Domaine des Tourelles: Faouzi Issa's Playground
Domaine des Tourelles was founded in 1868 by Frenchman François-Eugène Brun whose family owned and ran the winery up until 20 years ago, when the Issa and Issa El Khoury families decided to buy the winery and preserve the family spirit transition from the old generation to the new generation.
Today, Domaine des Tourelles is run by Faouzi Issa and his sisters Johanne and Christiane alongside Emile Issa El Khoury, Faouzi’s “half-brother” as he likes to call him. They are one the youngest teams running one of the oldest wineries in Lebanon, adding a dynamic and energetic touch to the beautiful old winery.
“I came back from France in 2008, at the age of 26, with a mission to restructure the winery and make wines” Faouzi tells us, and in order to do so “You have to work on the ground”, he says, “you have to get your hands dirty”.
He described one of his fondest memories of working at Domaine Rostaing in the Cote-Rotie region of France: he actually saw M.Rostaing, himself, cleaning the soil, the floors, the tanks. Basically, doing all the arduous jobs it takes to make a winery function.
For Faouzi, that was what he wanted to achieve: He wanted to become his own boss one day.
Becoming this “entrepreneur/managing director/winemaker” he aspired to be, meant he needed to start from the ground up.
That is the lesson he took back with him and it’s a lesson that stuck.
In fact, he tells us that his first years at the winery were “very productive and promising” he says. He excitedly split his days between the ground and the office. It became a passion for him to be working hand in hand with the staff, in the soil, the vines, the tanks, discovering every part of the winery as a true winemaker should; then go back to the office, to crunch numbers and figure out ways to stay sustainable as a company.
“It became an addiction” he stated. For him, working in something you own, gives you freedom to experiment and discover with no rules or restrictions. He had strong faith in his abilities, and that’s what drove him to experiment with no rule-book to follow, just curiosity and innovation.
In fact, one of the first things he did when he took over the winery, is get younger people on board, people that could actually introduce new styles of wines, and merge the old history of the winery with modern techniques and ways of producing wines.
A perfect example of blending the old and the new would be their Vieilles Vignes wines, Faouzi’s “new old babies” as he calls them.
The Cinsault is a revolutionary wine, bringing back the 100% Cinsault produced in Lebanon 50 years ago: old vines, concrete vats, dirty winemaking, dusty wine. Straight-forward with aromas of cherry, fruits, grapefruit and spices, it’s perfect for early consumption. A very soft, very elegant, fresh and crisp wine.
We were also delighted to taste the Carignan, a very dynamic wine, bursting with fruity flavors such as strawberries and prunes. A great taste of the Mediterranean.
“They’re a nice addition to our family”.
Passion, drive and insatiable curiosity lead Faouzi to work for more than 16 hours a day.
That is, of course, until he met his wife who introduced balance into his life. That is why today, Faouzi splits his time between the quiet, nature-friendly environment of the Beqaa Valley and the dynamic city life of Beirut. That is how he found balance: waking up between his vines and still experiencing the scene, the food and the people of his beloved city.
In the end, Domaine des Tourelles is recognized worldwide for making dusty earthy wines and a winery that is as close to nature as can be. To truly understand the philosophy and passion, one has to taste the wines, and what better way to do so than to indulge in their newest Merweh & Obeidi Vieilles Vignes that just arrived at 209?
The beautiful blend of these two grapes gives the wine a brilliant golden color. While the nose has natural aromas of ripened grapes, apple skin and a mix of spices and herbs, the palate is mineral and savory with notes of dried figs and fresh almonds on the finish.
Get your hands on it HERE.