish has an exciting herbal rustic character”.

Road show

Also in November seven Lebanese wine producers – Châteaux Ka, Kefraya, Ksara and St Thomas, Domaine des Tourelles, Ixsir and the Karam Winery embarked upon a roadshow with tastings and masterclasses in Manchester, Bristol and London. A big thanks once again to Tim Atkin and also to Fiona Beckett for co-hosting the masterclasses.

See you all in 2012!

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