Notes and Impressions from a VINIFEST 2017 visitor
Interesting show. Several good surprises, some of which can even be called amazing. Overall Lebanese wine quality still on an upward trend.
Lebanese Wine discovery:
Chateau Marsyas red 2012: Amazing. Elegant and rich, balanced and fault-free. A bordelaise structure with no overextraction, no overoaking. The star of the classic red show. Buy Chateau Marsyas red 2012 online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/chateau_marsyas_red_2012_red
Sept Syrah 2016: Wooowww. An attack overwhelmed by velvety and super elegant tannins clearly engulfing and totally covering the structure with a transparent veil of lace; after having enjoyed crossing this golden gate, one discovers a beautiful array of pastel and oil colours with not the slightest clash in site. Akin to the feeling of Colombus discovering the American continent. Yet still very young, but with the promise of extreme greatness. Biodynamic and selective parcel vinification. A marvelously memorable experience. Batroun heights. Buy Sept Syrah 2016 online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/sept_winery_syrah_de_nehla_2016
Vertical 33 Cinsault du soir 2015: totally unexpected. Is this wine or some sort of magic elixir. Never has any Cinsault offered this fine elegance with a touch of undescribable lightness combined with a fruitiness you'd think came from a newfruit of paradise. When I say unexpected i mean total departure from any previous conception of wine flavour profile. Is this a wine or a magic brew? Purists could complain about its extreme lightness combined with an unwinelike slight fruity sucrosity; they'd have nothing to compare it with; they would expect a layer of heaviness, a sting of bitterness, something to chew on. But no, nothing of this in this wine light and pleasant enough for any time of day, any occasion, any need to surprise one's senses. West Bekaa grapes. Buy Vertical 33 Cinsault du soir online 2015 https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/cinsault_du_soir_2015
Sept Obeideh: excellent. Feels like a concentrated thin straight line where you have to search but will be amazed by the mix of flavours you find within the rich and varied structure. It is flexible enough to pair well with foods of both higher or lower richness. Buy Sept Obeideh online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/sept_winery_obeideh_2016
Other very good discoveries: (in no particular order)
Syrah du Liban 2012: excellent, totally classic with an interesting syrah typicity. An unmistakably great lebanese red wine. Bravo Faouzi Issa, Domaine des Tourelles. Even better than the 2006 star. Central Bekaa. Buy Syrah du Liban 2012 online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/syrah_du_liban_2012_red
Qanafar red 2012: great follow thru after the very successful 2011. Definitely one of the great lebanese bordelais. Slight sucrosity but great structure. Blanc de Qanafar has improved and is vey good. The second red, Paradis has made a huge upwards leap. Buy Chateau Qanafar red 2012 online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/chateau_qanafar_2012_red
Muse rose 2016: excellent rose made from syrah monocepage. Elegance, faultless and no heavy acidity. Pity their white and reds are no way near the rose. Buy Muse rose 2012 online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/muse_le_rose
Tourba Petit Verdot red 2014: interesting and surprising as a monocepage; this varietal is normally added in very small proportion (typically 5%) to enrich Bordeaux style blends. Here, on its own its not bad at all. Buy Latourba Petit Verdot red 2014 https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/latourba_petit_verdot
Marsyas B-Qa: amazing second wine in both red and white. You don't feel it's a second wine with the red easily being the best at that price level. Buy Marsyas B-Qa online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/b_qa_de_marsyas_2013_red
Musar Jeune: in earlier years I had thought of this line as a wasted attempt at range extension. Not any more. It is now an excellent value line in all of the white, rose and red. A very decent entry level range that will not depreciate the Chateau Musar image. Bravo. Buy Musar Jeune online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/musar_jeune_white https://www.209lebanesewine.com/pages/chateau-musar
Bybline red: i could not avoid being attracted this year again by the amazing Musar-style Bybline. The same varietal blend Cabernet, Carignan, Cinsault planted in Wata Joz, kesrouan. It is a Musar near lookalike but with a bit less volatile acidity and brett effect. Those who appreciate the Musar style would enjoy it, particularly at half the price. Amazed it lasted 11 years. Buy Chateau Bybline online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/pages/chateau-bybline;
Karam rose: not bad at all. Faultless and interesting with any food. Buy Karam Rose online https://www.209lebanesewine.com/products/arc_en_ciel_2015_rose
Lebanese wines are definitely improving. There are much more quality wines than a few years ago. But the most interesting aspect is that new styles are appearing and this new variety of taste profiles and experiences is very pleasant. This novelty will not please everybody, particularly those fixated on Bordeaux style, but this extension will help attract a larger number of fans. I think it is great and the industry is going in the right direction.
Don't be surprised that I hadn't mentioned wines of Ksara, Kefraya or Ixsir . Not because I didnt like them, but because they were not offering their best at Vinifest: the two great Kefraya efforts are Chateau 2012 and the amazing Comte de M 2012, both of which were not offered; their entry level Breteche 2015 is not bad at all, but they seemed more interested in selling the label design than the wine experience. Ksara' s Souverain and Troisieme Millenaire seemed to be the same ones offered last year; their Chateau is more than decent but was not given enough boost. At Ixsir I eagerly looked for the fantastic EL 2012, but only the 2013 was on offer, slightly ahead of its top form. A brand that showed excellent follow-on to the philosophy of quality is definitely Chateau Qanafar where all the wines, without any exception, are improving vintage after vintage.
PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THAT THESE ARE THE PERSONAL OPINIONS OF THE WRITER, BASED ON HIS OWN SUBJECTIVE TASTE. I DONT MEAN TO DENIGRATE ANY WINERY OR OVERAPPRECIATE ANY OTHER.