2002 Chateau Ksara “Gris de Gris” Rose, Bekka Valley, Lebanon

Like in Egypt, winemaking in Lebanon has a long history, stretching back well before 1000 B.C. Lacking Egypt’s well preserved historical records, Lebanon cannot be sure when winemaking began, but records elsewhere show that at least as early as the Phoenician times, Lebanon was a world famous winegrowing region. Slightly more recently the famous temple of Bacchus in the heart of the Bekka valley is a testament to the Greek worship of the wine god in about 200 BC.

The Bekka Valley is the heart of Lebanon’s winegrowing region. It sits at about 3000 feet above sea level between two mountain ranges which ensure cooling temperatures and block precipitation to make the growing season very similar to that of California. Most of the grapes grown in the region bear the signs of French influence during colonial times: Alicante, Cinsaut, Carignan as well as a few other varietals including Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah. The region also produces two indigenous varietals, Obaideh (which some believe is Chardonnay) and another white varietal known as Merweh.

Chateau Ksara is one of Lebanon’s oldest operating wineries, and one of three that are relatively well known internationally. Ksara, which means “fortress” was built on the site of a large fortress established during the crusades and then later taken over by the Jesuits, but at that time the property had been producing wine for quite some time. In fact, the estate’s wine cellar, a deep natural grotto of limestone bears marks of being used for that purpose by the Romans.

Today Chateau Ksara farms about 50 acres of estate grapes (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon) on the property and about 900 acres throughout the Bekka valley and in other winegrowing regions in Lebanon.

Ksara’s grapes are organically grown without pesticides and herbicides, easily possible given the ideal climactic condition, and all harvesting is done by hand.

This wine is a rose made from Carignan and Grenache Gris. After picking, destemming and crushing, the grapes are given a short cold soak and then fermented in steel tanks at low temperatures and racked before it can undergo a secondary fermentation. It is fined and cooled to stabilize the wine, and then quickly bottled.

Tasting Notes:
A light rose color tinged with copper, this wine has a lovely nose that combines earthiness with tart citrus aromas of rosehips. In the mouth it is dry and refreshing, with excellent acidity and a mélange of flavors including kumquat, green apples, roses, and minerals.

Food Pairing:
This wine goes exceptionally well with Middle Eastern food of various sorts, from vegetables, to meat, to rice. Try it with a roasted eggplant and pepper salad with pita bread and tahini.

Overall Score: 8.5

How Much?: $11

This wine may be difficult to find in the US. There are other wines from Chateau Ksara available for purchase on the Internet, however.