Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent: a resolution for 2021
New Year’s resolutions are often about giving things up, but here’s something that’s a lot easier to achieve: buy wine from Lebanon in 2021. My ‘Wine of the Week’, Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent, is a great place to start.
Borrowing verbatim from my friend and colleague Peter Dean at the Buyer, “if you thought you had a shit year in 2020, try talking to someone from Beirut. A perfect storm of corrupt politicians, runaway inflation, Covid and an H-bomb-sized explosion in the port means that if you buy one case of wine in 2021, make sure it’s Lebanese.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Throw in the fact that the wines are distinctive, a bit different, and – frequently – fabulous, and this is no act of altruism.
After that dreadful Beirut blast, last August, I was contacted by a good friend who buys a lot of wine, asking me for some recommendations from Lebanon. Embarrassingly, I initially struggled to identify the best stockist for such wines. Thankfully, I’m now much more aware of what’s available in the UK market and I shall be featuring a number of wines over the next few months.
Château Ksara Reserve du Couvent Rouge 2017 (£10.99 at Simply Wines Direct, £12.39 at All About Wine, £14 at Whole Foods Market stores or Wapping Wines), a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, the best-selling red wine in Lebanon, was initially a little closed on the nose, so I decanted it. Behind that shyness, there’s foraged blackberry, blackcurrant leaf and blueberry, with winter spice and a really satisfying earthy note. It’s quite substantial, but there’s a lovely altitude freshness and the tannins are very sleek, so the wine exudes a sense of balance.
From Lebanon’s oldest winery, founded during the Ottoman Empire – a survivor of famine, two World Wars and a dreadful civil war – it has remarkably never missed a harvest. The vines grow at altitude in the Bekaa Valley, along the eastern side of this small, narrow country. I’ve always wanted to visit the Bekaa Valley but it was impossible on my last visit to Lebanon, in 2013, as it was considered too dangerous, due to its proximity to Islamic State territory in Syria – yet another trauma the country has had to endure.
I’d probably recommend serving this wine with a meaty feast, though we actually enjoyed it with a sprout and chestnut risotto, a sign of its versatility.
2021 hasn’t got off to the best of starts, but at least this is a resolution that’s easy to keep.