Monday, 7 April 2014

A wine from Lebanon: Château Ksara Réserve Du Couvent 2011

Us lot here at Vinspire LOVE trying new and unusual things, particularly on the wine front. Avid followers will already know this from Jo's 'Unusual Wine Varietals' piece last month, Andrew's theory on 'why you shouldn't have a favourite wine', and even Laura's plea to 'Break The Habit' at the start of the year. So a tasting event called 'New Revolution' (at my trusty indie wine shop Tivoli Wines Cheltenham), which promised to "take me on a journey to wine growing regions that I wouldn't first think about when going to choose wines", sounded like the perfect opportunity to sample something different from somewhere different.

Different Schmifferent. It's all well and good straying from the norm, but it still has to taste good, right? Well, luckily I was in for a treat.

There were 8 wines in total; 2 from Indian producers Fratelli (an interesting Italian name choice), a Viognier from Greece, a Petritus from Cyprus (that almost rhymes), a Spanish red which isn't Rioja, just north of Portugal in fact, using 100% Mencia grapes (apparently on the rise), a Croatian Teran and a Greek Agiorgitiko (you try saying that after a few glasses!). My favourite of the night had to be the Lebanese red, Réserve Du Couvent 2011 from Château Ksara.

Château Ksara is Lebanon's oldest winery dating back to 1857 when a group of Jesuit monks acquired the property - it was only sold it to its current owners in 1973. The monks applied their knowledge of science and agriculture to plant French vines for the production of dry red wine, quite a contrast to the traditional sweet raisin-based wines of the country.

They also developed the two kilometres of underground caves, which proved ideal for the storage of wine, and are still used today. This makes Ksara not only the oldest, but the largest winery in the country too, and with over 150 years of experience, it's no surprise that they're consistently popular.

Despite the war-stained history and political conflict of Lebanon, Château Ksara have never missed a vintage. Nestled in the central and western Bekaa Valley (Lebanon’s premium wine area), the vineyards have a unique advantage of producing a microclimate; perfect then, for planting (in 1993) cabernet and syrah – the two varieties that now make up their ever-popular Réserve du Couvent wine. The combination of soil climate and a history of French colonialism help to make this Rhône/Bordeaux style cabernet/syrah blend a surprising choice, and if that potted piece of info doesn't make you want to try it, then maybe a bit about what it actually tastes like will...

The dark ruby wine has been matured for 12 months in oak casks before being blended, fined and bottled. The 2011 Réserve du Couvent contains 55% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. It's full of fruit and spice on the nose; "a complex aroma of cloves, vanilla and mulberry", and on the palate it shows it's elegance with supple tannins, giving it great length with a peppery persistence. It would be the perfect accompaniment to red meat and game, roast venison would be my shout, or even Middle Eastern dishes.

You can buy Château Ksara's Réserve Du Couvent from The Wine Society for £8.95, or Oddbins sell it for a tenner, though you could try asking at your nearest indie wine merchant - having a good relationship with your 'local' is the best way of broadening your wine horizons.

Anyway, this Old World/New World, New World in an Old World, Old World in a New World, mash up hurts my head. Ultimately, it's bloody delightful and is well worth scouting out. So what are you waiting for? Go forth... Get a taste of the unexpected and embrace the ‘New Revolution’.

Have you tried any Lebanese wines? Or wines from other unusual countries? Let us know!

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