Domaine Des Tourelles, West Beqaa
I’ve worked with Domaine Des Tourelles for a number of years and know the wines well - so it was a real dream come true to visit the winery and see where the magic happens. Faouzi, the head winemaker showed me around, an indomitable ball of energy and irrepressible enthusiast - he makes the winery sparkle.
One of the founding members of Lebanese wine, Domaine Des Tourelles has been producing the grapey goodness since 1868 earning them the title of Lebanon’s oldest commercial winery. It’s more of a family home then it is an industrial-scale winery, each cobwebbed corner steeped with history and nostalgia. I loved seeing the old hydrometer and other equipment they’ve collected since the days of Francois-Eugene Brun. It’s dubbed ‘the wine museum’ by CNN - easy to see why. Even the concrete tanks have been around from hundreds of years, every inch covered with a layer of dust which, according to Faouzi “encourages the natural yeasts that give our wines their distinctive character” hence his nickname The "Dusty Winemaker".
While we're on yeast, Domaine des Tourelles allow the grapes to ferment naturally using only indigenous yeasts, just as it has done for hundreds of years. In the same vein, they only use fresh water - pumped from a nearby river - to clean the winery. The vineyards are based in Chtaura, in the West Beqaa with most hovering around 1,000 meters above sea level. At the risk of repeating myself, the benefits of their altitude plays a huge part in the elegance and balance of their wines.
Domaine des Tourelles White 2016
A blend of Viognier (65%), Chardonnay, Obeidi (a white grape indigenous to Lebanon) and Muscat. A perfect summer sipper. Fresh, light and aromatic - think peach. Absolutely superb value, to call this an ‘entry level wine’ belies its quality and elegance.
Domaine des Tourelles Rosé 2016
This wine has developed quite a cult following - partly due to fame gained from wine writers around the world, but also because it’s an absolutely stonking wine. Deep salmon in colour, and dry as a bone - it’s a blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Tempranillo, each varietal plays a vital role. The Cinsault for its perfumed nose, Syrah for the colour and Tempranillo for the wild strawberries and spicy red fruit that dominates the palate. Although it shares the same varietals as Provence it’s worlds away - exotic and decadent, savoury, complex and eminently drinkable to boot. A wallflower amongst Lebanese Rosés and one of my favourites.
Domaine des Tourelles Red 2015
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cinsault and a dash of Carignan. Morello cherries, sweet spice and soft tannins tickle the tastebuds.
Marquis des Beys Red 2014
Tasted fresh out of the tank - as moreish and delicious as the 2013 (pictured below) but with more savoury undertones. Of course full to the brim with its signature black cherry, but with much more sweet spice than the 2013 - flavours of cinnamon, orange peel, cloves and cedar dance across the palate. The 2011 won gold at the Sommelier Wine Awards.
Marquis des Beys Blanc 2016
Sunshine in a bottle, this 100% Chardonnay is barrel aged giving it a golden hue and smokey, toasty hit.
Syrah du Liban 2011
Syrah in Lebanon is magical, it takes on a different identity to any I’ve had elsewhere. This is no exception, and it positively screams the case for the varietal’s Mediterranean heritage (rather than the Northern Rhone). The wine spends 24 months in new American Oak barrels - which it needs. Chunky and unapologetically powerful, it’s a wine that requires time and patience.
Vieilles Vignes Cinsault 2015
Ooooph. One of my all time favourite wines in the world. I love Cinsault! Bright and crunchy but somehow sultry and elegant all at once. As a varietal it is vigorous, easy to harvest and drought resistant - so it’s no wonder that it was the varietal of choice for many years in Lebanon. However, recent years have seen it losing vineyard space which is a great shame, I for one, would drink old vine Cinsault until the cows come home. The vines they use are over 70 years old, and wow does it show! Ripe, balanced and complex. Chocolatey soft tannins are balanced in-betwixt layers apon layers of decadent blueberry and violet. A true hero of the Lebanese wine world.
Special mention must go to their world famous Arak Brun, which represents a large chunk of production - aged for a minimum of 1 or maximum 5 years in open clay amphoras which are expertly crafted by hand. For my money, the best Arak I’ve tried in Lebanon and the Middle East.
Visits can be made by appointment, contact details below:
Tel: +961-3-691 151