Tasting at home - part II

Le Riche Chardonnay 2017

South Africa, with its captivating vineyards and breath-taking vistas, not-to-mention exotic wildlife, is a true treasure-trove of discovery for any wine lover. Here, one finds expressions of Chenin Blanc that have forced producers and consumers to re-assess the varietal that was previously dismissed as the mere workhorse, ‘Steen’. Cape reds have gained a fantastic reputation too: Some winemakers have emerged as true masters of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, not forgetting the quintessential South African varietal Pinotage. Yet, there is a darker side. Apartheid, though ended in 1994 still casts its shadow of social injustice over a predominantly ‘white’ wine trade. Things are changing, but slowly. Another spectre, equally ominous, is climate change. Recent droughts have added a further layer of difficulty for winemakers who are already struggling to turn a profit, so much so that the total area of land under vine in South Africa is actually shrinking. Nevertheless, capital investment continues and it is hoped as the industry continues to mature, the solutions will come.

Le Riche is a producer of note and has found its way into Hugh Johnsons Pocket Wine Book for several years. Based in South Africa’s wine capital of Stellenbosch, it is more known for its fine reds, notably Cabernet Sauvignon. Le Riche Chardonnay was a more recent edition to the portfolio, but with its clear fresh fruity expression of Chardonnay, coupled with subtle oak aging, it has already become something of a hit.

Tasting note:
A fresh style with rich mineral, melon and citrus characters, hints of lemongrass and butterscotch. This wine has all the best of the Chardonnay character whilst remaining poised and elegant, clean and fresh.

Domaine des Tourelles Marquis des Beys Syrah Cabernet 2014

The Lebanon is firmly planted at the heart of wine history. But the ‘Land of Canaan’ though a rich seam of culture and ancient history, is also one of the most volatile melting pots on the surface of the globe. That a wine industry of any kind has managed to thrive in an area so haunted by conflict is nothing short of a miracle. However, despite the odds, it continues to grow. In 2000, there were just 14 wine producers in the Lebanon. By 2018, this had exploded to 50.

When most people think of Lebanese wine, minds turn to the exotic, long-aging French blends of Château Musar, but the iconic producer only tells half the story. The Bekaa Valley with its limestone, loamy and often gravelly soils, remains the engine room to the wine industry in this enchantingly raw, torn pocket of the world. It is the base for the likes of Château Kefraya and Kasara, but also where we find our next gem. Domaine des Tourelles Marquis was founded in 1868 by French adventurer François-Eugène Brun. The family ran the operation until 2003 whereupon it was taken over by two local families, though the traditions remain.

The small parcels of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are hand-picked. Fermentation takes place in concrete vats, before blending and aging for 18 months in French oak barrels. It is a more conventional red that the exuberant Musar, but a fantastic example of what this ancient terroir is capable of.

Tasting note:
Stylish and sophisticated, produced from specially selected parcels of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. A deeply red garnet hue is accompanied by a darkly intriguing brambly fruit and spice nose. The palate is densely packed with sumptuous flavours of blackcurrants and chocolate with a pure, crunchy, fine core.

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