the wines of Lebanon: an Easter taste test
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 9, 2007
I love ecumenical holidays. Growing up in Iowa, we had no extended family around – so for our family, Christmas and Easter were holidays that we celebrated with our Jewish friends. Less ham, more joy, and many warm memories, including one my father sometimes reminds me of: the grown son of Holocaust survivors sitting down on the family room steps to read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” with a very young me.
Yesterday’s gathering reminded me very much of my childhood. We were 4 Christians (one Catholic, one Greek Orthodox, one Protestant, and one hybrid) and 3 Sunni Muslims of assorted nationalities, all gathered for a delicious three course meal.
One of the big differences from my childhood (aside from the fact that no one offered to read to me) was that this holiday included a wine taste test.
My friend A had chosen three bottles for the lunch – an Italian white, to match the first course’s brilliant bowtie pasta with smoked salmon in a light cream sauce, and two Lebanese reds.
The reds were a 1997 Chateau Musar
and a 2001 Comte de M, Kefraya’s “vin de prestige”.
(I can’t find a 2001 label online so am using the 1999.)
The Wine Doctor has this to say about the Musar, from a July 2004 tasting:
Chateau Musar 1997: At the time of writing, the most recent vintage. Obvious volatile acidity on initial nosing, but this soon disappears behind some baked cherry fruit and leather, and classic gamy, animal notes. What lovely balance on the palate though – the wine positively glides. Good acidity, with some soft, ripe tannins which hardly show at all until the finish. There’s a hint of creamy richness but overall what it has is elegance. Should drink well for five to ten years, and may well keep for longer. 16.5/20
I can find nothing about the 2001 Comte de M, but Kefraya’s website describes the 2000 as follows:
Announced by a beautiful bright dark color as well as an extremely distinguished and intense bouquet reminiscent of cooked fruits, menthol, and cedar, with a certain toastiness, this wine develops firm and silky tannins that support a high-quality material with predominant menthol and black fruit flavors revealing discreet wood hints. A very open and generous wine with a marked varietal character, the Comte de M could be even more enjoyable in a couple of decades. But why wait when one can already sense the satisfaction, the power of youth and especially the good breed.
Despite the Doctor’s high praise for the Musar, our table leaned heavily in favor of the Comte de M. Even I, who drinks so little that my friend K crows about having “once, I think, seen Diamond drink one full glass of wine”, could sense the cloudiness in the Musar, and the bright full flavor in the Comte de M.
(Our host blamed the Musar’s less-than-spectacular taste on its hard life in his care. Apparently it made a summer journey from Beirut to Damascus and back again, in a dangerously warm trunk space.)
Regardless the wine tasting added a lovely note (haha) to the afternoon, making a delightful holiday lunch all the more fun.