Château Ksara is the oldest winery in Lebanon. Although a non-commercial venture when founded by Jesuit monks in 1857 (the reason Domaine des Tourelles can stake claim to the title ‘oldest commercial winery’ in Lebanon), their wine became a highly sought after staple (and thereby a financial success) during French governance between the end of the First World War and the country’s independence in 1942.

Despite concerns that independence might reduce wine’s popularity due to losing the French influence, Château Ksara’s growth continued until the civil war (1975 – 1990) took its toll, hampering supply to traditional markets. Nevertheless not a single harvest was missed, not even during the winery’s occupation by Syrian forces in 1981. Since the end of the war the relative ease with which today’s markets can be reached, together with new innovation and inward investment, have seen the winery blossom. (It is now in private hands after purchase from the Vatican in the seventies.)

The property makes almost half of all Lebanese wine (2.8 million of circa 6 million bottles) from 423 hectares of vines, of which 30% is owned by the winery and the rest bought from growers under contract.

It also has one of the widest ranges of wines, with 14 labels, and is the best known brand in Lebanon (though Château Musar can lay claim to being the best internationally recognised name, having focused on exports at the onset of the civil war).

Château Ksara’s Roman caves are a must-see for any visitor to the Bekaa. A unique and worthwhile addition to any tour, they weren’t discovered until 1898 and are now used for ageing a proportion of the winery’s output. More importantly, they serve as home for the company’s 71,000-bottle collection of museum vintages.

Château Ksara's wines

  • ***

    Gris de Gris 2009

    Grapes: Carignan, Grenache Gris

    A fresh, mouth filling rosé with berry notes, and gentle spice lending a savoury note. Crunchy apple and raspberry fruits with on the palate with a herbal edge to the finish.

  • **½

    Sunset 2010

    Grapes: Cabernet Franc, Syrah

    Simpler rosé with a hint more residual sugar, but retaining crispness. Berry fruits and bubble-gum in style. Pleasant.

  • **½

    Blanc l’Observetoire 2010

    Grapes: Clairette, Sauvignon, Muscat

    Well made, clean wine with a fair body of white fruits, fresh apple and crunchy nectarine.

  • ***

    Blanc de Blancs 2009

    Grapes: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon

    Ripe peach and a touch of oak lead to a wine of prominent Chardonnay character tempered with Sauvignon derived freshness. Good balance, plenty of character.

  • ***

    Chardonnay 2010

    Grapes: Chardonnay

    Ripe, upfront nectarine nose with a whiff of oak secondary. Weighty but not unbalanced. Palate a little simple aromatically but has the potential to open further.

  • *½

    Le Prieuré 2009

    Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Cincault

    Good clean red, unremarkable but not faulty.

  • ***

    Reserve de Couvent 2009

    Grapes: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cincault

    Good quality, chunky red with smoky plum, spice and animal aromatics on the nose and a pleasing well-balanced palate.

  • ***

    Château Ksara, ‘Château’ 2007

    Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot

    A little muted on the nose, though hints of plum fruits, blackberry and angelica spice. Still a bit grippy on the palate, though good weight and cool edge. Needs a couple of years.

  • **½

    Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

    Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon

    Quite big, but aromatically simple wine. Blackberry fruits and red pepper. A pleasant and well balanced and sensual palate and a good wine structurally, but lacking any great depth of aromatic character.

  • ***½

    Cuvée du Troisième Millenaire 2007

    Grapes: Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Syrah

    A serious wine of chunky damson and black cherry fruits vying with game and bonfire smoke on the nose. A powerful palate of fine ripe tannins, sweet jammy fruits and hints of cardamom and bell pepper. An intriguing wine and a keeper.

  • ****

    Souverain 2006

    Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Arinarnoa Noir (Merlot and Petit Verdot cross)

    An elegant and more subtle wine than Cuvée du Troisième Millenaire, but with greater depth of fine tannin and more overall body. Sweet cherry, blackcurrant and red pepper aromas with a meaty hint.

  • Elie Maamari – Oenologist and export manager

    Elie Maamari – Oenologist and export manager

  • Elie Maamari – quizzed by Swedish wine correspondents.

    Elie Maamari – quizzed by Swedish wine correspondents.

  • Fermentation vats

    Fermentation vats

  • 2000 year old Roman cellars

    2000 year old Roman cellars

  • Me with too much time on my hands!

    Me with too much time on my hands!

  • 1927 Sweet Grenache in the cellars

    1927 Sweet Grenache in the cellars

  • The Tasting room

    The Tasting room