These notes accompany a in-depth feature on Lebanon. For profiles of all of these estates please see Regional report: Lebanon, land of hope and opportunity.
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Château Musar 2003
Lots of lift with a big, leafy and vegetal aromas with fennel, nuts and herbs. There is good berry fruit too, in a typically wild, but complex and forward style. Beautifully sweet fruit on the palate, the liquorice concentration and twist of chicory adding grip and tension, but sweet fruit plays into the finish. 91-92/100.
Château Musar 1999
The 1999 was not tasted at the winery but poured over lunch. Unfortunately it had not been decanted and as luck would have it the young waiter poured me the last of the bottle which was thick with sediment. So very difficult to judge, but it had a gorgeous nose with a ripeness of cherry and cassis fruit smoothed by cappuccino, spice and a savoury grilled-meat quality. I think this is probably an extremely good Musar and look forward to tasting it again.
Château Musar 1998
Such a pale colour and a beautiful nose, with gentle spice and floral notes, and soft, bracken and gently truffly, mushroomy notes. The palate is delicious, with a cappuccino softness and such lovely flavours with rhubarb and sweet black fruits, the flavours fully melded. This is drinking beautifully, with such lovely balance and freshness, with elegance and really long finish. Though Serge thinks this is not yet ready, I thought it was delicious and drinking perfectly. 93/100.
Château Musar 1974
At this time there was more than 50% Cinsault. Transparently pale ruby/tawny. Old, sweet, brown sugar and vaguely dank and leafy and vegetal, cep mushroom notes. The palate has real sweetness and a touch of that coffee and chocolate smoothness and richness, the lovely red fruit elegance comes through again, with very nice balance in the finish. Though spicy, the lingering impression is of its sweet fruit. 92/100.
Château Musar Jeune Blanc 2011
Musar Jeune is a new addition to the small portfolio. A blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Vermentino, this has apricot and a green fig, and green vegetable notes, the herby Vermentino coming through. The palate has masses of acidity (2011 a year with high acid levels) and a great juiciness too, and though quite full, it is about freshness and minerality and squirting lemony acidity. 89/100.
Château Musar Blanc 1972
Fabulous nose, the gunflint and vegetal aromas have damped down, little notes of dried apricot and fig. There is a touch of coffee, of sweet damp earth and of orange oil, in complex, layered aromas. The palate has that lovely cappuccino sweetness, the rich mouth-feel and quince and fig fruit and lovely tannins and creamy acids adding weight and texture, without any hint of heaviness. Lovely mushroomy and forest floor softness, and so long. Fabulous old wine. 95/100.
Château Musar Blanc 1967
Deep orangy colour. Quite oxidised, with bruised fruit and a touch of brown sugar. There’s a soft spiciness and Seville orange, barley sugar and some mushroom the palate does not have the freshness and juiciness of the 1972, but it has its charms. 90/100.
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Château Ksara, Reserve du Couvent 2009
50% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Six months in one year old oak, after blending. Quite a bright, jammy, slightly lifted red and black fruit nose, a touch of mint chocolate. The palate has spice and quite robust, chunky tannins, with a big orangy, juicy qualities. Quite juicy and fresh, a little astringency on the finish perhaps, needing food. 84-85/100.
Château Ksara, 2008
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Petit Verdot. 16 months in oak. Gentle, quite restrained nose, with a touch of cedar but the fruit pure and blackcurranty, very classy and restrained stuff. The palate has nice dry, savoury fruit and a certain lean, food friendly Bordeaux style. 87/100.
Château Ksara, 2006
A little game and vegetal aroma, a little fennel touch, and the lightly dusty blueberry and cassis fruit sitting nicely. The palate is very dry, the tannins, the spice, that slightly more vegetal character very pleasingly balanced, but for me lacking the purity and length of the straight 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. 88/100.
Château Ksara, 2004
Quite vegetal and there is eucalyptus and tobacco, but lots of dry dustiness and blueberries with some plum and cherry skins. That little touch of eucalypt is there, but the palate full of fruit and bursting, juicy black berries, a long finish too that is deliciously well balanced. 90/100.
Château Ksara, 2002
Masses of coffee and torrefaction, the blackcurrant fruit bold. This has a little gamy edge, a little drying leathery quality to the tannins, with delicious juicy fruit just sitting nicely, and the balance of tannins and acids keeping it long, spicy but focused on fruit. 91/100.
Château Ksara, 1999
Beautifully resolved nose, the combination of the black fruits, the tight-grained, lightly cedary oak and the mineral character is lovely. The palate has such a delightfully savoury, spice and cedar-spiked quality, with a real grip to the tannins and juicy acidity. This is perhaps erring on the dry side, but is such a lovely wine too with delicious fruit. Hard to say if it should be kept for 10 years or drunk, but another fine wine. 90/100.
Château Ksara, 1986
Still a very deep, dark colour. Syrah replaced the Petit Verdot at this time. Lovely meaty and swirling smoky nose, but not at the expense of some lovely black fruit. Spices and tobacco notes. The fruit has fine, lightly salty and mineral character, with the fruit fading just slightly now, but not without charm at all, whilst the slightly astringent finish, but delicious. 90/100.
Château Ksara, 1959
20% Cabernet Sauvignon, the rest Carignan and Grenache, from the time of the Jesuits. Lovely delicate floral and toasty notes, but still a lovely perfume, with a little lifted floral note and some delicate rose touches and still real life about it. The palate still has such beautiful fruit: very sweet, deliciously pure, with touches of brown sugar and still good fruit and the balance. Amazing clarity – a slice of history, but fantastically pure and unsullied stuff. 94/100.
Château Ksara, Cuvée de Troisième Millénaire 2008
20,000 bottles. 40% petit Verdot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 30% Syrah. 18 months in oak. Lovely nose: herbal and spicy, lots of pencil shaving and incense. The fruit is bold and fleshy, deliciously sweet and plump, with real weight and roundness on the palate, and the tannins fine and drying, with very nice balance. Delicious wine, beautifully pitched. 90-91/100.
Château Ksara, Cuvée de Troisième Millénaire 2006
Lovely spices and exotic incense-like nose, with pepper and spice and a lovely touch of menthol dryness. The fruit is so, pure and intensely cassis focused, but those dry, tobacco, spice and gently earthy notes surrounding it. Delicious long and focused, with really long finish showing delicate nuances and lovely length. 92-93/100.
Château Ksara, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Single vineyard at 1,100 metres in the village of Kanafar. Some slate and lots of rocks. Part terraced. Very bold, fresh, dark colour. A touch of menthol and a tight juiciness to the black fruit. Lovely fruit, very bold, very fresh, with softness to the tannins and a real sense of juicy plum freshness and succulence with some spice. Long, delicious. 88/100.
Château Ksara, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
The year of the Israeli war. The office closed and as there were no workers to bring in the harvest, so all office workers arrived in the vineyards. Terrific nose, with cedar and light spices over solid black fruit. The palate has lovely fruit and balance too, with the tannins quite refined and the juicy, mouth-wateringly pure and sweetness and ripeness still evident, just settled into a lovely harmonious finish, velvety and pure. 90/100.
Château Ksara, Le Souverain 2008
6,000 bottle. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Arinarnoa (believed to be a cross of Petit Verdot and Merlot). Has a dustiness and a blue/black fruit, incense and cedar, very classy Bordeaux style this, with real juiciness and Maintains that pure, black, very focused, very pure fruit. The oak adds layers of vanilla and spice, but the juiciness pushes through into a long, tapering finish. 92/100.
Château Ksara, Le Souverain 2006
Big, dry, dusty and meaty nose, damsons and blueberries, the palate very firm, with leather and tobacco and lots of minerality, the plum skin, spices, and big, bold charcoally depth suggesting this needs time. Delightfully confident, pure stuff. 91/100.
white and rosé wines
Château Ksara, Sunset Rosé 2011
“We drink this on the beach,” according to Elie. 60% Cabernet Franc, 40% Syrah, made as a Saignée. Pretty cerise pink colour. Slightly bubblegummy aromas, with cherry chapstick commercial brightness. The palate has lots of bold fruit, lots of cut and crunch, with good acidity and balance. 84/100.
Château Ksara, Gris de Gris 2010
Grenache Gris and Carignan. Very nice salmon pink colour. Lovely spice and gentle earthiness, the fruit nicely fresh and dry, a savoury bite with citrus and lemon peel zestiness. Delicious. 86/100. Most goes to the UK. Château Ksara, Chardonnay 2010
Single vineyard, all barrel fermented then seven months in oak. Big, buttered cabbage and lightly mint humbuggy nose, the oak quite prominent, but lovely quality. Orange and lemon fruit bursts through on the palate, just a touch of green apple tartness and bite, and there is minerality here, with some spice too, the mouth-watering freshness good into a long finish. 89/100.
Château Ksara, Blanc de Blancs 2011
55% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Chardonnay (barrel fermented) and 20% Semillon. Gently mealy and custardy nose, the Semillon adding lovely lemon and waxy notes, with a broad, fleshy but deliciously fresh finish. Another lovely wine, with a tantalizingly fresh finish. 87/100.
Château Ksara, Blanc de l’Observatoire 2011
Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc and Clairette. Big Muscat nose, lots of flowers and fresh, bursting grapes, touches of peach and mango fruitiness. The palate develops a little more of the herby green crunch, and a very dry, very flavourful finish and has a nice texture. I drank a glass of this on the flight to Lebanon with poached chicken and it matched really nicely. 85-86/100.
Château Ksara, Vin d’Or 1937
Late harvested and fortified. White Grenache and Macabeu. Gorgeous fig and green walnuts, with delightful nuttiness and toffee notes. That lovely fennel note and some toffee onto the palate too. The delicious nutty breadth is all tempered by terrific acidity. The sweetness fantastically tempered. What a wine at 76 years old, medium-bodied and delicious and not lacking in any dimension. 95/100.
CHATEAU ST THOMAS
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Château St Thomas, Les Gourmets Rouge 2009
Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Unoaked. Big cherry-ripe nose, with a ripe, plummy character and a slightly indistinct, if creamy and crowd-pleasing fruit quality, a touch of spice. Low tannins and acids. 84/100.
Château St Thomas, Pinot Noir 2008
Six months in third use oak. Ruby colour, dark but not dense. Slightly baked quality to the fruit, big creaminess, with some cherry. Spices and touches of that baked characters on the palate again. Good Pinot character though, and whilst that baked quality is a little off-putting, a successful wine. 86/100.
Château St Thomas, Pinot Noir 2009
Plenty of spice and plenty of cherry fruit here, a similar character to the 2008, but it is brighter, a little more briary and toasty too, but I like the purity of the fruit here and the finish seems long and harmonious. A lightness of touch here and again, excellent ‘Pinosity’. 88-89/100. Should sell for around £17 in the UK.
Château St Thomas, Les Emirs 2008
Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 12 months in 70% American and 30% French oak, none of it new. Nice fragrance here, delicate spices and floral nuances, cedar and very evocative of Lebanon. The palate has full fruit, with a liquorice stripe of concentration, but masses of spices and peppercorn too, and quite a long, ginger-spiced warmth. Quite long and has structure, but copious creamy black fruit too. 89/100. (2007 in Nicolas)
Château St Thomas, Le Merlot A 2005
100% Merlot. The year Joe graduated, completing his thesis on Merlot. Very low yields of 20 – 25 hl/ha, aged in 10 months in new oak. Very dense, dark colour with a tinge of coffee. Velvety deep and rich on the nose, it has spices and incense and lots of deep plum fruit. It has really depth an quite impenetrable aromatics at this stage. The oak gives a thick layer of vanilla and coffee on the nose, layered over the rich, furry tannins and thick black fruit. There’s plenty of spice and gravelly depth to this, chocolate, but it is the gripping, grainy tannins and the plum skin depth of the fruit that that pushes through. 91/100.
Château St Thomas 2007
Merlot 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20% plus Syrah and Petit Verdot. Aged 18 months in new French oak. Meaty on the nose, with plenty of creamy black fruit and a solid blackcurrant richness and a cedar and Sandalwood savouriness in the background. The palate has lots of cherry and lots of firm plum and cherry skin grip. This is juicy and yet chocolaty too, in a big, creamy and youthful wine. 89/100.
Château St Thomas 2006
Another wine made in the year when the Israelis invade in July, and harvesting was a big problem. Big, very ripe and deep colour to this wine. Cedar and again a real meatiness here, with some roasted meat and hints of bacon fat, ripe and plummy fruit beneath. The palate has a flood of sweet, ripe, mouth-filling fruity with big chewy tannins and plenty of oak giving a huge scale to the finish of this wine, which is spicy, dense and full into the finish. Long and structured, it would be good to come back to this in a few years. 90-91/100.
Château St Thomas 2000
No Petit Verdot. A touch of mushroomy decay beginning, with a dried cherry and sweet stewed tomato character, with some herbs and some cherry fruit. The palate is soft and sweet, with lovely sour cherry acidity and a very nice drink. Probably time to drink this soon, but soft and delicious. 88/100.
Château St Thomas 1999
Rich and dark, with some oregano and nice cherry and chocolate character, has some maturity but not the slightly decaying character detectable on the 2000. The fruit is very fresh on the palate still, and extremely sweet and engaging. The tannins and acids are fairly lean and cedary and whilst there’s a little chocolate richness, it has a long finish, perhaps showing a little more spice than fruit, but a lovely wine. 91/100.
white and rosé wines
Château St Thomas, Les Gourmets Rosé 2011
Syrah, Cinsault, Petit Verdot. The Cinsault is pressed, the others are saignée. Very pretty, delicate salmon pink. Nice raspberry and delicate strawberry bon-bon fruit. The palate has lovely fruit, with a hint of spice and a hint of sweetness, though I get a little sweet and sour note as acidity and a little alcohol kicks in. 85/100.
Château St Thomas, Les Gourmets Blanc 2011
Majority Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier – also 5% Muscat à Petit Grains. The Muscat has a profound effect on the aromatics, but with a herby and flinty Sauvignon character too and a broadening melon and pear fruit. The palate is quite powerful, with a lot of grip and rather tart sour apple acidity. It has plenty of character and crunch (no malolactic) from a higher acid vintage. 87/100.
Château St Thomas, Les Gourmets Blanc 2010
More of the green aromatics of the Sauvignon dominating, and plenty of ripe fruit, not so striking aromatically as the 2011, but streaks across the palate with delicious juiciness and masses of grapefruity flavour and acidity really keeping it fresh. The slightly lower alcohol (13%) is one of the differences here. 87/100.
Château St Thomas, Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Green melon and fig notes and moving into the tropical fruit. Has real drive and spice on the palate, with lots of texture and weight and has a richness and bit of bite. 87/100.
Château St Thomas, Chardonnay 2011
Eighteen year old vineyards, fermented and aged in oak for six months. A sesame seed nuttiness, some orange peel and apple fruit. Just hints at more tropicality. The palate has plenty of bold, decisive fruit, with a cool fruitiness, but I get that slightly aggressive combination of acidity and tart green apple against a touch of coffee and tannin. Might be better with a touch less oak. 87/100.
Château St Thomas, Chardonnay 2010
Creamy, smooth Brazil nutty quality over custard apples and some ripe fruit richness, but on the palate the alcohol is a little intrusive(14.5% ABV) with some of that pithy lemon and grapefruit grip. 86-87/100.
DOMAINE DES TOURELLES
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Domaine Des Tourelles, Rouge 2004
100% concrete fermented and aged. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Lovely colour, just developing a little warmth on the rim. Big stewed fruit nose, with some vegetal, rhubarb notes and some juicy blackcurrant coming through. The palate has delicious juiciness to the fruit, the texture quite full and the tannins now very soft and voluptuous, and gentle acidity leading to a soft, but elegant, spicy finish. 89/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Rouge 2006
Same blend. Much more focused, tight, pure black fruit without the stewed quality of the 2004: really much deeper, more tightly wound and smaller herb and olive influences in the background. The palate has lovely cool, spicy, tight blackcurrant fruit with great composure, the tannins tighter and very chalky and refined, lovely acids. A terrific wine that has a great future. 90-91/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Rouge 2009
45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45%Syrah, 10% Cinsault. Inky black colour and also has a little dusty, inky impression of dryness on the nose, a tight raspberry focus beneath. The fruit comes through elegantly and nicely with a tight, juicy black fruit, edged with a tight mineral quality but still sweet and juicy at the core. A lovely wine again that will be better in a few years. 89/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Rouge 1989
Made long before Faouzi ‘s time of course, but this and the next wine poured for interest. Lovely garnet colour, with a creaminess and ground almond, lovely gentle raspberry fruit. The palate has lovely coffee and dry extract still, deliciously drinkable. 90/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Rouge 1976
At this time the vineyards where 100% Cinsault. No oak aging. Past its best with lots of decay and very old, oxidised bruised fruit, with some sweet edges to the gentle, delicate rose fruit. Very interesting, lingering impression of fine old fruit on the palate, and really enjoyable in its way. 88/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Marquis des Beys 2005
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Syrah, 1/3 new French oak, 2/3 used French oak. 14.5%. A high acid vintage. Has a little of that cooked fruits and tinned Italian tomato character of slightly under-ripe Cabernet. The Syrah adding more ripe black fruit beneath. The palate is really quite velvety, with a big core of silky black fruit and very nice, tight, defining mineral acidity and dry tannic structure pushing through. Delightful, tiny green herb and bay notes into the finish. Delicious and youthful. 90/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Marquis des Beys 2006
Lots of sur-maturité here, with a slightly stewed, vegetal note and the plummy fruit beneath. The palate has masses of sweetness, with a little smoked meat character and very refined tannins that are juicy and vital, but not at all dry. Quite long, but I prefer the style of the 2005 in some ways. 89/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Marquis des Beys 2009
There’s a meatiness here and lots of tight black fruit, with forest fruits and glossy dark flavours smoothed by Sandalwood and creamy spice. The palate has lots of tannin at this stage, lots of inky, youthful tannic character, but the charm of the fruit comes through so sweetly and purely. 91/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Syrah du Liban 2007
100% Syrah in all new American oak barrels. Lovely nose, the spices and hint of coconutty richness from the American oak (not overdone) sits with the lovely weight of fruit, a deep pool of black flavour and touches of floral and peppery exotic notes. The palate has wonderful richness and flavour, with huge silky texture and such a sexy black fruit, spice and long, pure finish. 92/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Syrah du Liban 2009
Similar nose, but has a little more fruit focus, with a touch a smoky bacon and the berry fruit, and a lovely velvety depth to the aromas again with some rose-like nuances to the perfume that are wonderfully Lebanese. The juiciness of the finish is lovely too, lots of cherry and tight acids, giving a very long finish. From 35 year old vines. 92-93/100.
white and rosé wines
Domaine Des Tourelles, Blanc 2011
45% Chardonnay, 40% Viognier, 15% Muscat d’Alexandrie. No oak aging. Very delicate nose, just gentle herbal aromatics, dried herbs and plenty of apricot and creamy fruit, but tight and (served very cold) quite steely and appley. The palate has weight and texture, the Viognier coming through with powerful, juicy and quite fat flavours and plenty of acidity keeping this fresh and with a lemony and apple-skin bite into the food-friendly finish. 89/100. This wine will be listed by Marks & Spencer in May 2012.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Rosé 2010
Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite a deep colour, but it has a peachy/salmon hue. Very nice, herb and vinous nose, with a delicate meatiness and earthiness, and lightly creamy red fruit aromas. The palate has a firm, briary and savoury herb and berry fruit, fresh on the finish. Faouzi says it is in the “last phase” of freshness. A gastronomic wine. 86/100.
Domaine Des Tourelles, Rosé 2011
A quick taste of the 2011 from tank showed much brighter raspberry fruit, much more guava and lychee tropicality that is missing in the older wine, with clear fruit definition. Delightful. Still has savoury acidity, an earthiness and dry tannic grip in the finish, but a lovely style. 87-88/100.
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Château Kefraya, Les Bretèches 2009
Cinsault 67%, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan. Smoky, soft, delicate rose-hip fruitiness and cherry ripe fruit. The palate has a little dryness, some bright, easy-drinking red fruits and a bit of more rustic, grippy tannin. 85-86/100.
Château Kefraya, 2008
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Carignan. Aged in French barrels for 16 months, 50% new, 25% each one and two year old. A touch of Brettanomyces here perhaps, just giving a slightly animal edge to quite ripe fruit. The palate has a nice creamy weight, the tannins dry and if there is Brett, it is not obvious. A slightly chalky feel to the tannins in the finish and a warming spice and softness. 87-88/100.
Château Kefraya, 2007
Also has some Mourvèdre in the blend. Don’t get the bretty note here, so maybe I was wrong on the 2008, it is tighter and more black fruited in character, with a dustiness and quite fine fruit quality. A little softness and age on the palate, with a spice and smoke underlay to autumnal fruits. 87-88/100.
Château Kefraya, 2006
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Mourvèdre. The nose is quite closed on this, with some woodsmoke and tightly structured and a real tight black fruit focus. Tannins really quite structured, by far the grippiest and most serious wine of the trio so far, but nicely balanced and showing real length. 89-90/100.
Château Kefraya, Comte de M 2008
Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, a touch of Mourvèdre and Carignan, a selection of the best vineyards at 1,100 metres. Aged in all new French oak. Lots of spicy oak here, lots of toast and a touch of marzipan, quite buttery. The fruit has a lovely dry extract richness and smoothness, with plum and cherry melding with tobacco notes and some chocolaty density to the tannins. Smooth and rich and very young. 90/100.
Château Kefraya, Comte de M 2007
More Carignan and Mourvèdre here. A slightly more tarry, animal touch to the nose, but some floral and exotic lift too, the oak a little more background. The palate has delicious juiciness, the freshness and fullness of the fruit is excellent, but the tannins really grip, drying the front of the mouth and along with the good acidity, spices and the toastiness of the oak, a complex and very satisfying finish here. 91/100.
Château Kefraya, Comte de M 2006
Fragrant, bountiful, chocolaty notes yes, but floral and lifted too with very ripe and rich berry fruit. The palate has a juiciness and a big core of creamy black fruit, but again that lovely tannic structure is silky and chocolaty, with a long, fresh finish focused on dry extract fruit characters. Quite serious stuff, and should age. 92/100
Château Kefraya, Comte de M 2005
Tight, sinewy, glossy black fruit with tight aromatics, blackcurrant and black cherry, a touch of violet and kirsch. The palate has a soy and umami savour, with a nice balance of sweet-edged fruit and lemony acidity against nicely pitched tannins, perhaps could have just a touch more flesh. 89-90/100.
Château Kefraya, Comte de M 2003
Just a touch of funky, beginnings of decay on this, the fruit ripe and sweet behind, with some truffle notes adding to that maturing impression. The palate has that little disjoint of over-ripeness and slightly drying, furry tannins. A nice wine, but the sweetness and the juiciness just slightly overpowered by the rather rustic tannins. 88/100.
white, rosé and sweet wines
Château Kefraya, Vissi d’Arti Blanc de Blancs 2008
Chardonnay-based blend. Creamy oak, nutty, crushed oatmeal, perhaps rather too cold to taste sympathetically, the oak wraps around the fruit, adding spice and more oatmeal smoothness to the dry fruit. Fine, but perhaps lacks a little sweetness and freshness on the finish for me. 87/100
Château Kefraya, Cuvée de Lakmé Blanc de Blancs 2011
Blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette, Ugni Blanc and Muscat a Petit Grains. Nice expressive nose with green herbs and punchy grassy notes, rounded out with a little apple and pear and a little nuttiness. Lovely juicy fruit and quite long, and I like the acidity that is well-pitched giving this broad food-matching appeal but a juicy vitality. 89/100.
Château Kefraya, Myst Rosé 2011
Cinsault, Grenache, Tempranillo, Syrah, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Marselan and Cabernet Franc made as a saignée. Pale to medium, peachy pink. Fruity, lightly grassy and herby nose, with a touch of light earthiness. Nice touch of creaminess on the palate, with creamy strawberry and good, fresh acidity and a soft finish. 87/100.
Château Kefraya, Lacrima d’Or 2004
Vin doux Naturel. Clairette, nice sweet flavours, pear and a touch of honey. Good acidity and if rather indistinct, delicious with various desserts over lunch. 87-88/100.
Château Kefraya, Nectar de Kefraya
Ugni Blanc brandy blended with grape juice. Lovely walnutty richness and toast and marmalade, with delicious lemon and tangerine fruit. Gorgeous sweetness and length here, complex but sweet and soft Cognac flavours with a little finishing sweetness. 90/100.
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Château Ka, Cadet de Ka 2008
14%. Cabernet Sauvignon 70%, with Syrah and Merlot. Six months in oak barrels for 15% of blend. Going into Marks & Spencer in May. Herby nose, lots of very elegant floral notes and a touch of nettle, fresh and inviting. The palate has crisp, fresh, cherryish fruit with a tangy, cherry-skin acidity and fresh finish. 87/100. Around £8.99.
Château Ka, Source de Rouge 2008
14%. Similar blend, with 30% in older oak for 12 months. Much more blackcurranty and smoothly ripe on the nose, with that gentle herb and spice notes, pepper and Sandalwood. The palate is cherry fresh, with again a slightly richer black fruit basis, but retaining that lovely freshness. Seems to have a little more tannin here too, and a little spicy ripeness. 88/100.
Château Ka, Fleur de Ka 2005
Cabernet Sauvignon 70% with Merlot and Syrah. A little bit of resinous, slightly volatile aroma and a lot of oak here. All new barrels, 80% of the wine in barrel. Some smoky bacon character. Deep blackcurrant fruit. Quite creamy, a touch smoky on the palate too, but again that level of smoky, charry oak just biting on the finish slightly. Would be interesting to taste again in a few years and slightly warmer. 88/100.
Château Ka, Fleur de Ka 2006
92% new oak, Again, and awful lot of oak here, with coconut and marzipan, and creamy vanilla. The blackcurrant fruitiness comes through more, with a stripe of liquorice. It is a little drier, the tannins grippy, and still too much oak, but the fruit much richer and riper, with good acidity and a fine, long finish, Jean suggests it is a 20 year wine and needs time. For now, 89/100.
Château Ka, Source Blanche 2011
Blend of Sauvignon Blanc with Muscat, Chardonnay and Viognier. Lovely peachy nose, a touch of talcum and zesty lemon. The palate has a clarity and running water freshness, yet there is juicy grapefruit and lemon acidity, finishing with nice spice and a fresh finish. 88/100. 13%. In Waitrose.
Château Ka, Source Blanche 2010
Apple, orange and greengage fruit melange, but gently herby too. The palate more dominated by Muscat, with a drier finish, and slightly more strident finish, but still nice grapefruity freshness. 87/100.
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IXSIR, Altitude Rouge 2009
A blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Syrah, 26% Caladoc and 17% Tempranillo. Just a little bit of barrel component here. What a lovely nose, absolutely intense aromatics, with creamy black fruit aplenty, but some perfume of old roses and kirsch-like black cherry. Hints of mint and garrigue-like herbs. The palate is soft and voluptuous, adding to the easy drinking creaminess. It is perhaps just nearing over maturity, with soft tannins and a maturing style. 86-87/100
IXSIR, Grande Reserve Red 2009
Syrah (61%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (39%) spends 12 months in French oak, 60% new and 40% second fill. Still very aromatic, adding a layer of spice and pepper to the creamy black fruit, but quite tightly defined and has a touch of earthiness and minerality. The palate has lovely fruit, approachable, richly textured and full, but a big drying core of tannin adds grip and weight, and is much grippier with plum skins and liquorice adding to the juicy structure of the finish. Serious, and nicely alive. 90/100.
IXSIR, Mystery wine 2009
The name of this mystery wine is currently being registered so I was asked not to publish it. It will be the top wine of the estate. A blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot it has a powerful nose with kirsch and liquorice and some nutty notes, with lots of spices and peppery components and a really pure fruit character. The palate at this stage is hugely tight and concentrated, with a cedary edge to the fruit, the smokiness of the oak supporting crunchy, vivid, very pure and tight black. Lots of cassis ripeness and glossy purity, but grippy too and the oak not overdone. 91-92/100.
white and rosé wines
IXSIR, Altitude White 2011
Muscat, Viognier, Sauvignon and Sémillon (finished wine, but not bottled). A touch of sulphur at this stage that blows off to reveal powerful aromatics, the Muscat and Viognier adding lots of Spring flower top notes, some waxy and passionfruit character coming through and some herby, green notes. The palate has a rich texture, with the Muscat full and dry, the Sauvignon (though only 15%) adding lots of punch and the Viognier adding palate weight and texture. A very impressive, modern wine and punchy too. 88-89/100.
IXSIR, Grande Reserve White 2011
Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, this finished fermentation in barrel then spent five months in 400-litre French oak barrels, 50% new. Lovely, buttery richness to the nose, with plenty of oak, but not too much as the succulent pear and almost tropical, pineapple ripeness come through. The palate has a huge citrus core of pithy grapefruit and lime, really focused and juicy, with a really nutty background. The juicy, fresh, aromatic and exotic character is still there, giving this a nice balance of opulence and firm, crisp structure. Will be better in a few months once the oak settles, but terrific quality. 89-90/100.
IXSIR, Altitudes Rosé 2011
Syrah and Caladoc, with a very pleasing, pale salmon pink colour with a peachy tinge. Intensely aromatic, with lots of floral, rose-like perfume, a little bubblegum, but very pleasing red fruits. On the palate dry and delightfully balanced, with a big core of citrus and plenty of raspberry and cherry fruit. A little hint of spice and tannin adds some grip. Not a saignée of the red – planted and made exclusively as a rosé. 88/100.
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Karam winery, Maison 2010
An entry level wine blending Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot, this has a welcoming creamy black fruit nose with a little charcoal note and traces of floral and herbal nuances. On the palate it is easy drinking and has a nice weight of straightforward black fruit with no oak. Its 12.5% alcohol means there’s no heat, and a bit of rustic, grippy tannin helps the fairly low acidity in the pleasingly spicy and fruitily attractive finish. 87/100.
Karam winery, Syrah De Nicolas 2005
Only 8,000 bottles of this Syrah are produced, and it is aged for 12 months in oak. This 2005 has a little softening garnet rim to the deep colour, and a nose filled with the coconut and vanilla aromas of the oak. The fruit beneath seems ripe and dark, but the Syrah expression is not terribly distinct because of the oaky layer. On the palate the wine is full and rich, with 13.5% alcohol and a full, creamy texture. The oak dominates in the mouth too for my personal taste, adding quite dry tannins and leaving the finish just a little short of fruit as spice and charry toast follow through. 86-87/100.
Karam winery, Thouraya 2006
A warmth to the colour of this, lots of cedar and smoky, dry quite peppery and aromas. Definitely a little green, Cabernet Sauvignon character that’s lovely, with the black fruit beautifully pitched. Lovely palate too, the oak a little prominent, but deliciously balanced and has lovely swirling smoke in the finish. 90/100.
Karam winery, Corpus Christi 2008
From vineyards at 1300 metres, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc has a beautifully lifted fragrance of church incense and cedar, Sandalwood and clove. Very refined black fruit, again the tiny green cardamom aromatic of Cabernet Franc adding interest. The fruit is packed onto the palate, the fat juiciness and glossy weight of black fruit is excellent, layered with spice and smoky oak. It is big, but deliciously flavoured. 91/100.
white and rosé wines
Karam winery, Cloud Nine Blanc 2011
Sémillon, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat with a modest 12.9% alcohol, the nose is dominated by the powerful musk and floral aromas of the Viognier and Muscat, with a nectarine ripeness and touches of lychee and tropical fruit. On the palate it is fresh and clean, much more lemon and lime character coming through, the finish showing some grapefruit and herbal notes. 87/100.
Karam winery, Arc-En-Ciel Rosé 2010
This rosé of 70% Syrah and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon has a peachy-pink colour and nose of mostly dry, redcurrant and cranberry aromas, though there’s a touch of something grapefruity and vividly citrus too. On the palate it is dry and savoury, with plenty of acidity to keep it fresh, though perhaps the fruit could be a little more concentrated. 85/100.