Call for UK wine trade to support Lebanon (and other thoughts)

get_imageThe battle cry in an editorial from Harpers Wine and Spirit to support Lebanese wine producers during this period of increased regional tension, is a first by the international media and a reflection of the goodwill created between the increasingly dynamic Lebanese wine industry and UK buyers, sommeliers, the press and of course consumers.

It is also, if any more were needed, proof that the brave decision by the Union Vinicole du Liban (UVL) to self-fund a generic campaign in the UK is beginning to reap a modest harvest. It can claim some of the credit for the editorial because of the hard work it has put into convincing the UK industry that Lebanon is a fascinating, warm and generous country worthy of its attention in a highly competitive global wine marketplace.

If further proof were needed that the UVL’s money has not been wasted, the public sector has finally woken up to the undoubted quality and further potential of Lebanese wine. The ministry of agriculture has pledged significant funding from the state coffers to boost Lebanon’s export potential and launch a local campaign to encourage Lebanese consumers to support their local industry and bust the myth that foreign wines are automatically superior to our own.

Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent

Reserve du Couvent 2011

Château Ksara’s mid range red has in many ways become a victim of its own success. The Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc blend is arguably the best selling wine in Lebanon but this exposure has also created a sense of ennui among consumers eager to try other styles and labels.

There is not much one can do about that except reinforce the fact that RDC is a very good red, one that punches above its weight and which surprising aging potential for a wine essentially made for immediate consumption. In the last week I have drunk two bottles of the latest vintage (2011), a reminder just why is virtually a national treasure. Freshness, fruit, and structure. They were all there purring away nicely like well-tuned engine. A week earlier I dug out a 2007 and thought “why not? We’ll give it a whirl”. Lo and behold there was life on the old boy yet. The tannins had softened as had the fruit, and the wine was giving lovely secondary aromas. A vertical tasting would be interesting.

RDC is on sale in the UK (Oddbins has it) while, Clos St Alphonse, a variation of RDC, is stocked by Marks and Spencer in the UK, France and Holland.

CROPKaram Winery Syrah de Nicolas1Nicholas Habib Karam (1912-2013)

Nicholas Karam, the father of Habib Karam owner of the Karam winery, south Lebanon’s only producer, died last week at the ripe old age of 101. Born during Ottoman rule and old enough to vividly remember Palestine during the mandate period, Nicholas Karam was part of a generation whose formative memories were not shaped by the current boundaries that divide the region in more ways than one. Habib tells me that he still has to wait a few weeks to pick his last grapes, which grow at around 1300 meters. Here’s hoping for a wonderful vintage to honor a remarkable man.



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