Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lebanese Wine From Chateau Ksara

Last August during Wine Bloggers Conference 2015 I was able to sample a few Bordeaux styled red wines from Lebanon's Chateau Ksara.  They were the Château Ksara made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot grapes and oak aged for 18 months; the Cuvée IIIème Millénaire Ksara’s flagship red; and the 100%  Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines were big and bold wines with structure and plenty of tannins.  And priced very reasonably.

Wine making in what is today Lebanon dates back nearly 9,000 years ago and in Antiquity, from 3000 BC until Roman conquest, the Phoenicians exported wine throughout the Mediterranean. This trade pattern continued into the Middle Ages facilitated by Venetian merchants. Even when Lebanon was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire wine making was permitted for religious purposes allowing the Christian community to continue the tradition. In the mid 1850s, even with political strife occurring often, the modern Lebanese wine making industry commenced when Jesuit missionaries introduce new viticultural and vinicultural methods as well as new vines from French-governed Algeria  These priests planted vineyards in the Bekaa Valley which is known for its Mediterranean climate consisting of hot dry summers with cool nights,and its own natural water table from melting snow from surrounding mountain ranges. Indigenous varieties grown since the Phoenician period such as Marami and Baytamouni were replaced by French varieties such as Syrah, Chardonnay, and Cabernet-Sauvignon.

One of these vineyards would eventually turn into Chateau Ksara, the oldest and largest winery in Lebanon. The name translates to fortress as the current winery was the site of a fortress during the Crusader era.  The Jesuit priests and other Lebanese wineries persevered through two World Wars and more recently civil war and Syrian & Israeli invasions. Eventually the Jesuit fathers sold Chateau Ksara to its present owners to conform with the directives of the Vatican II synod. Today there are 33 wineries operating in Lebanon all based in the Bekaa Valley.

Last week while browsing a local wine store I noticed the familiar Cuvée IIIème Millénaire label. Then I noticed another Ksara option, the Blanc de Blancs ($11), a Bordeaux-ish white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Chardonnay. In general this is a nice wine, but a bit inconsistent with three noticeable sensations from nose to tail, but not fluid throughout. The nose is floral, the mid slightly nutty and creamy (four months in oak), and the finish is bright and acidic. For $11, well worth the buy.

Update 9/2/2016: I received a complimentary bottle during the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference of the same vintage of the Blanc de Blancs. The transition from start to finish was much more consistent with this bottle. A very nice value wine. Cheers.

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