One week late last year it was just one of those madly busy days, but there was something in my diary that I really did not want to miss: the Lebanese Tasting. I thought I would have to come by even if I could just whizz through the wines without chatting much to the producers. This is what happened.
It was taking place at the L’atelier des Chefs, conveniently located in Mayfair’s Wigmore Street. It was full of people swirling and gargling wine when I arrived. I had to change my plan slightly, as it would not have been an easy affair to do a speed tasting with crowds at the bar-counter-like table in the middle and not a single tasting glass to grab. The result is that I covered the wines of four producers only.
The whites were not really the highlights of the tasting. Ixsir’s Grande Reserve 2010 stood out with an individual personality mixing quite a bit of oak with fragrant flavours and a touch of oxidative character. Then there was the truly perfumed, yet in a way restrained Ixsir’s Altitude White 2010. More playful and charming was Chateau Ka Source Blanche 2010, whilst Ch. Ksara’s Chardonnay 2010 had a bit too much new oak in comparison to the weight of the fruit, methinks. I could well imagine the fragrant and perfumed whites with a salad when sitting at the Mediterranean in the summer.
The reds were really interesting, as they are witnesses of the variety of philosophies when it comes to extraction. Even looking at the same producer, there were reds, which had enjoyed gentle extraction and oak ageing, whilst others were really heavily tannic as a result of the winemaking and the oak use. Look at Chateau Ka’s Cadet de Ka 2007, a light ruby wine with soft mid-grained tannins, as opposed to their Fleure de Ka 2005, a deep purple firmly structured wine with tarry oak on it. Of course, you can argue that more serious wines demand more extract and plenty of oak to keep them going for a longer period of time. Yet, I feel that the combination of the ripeness of fruit and the spice of larger or second-fill casks results in wines more suited for food.
Having just said that, there are wines in this somewhat lighter style, which offer an array of flavours and spices, and their price level is definitely not at the lower end. Just think of Chateau Ksara 2007, a savoury deliciousness packed with cinnamon; or Chateau Kefraya’s Comte de M 2007, which was rounded with a mid-weight body and a complexity of spices, herbs and fruits.
I would love to hope that another opportunity to taste Lebanese wines will come up soon. I really would love to report in more detail about the abundance of spice, textural finesse and exciting flavours that seem to define modern Lebanese red wines.
Tasting notes in order of my tasting, scores may vary.
Chateau Ka Source Blanche 2010
Light lemon, floral nose – mainly camomile – followed by pear. Dry and fresh with fleshy fruits of apple and peach. Marked alcohol and a medium weight of body. 16.2
Chateau Ka Cadet de Ka 2007
6 months in second-fill barrels. Circa £7, but not available in retail at the moment.
Light ruby, tiny garnet rim. Dry, fresh and quite spicy body: cloves, black peppercorn; followed by cherry and raspberry. Mid-grain and very soft tannins. A bit of green tinge. 16.5
Chateau Ka Source de Rouge 2008
£8-10 at Waitrose.
Light ruby, tiny bit of orange. Restrained nose with cherries and some green tinge. Very light, marked acids, with flavours of cherry and geranium. Almost a bit earthy, but very delicious. 16
Fleur de Ka 2005
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. 18 months in barrel. Retail would be £20.
Deep purple. Paprika, rubbery and liquorice tones on cherry in the nose. Very fresh and dry on the palate. Tarry oak, quite a bit of mid-grain tannins, giving it a firm structure. 16.4
Ch. Kefraya Les Breteches 2008
Medium deep ruby. Medium intense nose with pine, highly toasted oak, cherry and raspberry. As if a bit savoury. Quite tannic. 15.4
Ch. Kefraya 2007
Medium ruby. Intense French oak nose with pine and bluecheese. Cherry, cloves, cinnamon in the nose, large grained and gripping tannins. Fresh. 16.1
Ch. Kefraya Comte de M 2007
£27-29. The bottle is decorated with Phoenician soldiers, though the colour of the label is a lingerie type creamy purple. Not sure about the colour. M is for Mystery, which makes it an intriguing story even before sipping the wine.
Light ruby. Cloves, pine, raspberry and rosemary. Less extracted, yet very firm structure. Rounded and mid-weight body. 16.4
Ksara Chardonnay 2010
50% new oak for 8 months. Battonage too.
Very light lemon. Medium intensity, a good strength of toastiness with quite a lot of vanilla. Ripe apples. Dry and a bit creamy. 16.1
Ksara Reserve du Couvent 2009
Highly fragrant, fruity nose with strawberry and raspberry. Meaty, pate, mint leafs and bay leafs. Very soft tannins. 16
Chateau Ksara 2007
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, 20% Merlot
Light ruby, very ripe red fruits, almost cinnamon lined and lots of savoury character. 16.4
Ksara Cuvee Illeme Millenaire 2008
40% Petit Verdot, 30% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Franc
Deep purple. Very lively and fragrant nose: lilies, sour-cherries, a touch of French oak with tarry and large grained tannins. 16.2
Ksara Le Souverain 2008
Deep ruby. Cherry, pine and bluecheese. Lovely supple tannins, fresh and packed with sweet spices of cinnamon and cloves. Smooth and soft. 16.7
Ixsir Altitude White 2010
6 months in second fill barrels.
Light lemon. Floral and perfumed nose. Rose, apple and peach. Very light, salty freshness. Medium finish. 15.9
Ixsir Altitude Red 2009
Medium deep ruby. Cherry, violets and blueberry. Cloves, French oak, toasty and with supple, but persistent tannins. Medium finish. 16.1
Ixsir Grande Reserve Red 2009
60% new oak.
Deep purple. Very concentrated sour-cherry, blueberry and violets. Meaty and smoky. Lots of mid-grain tannins. Fresh and firm, smooth texture. 16.6
Ixsir Grande Reserve White 2010
5 months in barrel.
Pronounced lemon, straw hue. Quite a lot of oak, oxidative tones, bruised apples, vanilla and peach followed by lemon zest. Medium finish. Carries creamy tones and fruits. 16.3