Domaine des Tourelles Cinsault Vieilles Vignes 2016
We first took notice of this Lebanese winery with their tantalizing Dry Rosé made with Provençal-type varieties, and then recently we discovered their old vine Cinsault and needed to learn more.... in 2014, winemaker Faouzi Issa first released this cuvée, made exclusively from Cinsault – a grape ideally suited to the Bekaa’s hot, dry climate on the Mediterranean Sea, and where Faouzi believes he can produce truly great, long-lived wines. Faouzi has had impeccable wine training, in fact, including working at Château Margaux and Domaine René Rostaing in Côte Rôtie.
Cinsault was historically the backbone of Lebanon’s wine industry but fell out of fashion commercially. Luckily Domaine des Tourelles has Cinsault fruit coming from 50 year old vines grown in mostly dry-farmed, 100% organic, high elevation vineyards, 1,050 meters (3,445 feet) above sea level. The soil is clay, with a clay and limestone subsoil. The grapes are hand-harvested in small boxes. Fermented in concrete vats with indigenous yeasts, then aged in old oak barrels for 8 months. Minimum amount of sulfur is added at bottling. A profound nose with broad, dusty fruit overlaid by dried-spice flavors. Earthy but clean, persistent finish. An elegant red to serve with hearty dishes. 14% alcohol. Vegan. Indigenous yeasts.
Domaine des Tourelles is one of the longest established and most highly acclaimed wineries in the Bekaa Valley. Founded in 1868 by French adventurer François-Eugène Brun, the estate was the first commercial cellar in Lebanon producing wines, arak and other spirits. In 2000, it was bought by the Issa and Issa-el-Khoury families, both close to the Brun family through, respectively, lifelong friendship and cousin ties. The domaine is run today by Faouzi Issa (winemaker), his two sisters Christiane and Joanne (a talented artist who created the visual identity of the winery) and Emile Issa-el Khoury. Faouzi trained in Montpellier and worked at Domaine René Rostaing in Côte Rôtie before joining the legendary Château Margaux, from 2007 to 2008. He then went back to the Bekaa Valley and his efforts placed his family's wines among the most recognized and awarded in Lebanon. Decanter Magazine called him the "Dusty Winemaker": dust, Faouzi says “encourages the natural yeasts that give our wines their distinctive character.” The winery also boasts a museum worthy collection of old machines.
Lebanon lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, with a surface area of 4,000 square miles – slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. At 2,500 to 3,000 feet above sea level, the Bekaa Valley is a plateau separating the Lebanon Mountains from the Anti-Lebanon Mountains (the name comes from the Latin Antilibanus - opposite to the Mount Lebanon range). It benefits from a microclimate and enjoys 240 days of sun. The heat of the summer days is compensated by the freshness of the cool nights, when gentle breezes circulate throughout the valley, dropping the temperature from 90F to 60F. These cold nights sustain the vineyards through the heat and drought of summer. Annual precipitations are between ten and eleven inches of rain, concentrated in the autumn and winter seasons. It decreases in the spring, with almost no rain in the summer, which makes for healthy grapes. The rocky soil is covered by a layer of clay-chalk and limestone, making the Bekaa Valley ideal for vine growing. Along with the climate, these conditions produce rich, fleshy and tannic reds and delicate, aromatic whites.
Domaine des Tourelles winery and vineyards are at the highest altitude, in Chtaura. Its 40 hectares of vineyards include some of the oldest vines in the Bekaa Valley, 70 year plus, giving extremely low yields. They are gobelet trained to resist against the heat and receive water from the snow melt of the surrounding mountains. They are mostly dry-farmed, but drip irrigation was installed after a devastating heat that destroyed in 2015 seventy percent of the crop. It would be used if such conditions return. Some vineyards are rented (99 year old fermage contracts), and Faouzi gets first dibs on the fruit from others. The grapes are harvested by hand early morning, starting at 5am and finishing around 10am.
Farming practices/vinification: the vineyards are organically farmed. They are only treated with sulfur and copper (Bouillie Bordelaise) when needed. The winery was built following an intelligent ancestral design that keeps it at an ideal temperature year round. The concrete vats (very rare in Lebanese wineries) provide the best biological conditions for a natural wine making process, which is favored to preserve the authenticity of the wine. The wines are fermented with indigenous yeasts, in stainless steel tanks for the whites and rosés, and in concrete tanks for the reds. Minimum amount of sulfur is added at bottling. The wines are vegan.
Sustainability: the winery collects its own used bottles and reuses them in the production cycle. Cartons and plastic items are sent to Arcenciel, a Lebanese NGO that sells them to recycling industries in order to raise funds for the disabled. Even the residues of the fermented grapes are transformed into natural fertilizers for the vineyards. Last but not least, Domaine des Tourelles is a socially involved company that gives any recruiting priority to its hometown’s residents, helping many families from the village of Jdita to secure a career and stable revenues, therefore enabling them to stay on their ancestors’ land. Many of their employees have been at the winery for 25 years or more, ensuring continuity in the spirit of the production.
|Region||Lebanon, Bekaa Valley|
|Brand||Domaine des Tourelles|