Vol 3 No 10 Chateau Belle-Vue revisited

I originally wrote about this wonderful Lebanese winery that is doing everything right, a year ago. You might want to look to Vol. 2 No 7 because it is worth the effort. To recap this is a small production winery located in the mountains east of Beirut, in a small town Naji Boutros grew up in. After coming to the U.S. to attend Notre Dame (see the post for the details), he met his wife Jill there. After a successful career as an investment banker in London, he returned home to try to improve life for the people of his small town and make great wines. Unlike many newly-wealthy people now ‘investing’ in wineries, theirs is not to make a profit but to promote their wines and they have succeeded in causing more than a dozen new wineries to open. The original Lebanese wineries were in the Bekaa Valley such as Chateu Mazur, which has been there much longer.

The beautiful thing about Belle-Vue’s location (again see the post for the details of the name, etc.), is it is near Beirut, has a wonderful lodge and restaurant and has an ideal setting and soils to produce award-winning wines. Their three main grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and an incredible Syrah! They produce a small amount of other wines but those are served in the restaurant and not exported.

Here are the two available in the U.S:

Chateau Belle-Vue La Renaissance. Note that the current release is their 2009, a Left-Bank blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has medium tannins and will be long-lived. I previously had the 2007 and it is nowhere near its peak.

For the first time Le Chateau has been offered in the U.S. This 2009 is much more forward and filled with lush fruit. Bordeaux? Rhone? No, a Rhodeaux! Okay, TB coined the name because it is an unusual blend of Cabernet Franc, SYRAH, and Merlot. Huh? How did they come up with this? Barrel sampling and everytime these three grapes blended the best so they decide to be somewhat ‘Rhone Ranger’s of Lebanon’, and the result is stunning. I love this wine and the price of around $59 may sound high but consider their production is very limited…how limited? It is measured in thousands of bottles…bottles not cases!

I bought it at the Wine Republic in Excelsior, MN, but it is available in other states too. As the saying goes…try it, you’ll like it! I did!

Au revoir for now…

TB ©copyright 2017 traderbillonwine.com


Vol. 2 No. 18…getting ‘closure’

One of the blogs I subscribe to is The Wine Economist by Mike Veseth. In his latest, he did a great piece on cork this week. It got me to thinking on several counts.

While the situation is improving cork taint continues to affect wine. What if one out 12 bottles is infected with it (probably less than that but who knows)? That bottle may come back to the retailer and then up the chain to the producer, and it might have been perfectly good.  Like the way diners send back their dinners as not tasting right to get a free meal, usually after they have eaten a substantial amount of it.

On my recent trip to Spain and Portugal (yes, Portugal, cork capital of the world), more than one winemaker told me they would like to see corks go away. Why?

Let’s consider this: do you know the difference between a Vintage Port and a Late Bottled Vintage Port? If you said the Vintage Port is aged longer you would be wrong. It is only in barrel for 1-2 years. Where a good Tawny or Late Bottled Vintage, or Colheita (single vintage), will be aged for 10,20, 40, 50 years (I tasted a Graham’s 1972 Single Harvest Port at the winery and it was truly special), the Vintage Port is naturally aged in the bottle. Also, it more or less has to be drunk within 48 hours, whereas a Tawny or LBV could last up to two weeks.

What is the point? The point is other than the affectation, it could just as well have a screw cap known as a Stelvin closure. The Aussie’s and Kiwi’s used it first, but it took Randall Graham at Bonny Doon to dare to use them in the United States. It is now becoming acceptable to use the Stelvin for white wine but if its a red and you aren’t going to lay it down for five or ten years you want cork. But seriously, is there a difference?

Consider that capsule that encases the cork. Just how much air transfer to you think is going on? My guess is ZERO. However, over time the cork can shrink, get dry, and let air in. Why take the risk IF you know that the wine is released late.

Two examples: Chateau Belle-Vue, a Bordeaux style red from Lebanon. It is a beautiful wine. Guess what the current release is? 2007! In Portugal I bought a bottle of Douro table wine at Quinto do Infantado. Vintage, 2010! Then, in Priorat, Spain, three bottles of Clos de l’Obac, different varietals 2005 -2007. In Ibiza I bought a bottle of a local wine I liked with a 2002 vintage.

Get the picture? These wines don’t need aging, they can be drunk for any special occasion. So who needs a cork? Only someone who needs to show off their somme skills with a waiter’s corkscrew. One last point: how many of you have actually had an old vintage wine? You only have a few minutes to enjoy it and then it might taste like tea. Ah but the romance. You know the answer of what to do when the somme hands you the cork to sniff after he has, right? Throw it across the room!