Wines from Lebanon and thereabouts

At last – another event that reminds me of what wine is all about, and why I like writing about it.  A group of wine nuts from Manchester and thereabouts once again descended on the Aladdin BYO restaurant in Withington,  to eat well, and share wines from Lebanon and thereabouts.  The original brief was to bring bottles from the Eastern Mediterranean or the North Coast of Africa.  We finished up with no bottles from Africa, and stretched the concept of Eastern Mediterranean from Greece to Georgia (mercifully not as far as the one in the USA), but it didn’t seem to matter.  Somehow it felt as though we kept within the spirit of the theme.

As usual, Aladdin delivered, and we paid only £20 per person all in, including tip and corkage.  Well actually they did not charge for corkage as we had our own glasses and opened our own wine.  I learned on leaving that they were going to expand to take over the Indian restaurant next door completely – they already have the first floor and will move in on the ground floor too.  Excellent news.  They do a great job, and deserve every success.

Scanning through my star ratings below, I must admit that some do seem very generous. But they are a measure of my enjoyment on the night, and I never pretend to be objective. To recreate the enjoyment, I suggest that you and a group of friends grab a bunch of similarly interesting wines and take them to your local Middle-Eastern restaurant. Perhaps with the exception of the Jars of Cana, if you buy one of the lesser known wines and try it in “the cold light of day” you might not be so impressed.

Domaine des Tourelles, Pierre Louis Brun depuis 1868, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat d’Alexandria – 2011, 13.0%
Peachy. Medium low acid.  Dry. Slightly astringent. Good to drink now ****

Chateau Khoury, Rève Blanc, Dhour Zahleé, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Riesling – 2008, 13.0%
Intensely floral and petrol. Medium acid. Off dry. Good to drink now, but no hurry ****

Massaya, Silver Selection, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay – 2004, 13.5%
Flat and Oxidised. Faulty bottle or too old. But a bottle of this vintage was great last year, so if you see one don’t automatically write it off. I have one more, so let’s hope! Still drinkable **

Chateau Musar, White, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – Obaideh and Merwah – 2001, 12.5%
Intense. Slightly oxidised. Slightly astringent. Big, and full of flavour. Beautiful. A tasting note of few words because I was struggling to describe it, rather than because it had little to offer. A great wine, and probably the wine of the night. Good to drink now, but no hurry *****

Pirosmani, Medium dry red, Telavi Marani (producer), Kakheti (region), Georgia – Saperavi – 2005, 12.5%
Vaguely raisiny. Medium acid. Medium dry. Medium low tannin. This really was not my cup of tea, but then I rarely like wines that are medium dry or medium sweet. Drink now **

Jawary, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan – 2005, 13.0%
This is the wine behind the label featured in the image for this post. What a fantastic label – nicely expressing the exotic and, I suspect, the flamboyance of the cultural remains of French rule. At Aladdin I found it to be a good all-round wine. Medium acid. Off dry. Medium tannin. Finishing dry due to the tannin. The following evening, it seemed to have transformed into a Pinotage for better and worse – burnt rubber and meat, with a touch of (in the nicest possible way) vomit. ****

Jars of Cana, Clos de Cana, Vallée Lamartine, Lebanon – Petit Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Mouvèdre – 2002, 13.0%
Intense red fruit. Fresh and aromatic. Medium acid. Medium low acid. Another sadly brief note, but a very good and interesting wine with a score that fairly reflects the quality. It was not noted at the time, but I am sure there was some spice in the mix too. Manchester locals can pick up a bottle at the Cheshire Smokehouse. Apparently Petit Cabernet is an synomym for Cabernet Sauvignon.  Good to drink now *****

Chateau Musar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault – 2000, 13.5%
Intense soft red fruit. Spicy and volatile. Medium acid. As nose. Medium tannin. Excellent length. Could drink now, but was surprisingly primary compared to the 1999s I have opened and enjoyed over the last couple of years, so I would definitely keep at least another few years *****

Naturally sweet wine, Karelas (producer), Mavrodaphne (grape) of Patras (region), Greece, NV, 15.0%, 37.5cl
Intense. Raisiny. Medium acid. Sweet. As nose. Low tannin. Bitter. Excellent length. Drink now. You can get this, and other Mavrodaphne of Patras wines, for around a tenner a bottle. I am certainly going to be trying more *****

Chateau Musar, Hochar, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon – Cinsault, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache – 2005, 13.5%
Just when we thought it was all over, we discovered a forgotten wine. For the avoidance of doubt, this is the Hochar “baby Musar” – not the first wine of the Chateau. Intense. VA. Red fruit. Medium acid. A tad thin maybe. Good to drink now, but no hurry ****

About Steve Slatcher

Wine enthusiast
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