Posted by: tomciocco | March 7, 2011

KEEP PUNCHING, LEBANON

The Bekaa (sometimes transliterated “Beqaa”) Valley in eastern Lebanon has been a highly prized swath of agricultural land since the time of the Phoenicians and likely before. And to this day, this naturally irrigated and fertile thin vein of earth supplies food (including tons of wine grapes from the slopes) to a region where water and arable land is invaluable.

But at least since the Romans conquered this part of the Levant, this region has been under pressure – to produce food for the Legions and the greater empire, right through to our times in which this limited zone is asked to feed an ever growing regional population, and a place that due to growing intolerance, is becoming especially difficult for those farmers who turn their fruit into wine.  The ongoing conflicts in the region have seriously threatened the harvest on more than one occasion, caused  by military actions both on the ground and from the air…

Despite pressures political, economic, and idealogical, Ksara is one of the dozen or so wineries that tenaciously persist, and not only survive, but excel. This particular blend is made up of 40% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Cabernet Franc, but the winery grows many varieties of red and white grapes in several locations in the lower end of the valley. For me, a place that has nurtured a great agricultural and viticultural tradition for better than 4,000 years clearly has an important story to tell, and deserves the chance to keep telling it.  

I served this Lebanese wine with a classic Lebanese spread: Stuffed grape leaves as an appetizer, and then a platter of lamb and beef kofte kebab with tabbouleh and mjadara (brown lentils and rice with carmelized onions and yogurt).

Chateau Ksara “Reserve du Couvent” Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2008

Just opaque purple-black color. Elegant but rustically intense nose of tomato paste, bread crust, prune juice, sap, toasted hazelnut, and a slight perfuminess. The medium-full body is muscular and prominently tannic but is balanced by fairly dense and sweet blackberry, strawberry, and black cherry fruit. Finishes clean and warm with good length and clear notes of toasted fennel and cocoa.

 

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