Our love affair with eastern Mediterranean grapes is growing.
Domaine Des Tourelles Vieilles Vignes Cinsault, Lebanon, 2017 £13.99Winemaking in the Lebanon has an ancient heritage – one of the world’s oldest. But its modern-day style owes much to the French, who were the colonial masters here in the early 20th century. You can see their influence in another of the country’s biggest names, Domaine des Tourelles, founded in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon’s wine heartland, by François-Eugène Brun in 1868, and where the winemaker today, Faouzi Issa, learned his trade working at top French estates René Rostaing, in the northern Rhône, and Château Margaux in Bordeaux. The Tourelles range takes influences from both those regions, but conjures something very distinctive in the wine it makes from French grape variety cinsault, with its fresh cherry fruit and flavours of cinnamon and chocolate-raisin.
Musar Jeune Red, Lebanon, 2016 £16.99 The most famous vinous name in Lebanon – and the estate that did most to keep Lebanese wine alive during the civil war – is Château Musar. The company’s original charismatic driving force, Serge Hochar, died in 2014 – although all of the currently available vintages of the family’s top, eponymous estate, cabernet sauvignon-carignan-cinsault red blend predate his passing. Like top gran reserva Rioja (which in many ways Musar resembles, although it also has much in common with top Rhône and Bordeaux) these are wines that are mature on release but also age beautifully. I haven’t tasted it for a while, but I’d be tempted by the 2002 on offer for £30 at Roberson. I’d be happy, too, with the more upfront fruit and freshness of the Jeune Red wine by Hochar’s family from younger vines
Chateau Musar Hochar Père et Fils Red, , Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2019 £21.99 Hochar Père et Fils Red has often been described as the ‘second’ wine of Chateau Musar, as it does bear some resemblance to the ‘Grand Vin’ but the comparison stops there.Rich, spicy and aromatic, this robust red hails from a single Bekaa Valley vineyard planted with Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Grenache over 40 years ago. Five years in the making, with 9 months in French oak barrels, it’s full of smooth bramble fruit flavours, with hints of figs, dates and cedary spice.