Trying Lebanon wine ahead of Friday’s charity auction

Peter Ranscombe reviews wines from Domaine des Tourelles ahead of a fundraising auction this weekend for rebuilding Lebanon.

WINE connects people – whether it’s through work or through pleasure, it has an almost magical way of linking lives.

When times are tough, people in the wine industry pull together, like when wildfires devastated parts of California and of Australia or South Africa was hit a coronavirus export ban.

Lebanon is the latest wine-producing country to need help, and Madeleine Waters – a long-term promoter of Lebanese wines in the UK – has curated an online auction to raise funds for the re-building of Kamal Mouzawak’s Souk el Tayeb & Tawlet and for Impact Lebanon, which distributes cash to vetted non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

She’s rallied people from throughout the wine industry to donate prizes for her Bid for Beirut auction, which begins on Friday and runs until Monday.

Lots going under the hammer including a case of wine assembled by wine columnist Matthew Jukes and an online tasting with Edinburgh’s own Miriam Reynolds.

Why wine is so important to Lebanon

I was reminded of Waters’ passion for Lebanon, for its people and for their wines on the evening following the explosion in Beirut, when she appeared at an online wine tasting hosted by Diana Thompson at Wine Events Scotland.

Thompson had been due to be joined by Faouzi Issa, the charismatic winemaker at Domaine des Tourelles in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

Understandably, Issa wasn’t able to take part in the virtual wine tasting and so Waters stepped into the breach.

Thompson and Waters made an excellent on-screen team, with their chatty two-hander style working really well.

They explained how Lebanon was going through political and economic upheavals even before the explosion, and that exporting wine was one of the few sources of income for the country.

Old vines, new ideas

Issa’s wines were also on top form, especially his 2018 Domaine des Tourelles Marquis des Beys Chardonnay (£21.95, Wine Line Scotland), which was quite Burgundian with its touch of smoke on the nose, swish of cream on the palate, and intense lemon and pear flavours.

As we explored during a virtual press trip to Lebanon back in May, Issa’s winery has been one of the pioneers of bottling both Lebanon’s native varieties and its “adopted” French varieties singularly rather than in blends, and Thompson had selected a pair of excellent examples for her audience.

The “vieilles vignes” or old vines in the 2018 Domaine des Tourelles Vieilles Vignes Cinsault (£17.95, Wine Line Scotland) are more than 70 years old and contribute concentrated red cherry, redcurrant and raspberry jam flavours to the finished wine, which feels very light considering it tips the scales at 14% alcohol.

Similarly, the 2018 Domaine des Tourelles Vielles Vignes Carignan (£17.95, Wine Line Scotland) – which landed in the UK in April – comes from septuagenarian vines, but centres around slightly darker fruit flavours, with blackcurrant jam, spun sugar and a touch more tannin, which would make it an ideal accompaniment to lamb or game.

Thompson’s online tastings continue this week with the second part of her look at historic stories behind wines before a “fizz Friday” prosecco tasting on 4 September.

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