De Libanese wijnonderneming Château Ksara komt met een nieuwe witte wijn op de markt. Het is de Merwah, gemaakt van de gelijknamige lokale druif. Het is de eerste keer dat dit ras is gebruikt voor een eendruivige wijn. De variëteit is tot nog toe uitsluitend in blends gebruikt. Meestal werd de druif gedestilleerd voor arak of als tafeldruif geconsumeerd.
Château Ksara’s vineyards of Merwah are located in the north of the country and planted at an altitude of 1,500 metres.
Sixty years old and on pre-Phylloxera rootstock, the yields were a reported 37 hectolitres per hectare and the wine was given some lees ageing and has not been through any oak treatment.
Lebanon has what it considers two ‘native’ varieties, both white, Obeideh and Merwah. According to Wine Grapes, there may be a link between Merwah and Semillon although in what capacity is not quite clear and the link itself is very underexplored.
Both varieties are used in Château Musar’s white wine and Obeideh is used in the blend for Ksara’s own ‘Blanc de L’Observatoire’ but neither has been given much attention by the country’s winemakers before with international varieties such as Chardonnay given greater prominence and attention; in part due to the perception that they are rather rustic or ‘peasant’ varieties.
Speaking to the drinks business, George Sara, explained that the decision to make a wine using Merwah had been some 20 years in the making and had involved “a lot of trial and error.”
He continued that, despite some lingering doubts on the part of the French winemaker, they had “come round to it” in the end and decided to give it a go.
A long way
‘There was a shyness,” he said, “a lack of confidence and vision to take that step,” but now that it had been taken and satisfied with the results, the wine was now going to become an established part of the range.
Karam added: “In the last 10 years Lebanese whites have really come a long way. Moving to Merwah now is a sign of confidence in the ability of the winemakers and shows everything they’ve learnt in the last 20 years with a grape that’s been around for 1,000 years.”
With an alcohol content of 12.5% and with a period of one moth aged on fine lees and no oak treatment, the wine has a somewhat oily, textured feel on the palate but this is offset by a rather Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (see comment above) briskness and fruit profile.
Sara continued that the introduction of Merwah was also part of a broader rethink of how the winery’s entry-level range was being promoted.
Using other long established varieties in Lebanon such as Cinsault and Carignan, the wines are so ubiquitous in Lebanese restaurants that they were regarded even by the winery as just “everyday” sort of wines with more prestige and fanfare given to Ksara’s more premium output.
While there is no plan to try and spin wines such as L’Observatoire and Le Prieure (the red blend) as ‘premium’ wines all of a sudden, there has been a realisation that they perhaps represent a truer face of Lebanese winemaking tradition and heritage and broader wine culture that are worth encouraging.
Having maintained a strong link with UK chain Comptoir Libanais for some years, Ksara has also signed a new deal that will see its wines become the official house wine of the restaurants from this year.
The Merwah will be distributed in the UK by Hallgarten and Novum Wines and will be offered in both on- and off-trade accounts from next month.