Matching Martin Wishart’s dishes to Lebanon’s wines

Old vines grown at high altitude produce wines with great food pairing potential, writes Peter Ranscombe.

ASK most wine fans to think of Lebanon and their minds will race immediately to Chateau Musar, the country’s best-known winery.

Yet, as we’ve seen before on The Grape & The Grain drinks blog, Musar isn’t the only game in town.

Another winery that shares the same French influence is Domaine des Tourelles, which was founded in 1868.

Its old vin cinsault left a lasting impression on me earlier this year, so it was really exciting to explore the food-and-wine matching potential of it and its stablemates at a dinner organised by the winery and wine merchant Great Grog at Martin Wishart’s restaurant in Leith.

Sadly, the winery’s charismatic co-owner and winemaker, Faouzi Issa, wasn’t able to stay for dinner but instead had to cut his trip to the UK short and jet back to Lebanon to be with his family amid political and social unrest.

Yet his departure didn’t dampen the diners’ enthusiasm for his wines – or the delicious food Wishart produced to accompany them…

Amuse Bouche: Beetroot macaroon with pumpkin velouté
Wine: 2018 Domaine des Tourelles Rosé (£12.25, Great Grog)
The creamy texture of the rosé was less apparent this time round with food, but its crisp acidity worked really well to cut through the pumpkin velouté. Plenty of red cherry and ripe raspberry flavours too, along with that hint of wood smoke on the nose as before.

Starter: Roasted Orkney scallop with celeriac and saffron velouté
Wine: 2017 Domaine des Tourelles Marquis de Beys Chardonnay (2016: £21.70)
I was less impressed when I had the 2016 vintage of Domaine des Tourelles’s flagship white earlier this year, but this new 2017 incarnation blew me away with its apricot, lemon rind and red apple flavours, which provide a much better balance to its oaky vanilla notes. Pairing it with the scallops brought out more of the chardonnay’s acidity, providing a delicious balance.

Fish course: Roast fillet of Scrabster halibut with creamy endive, fontina arancini, and a red wine sauce
Wine: 2015 Domaine des Tourelles Vieilles Vignes Cinsault (2016: £17.15)
Proof – if further proof was ever needed – that light-bodied reds can pair swimmingly with meaty white fish. The intensity of the ripe raspberry and red cherry flavours in the wine helped to cancel out some of the saltiness from the fish dish. The 2015 wine was served from a magnum (£36.75, Great Grog) and, for me, had spicier clove notes than the 2017 standard bottle I tried back in February.

Main course: Wild duck forestière with savoy cabbage, salsify, wild mushrooms, lardons and cocotte potatoes
Wine: 2014 Domaine des Tourelles Marquis de Beys Red (2013: £22.95)
Like the Marquis de Beys white, the red had moved on a vintage since I had last tried it, with the 2014 offering more black fruit flavours and aromas to me, with an attractive violet note. While its 50% syrah may have come through on the nose, it was the 50% cabernet sauvignon that dominated the palate, with grainy tannins that worked well with the duck.

Cheese selection: Baron Bigod; Isle of Mull Cheddar; Tomme de Savoie; and Fourme d’ambert
Wines: 2016 Domaine des Tourelles Red (£12.25); and 2018 Domaine des Tourelles White (£12.25)
I love serving white wine with cheese and it was the white that won the day for me here, with an excellent balance between its crisp acidity and concentrated peach and lemon flavours. The 2016 red was perhaps a bit stalkier on the nose than the 2015 I’d previously sampled, but had the same grip to the tannins to allow it to pair with food – although perhaps better suited to meat than cheese, in my book.

Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine, whisky, gin and beer reviews on his The Grape & The Grain drinks blog at