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05.09.2006

Vineyards Instead of Hashish Fields

OK, so maybe they shouldn't have pulled out ALL of the marijuana and opium poppies. On the other hand, better vineyards than civil war and UN sanctions.

You probably know that I have a curiosity concerning emerging and underappreciated wine regions, so I was pleased to come across a recent article about Lebanese wine. I had vaguely heard of Lebanese wine over the years, but my first chance to taste it was my trip to Egypt, where the very nice rosé we got with dinner was literally the only drinkable wine we had on the whole trip.

It was made by Chateau Ksara, which is one of the wineries featured in the article, whose numbers have gone from four in the Seventies to twenty now. The country currently has about 4000 acres of vineyards. These numbers make in miniscule in terms of the overall world wine production, but that doesn't faze Lebanese winemakers. They've been in the business long enough to eschew growth for quality, which is pretty darn cool.

So check out the article, and next time you see a Lebanese wine on the shelf, give it a try.

Comments (10)

05.10.06 at 10:15 AM

The last lines say it all: Wine isn't soft drinks. It's a culture, not a factory.

Michael wrote:
05.10.06 at 11:49 AM

A restaurant I used to work at here in Memphis served Chateau Musar, one of the oldest and most prominent wineries in Lebanon. It was, and still is, one of the best wines I've ever had. It always took quite a bit of salesmanship to get customers to order it. However, once they did they understood that experimenting a bit can be truly rewarding. It's a shame that a world-class wine growing region has to be in the midst of such turmoil.

wineglut wrote:
05.10.06 at 3:21 PM

Having a boss who was a wine collector and of a family originally from Lebanon I was exposed to Ch.Musar several times, even a vertical of some older vintages. I thought the wines were good (with a small g), but the youngest was about 10 years old, all seemed to me more than a little tired and showing a little too much French oak barrel.
I too love the less known regions and Lebanon certainly has an interesting history and is less well known, but with so many wines and so little time, not until I explore every grape variety and every nook and cranny of every island or strand of land in Greece, will I venture beyond into Lebanon or pay much attention to its wines.
Frankly I am more interested in obscure and indigenous grape varieties than another wine region trying to emulate Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Cote Rotie.

Todd Eng wrote:
05.10.06 at 10:44 PM

Interesting article, thanks Alder, and good timing. If you get a chance, Serge Hochar will be presenting the Chateau Musar wines at Swirl on Castro tomorrow evening (5/11).

cheers,

Todd

Bonnie wrote:
05.11.06 at 9:38 PM

Great article - thank you. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Lebanese wine food pairings (i.e. are they made to go with spicy dishes?).

Terry Hughes wrote:
05.14.06 at 9:21 AM

Apropos of "hashish", when I was in Turkey last month our guide told us that a certain ice cream vendor was famous for his HASHISH flavored goodie. I was thrilled beyond belief--the wines were occasionally interesting but nothing too exciting--but imagine my disappointment when the guide, horrified by our levity (or expectation of it!), explained that HASHISH meant plain old poppy seeds. Like on a bagel.

Alder wrote:
05.15.06 at 9:32 AM

Boy, doesn’t that just set you up for disappointment.

Alder wrote:
05.15.06 at 9:41 AM

Bonnie,

Thanks for the comments. As for wine and food pairing with Lebanese food, one of the most important things is to get a wine with good acidity that can stand up to the incorporation of lemon juice and other acids in foods like tabbouleh and some of their other mezze dishes. The whites and roses are best for those. Then with the meat dishes, their reds (which I have VERY limited experience with) seem to be well matched.

As for spicy, it's pretty tough to pair wine with the spiciest of Lebanese cuisine, which can get pretty hot in my experience.

Malcolm wrote:
05.19.06 at 5:17 AM

The main problem with Lebanese wine in the UK is that it is difficult to find - even at the London Wine Trade Fair that finished yesterday. Musar had a small stand, and Ksara had a table on the stand of their UK importer but the remining 18 or so wineries had no presence at all.

I have had Massaya, Kefraya and Ksara in the UK as well as Musar but you need to search for them. Unfortunately the Lebanese winemakers cannot agree with each other about anything so seem unable to get their act together to develop a "Wines of Lebanon" marketing initiative.

In the UK Musar is widely available and most people who know a little about wine would at least recognise the name. Unfortunately this is something of a double-edged sword - Musar is a pretty distinctive wine and people tend to assume it is characteristic of Lebanese wines in general, which can put some people off.

erik wrote:
05.29.06 at 12:50 PM

chateau musar is certainly a distinct wine - I wouldn't say that it tries to emulate bordeaux or cote rotie. however, the recent vintages have been more tired. Kefraya is perfectly up to that standard. Ksara is allright but not in the same league. The first two wines mentioned are quite elegant wines for the fullbodied perfumed version/californian style of cab-dominated red blends. Maybe its the cincault. But I am really no expert. And thanks for a good blog, Alder.

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