The wines of Domaine des Tourelles, Lebanon

Faouzi Issa presented this range tasting of Domaine des Tourelles in London. He’s young (1984 vintage) but already has many vintages under his belt, including experience working at Château Margaux in Bordeaux, he’s still learning. He’s also been steering Tourelles in a new direction, with the reinstatement of Cinsault and Carignan to the range, many years after French consultants advised them to go in the direction of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syran.

‘In 2014 I decided to create a kind of cuvée of 100% Cinsault from vines that are old enough to create a wine with great structure and acidity,’ says Issa. He thinks that there’s something distinctive about Cinsault from Lebanon, and that it’s a unique style, with a lot of potential for development. They’ve been very happy with this wine and they wanted to add to the old vines range. ‘Last year, I decided that since I have access to Carignan that is old as well, I would make a 100% Carignan too.’

Faouzi Issa, Domaine des Tourelles

‘We need to focus on our potential, and what gives the right identity,’ he says. ‘Today, Carignan and Cinsault do. I have tasted a lot of Carignan and Cinsault from all over the world. We have a different identity here. It is not that we have the best, but we have something that looks like the country – looks like the Bekaa Valley. It is expressive, powerful, beautiful, smooth, easy to drink. It has the guts to age, too.’

‘They cannot be grown in this microclimate elsewhere. I am sitting at 1000 m altitude. It is a plain with 1000 m altitude that has 300 days of sunshine. But it also has a lot of snow, and freshness at night. In August we have 36 C in the day, but 18 C at night. It is free of diseases. God gave us the worse government with the best weather and food. We can’t have everything. We can’t have a country that is free of political problems with rainy summers and cloudy springs!’

Which varieties are best suited to the region? ‘Syrah is the king of the area. For me, Cinsault is the most exciting variety: it’s what people need today – a structured wine but at the same time easy to drink when it is young. The Carignan is an amazingly beautiful elder brother of the Cinsault, with much more fruit and depth. I like Viognier in the Bekaa Valley. We have some native white varieties that we are looking at doing as varietal wines.’

Tasting a bit of history!

Lebanon has a history of wine growing going back a long way, but there was break and many of the old varieties have been lost. ‘We need a research department in Lebanon that can support the ampeolgraphy work, and go back to the old grapes. But we have some hidden varities. Now, with modern winemaking, there are young people who are adventurous and we are against the copying of French styles, because we have a different climate. A lot of the young winemakers are becoming interested in finding the identity of Lebanon, whether in the varieties, or the winemaking, or in style. At Tourelles I am fermenting wines in 150 year old concrete vats, with indigenous yeasts. We are getting more identity and more fruit. It’s less copy/paste.’

I asked him whether he has changed his approach since he started making wine. ‘I was motivated and inexperienced when I took over aged 25 in 2008. It’s scary: you might do something wrong. So the first vintage I decided to work with indigenous yeasts, and working hard to be natural. In 2009 the phone rang. The export manager of Ksara called me and said your first vintage got the only medal awarded to a Lebanese wine at a competition in Paris.’ At this very early stage, with an entry level wine, he felt this more natural approach was validated.

‘I’m the winemaker but I am also the decision maker. With wine, in order to deliver the right passions, the right style, it has to be produced and sold by the same person. It’s bullshit to have a winemaker in their office, a technical director in their office, a managing director in their office, a chef du culture in their office. It is not wine any more. It is the manufacturing of a product. It doesn’t give you a wine of the style of the area, it gives a wine of the style of the market. You have to be the decision maker, and it helps if no one will kick you out from the winery. If I am a French winemaker in the winery, following the books, with 10 people who need to sign everything off, I’ll get the best machines and put my wines through certified labs too.’

What he’s saying is that it’s necessary to take risks to make great wines, and he can do that because he’s the owner. He says he’s lucky also because he makes Arak, so if there’s a problem wine he can send it to a distillery.   

‘My aim is to produce young wines that are drinkable.’


Domaine des Tourelles Merweih Obadeih 2021 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Taut, tight and lemony with nice focus and freshness. Has a slightly pithy edge with keen lemony notes on the finish. Very stony, vivid and bright with real interest. Very fresh and detailed, with a long stony finish. 91/100

Domaine des Tourelles White 2021 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This is really pretty with a floral, grapey edge to the taut citrus fruit. There’s lovely fruit here with some mineral undertones. Very pure and quite precise, with no oak evident, just lovely fruit. Has some pear and peach richness but also a citrus core. 92/100

Domaine des Tourelles White 2022 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Very pure, primary and fruity with nice precision to the slightly grapey citrus fruit. Some pithy notes in the background with lovely precision to the pure lemon and table grape fruit with a slight stoniness. Pure fruit here. 91/100

Domaine des Tourelles Rosé 2022 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Pear, citrus and cherry fruit with a slight creaminess and a touch of stewed strawberry. Nice crisp fruit, finishing dry. 89/100

Domaine des Tourelles Rosé 2021 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Lovely supple fruit here with cherries and plums as well as some bright citrus. There’s a touch of sweet strawberry and a nice stony undercurrent. Lovely fruit. 90/100

Domaine des Tourelles Skin 2020 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Made with 150 year old Merweh wines, given 10 months skin contact in small clay jars. This is fresh, intense and quite minty with vivid citrus fruit and a touch of marmalade and pith, finishing fresh and lemony. Lovely acidity here, with a bit of structure. 93/100

Domaine des Tourelles Cinsault Vieilles Vignes 2019 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Lovely aromatics here of red cherries, aniseed and baked plums. In the mouth, this has lovely fruit, but also a warm, rounded texture. There’s a fine spicy quality here with ripe, warm fruit, and notes of dried herbs and plums. Finishes with some dried herbs and pepper showing nice depth. Has an innate warmth. 93/100

Domaine des Tourelles Cinsault Vielles Vignes 2016 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This is mellow and warm with fine spices and a broad palate of cherries and strawberries with a bit of sour cherry on the finish. Lovely harmony here with sweet fruit, some warmth, and fine dried herbs on the finish. Lovely precision and drinking very well now. 93/100

Domaine des Tourelles Vin Rouge 120 1976 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This is from Cinsault, concrete vats, no oak, whole bunch. Very pale in colour this has some sweet malt maturity, but also very fine, elegant, almost crystalline red cherry and strawberry fruit, with amazing transparency and texture. This is so expressive and fine with some subtle spice and tar on the finish. Still life in this bottle yet! Thrilling. 95/100

Domaine des Tourelles Red 2020 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Bright and focused with nice freshness to the sweet raspberry and cherry fruit. This has a sleek, ripe, but fresh quality to the fruit. Very fine and expressive with some tannin and a bit of sour cherry on the finish, keeping things focused and lively. Lovely fruit here, and equisite balance with no obvious oak. 93/100

Domaine des Tourelles Red 2009 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Sweetly aromatic nose with slightly baked black fruits, and some herbal hits. Nice depth with ripe fruit, a bit of grip, but also the baked quality makes me think this should be drunk soon. 88/100

Domaine des Tourelles Carignan Vieilles Vignes 2020 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Fresh and direct with bold blackberry and black cherry fruit, with a bit of tannic crunch under the sweet fruit. Lovely depth here with bold black fruits and also nice freshness, finishing juicy. Lovely balance to this wine. 93/100

Domaine des Tourelles Marquis de Beys Red 2015 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
A blend of equal parts Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in French oak. This has a sense of luxury: ripe and bold with sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit with some woody hints meshing well with the lush, layered fruit. Has a hint of aniseed with some plum on the finish. A little salty. A ripe, bold wine. 92/100

Domaine des Tourelles Marquis de Beys Red 2009 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Earthy and spicy on the nose with some development evident. Ripe, expansive palate has some freshness and fruit still, with earth, iodine, cedar and spice as well as some ripe blackberry fruit. Nice depth, with a long finish. 91/100

Domaine des Tourelles Syrah du Liban 2016 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Lush, sweet and ripe, and very polished, with some tar and spice as well as smooth tannins and a slight creaminess. A very modern, ripe wine that will appeal to those who like this style, but for me lacks focus and precision. 90/100

Domaine des Tourelles Syrah du Liban 2006 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
This has nice definition with bold, sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit. There’s nice dense fruit here but also a savoury spiciness with some subtle meat and earth undertones. Finishes fleshy and delicious. 92/100

older notes:

Domaine des Tourelles Vieilles Vignes Carignan 2018 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
14% alcohol. This is the debut vintage of the old vines Carignan, a variety thought to be in harmony with the conditions of the Bekaa Valley, with 1000m altitude and 300 days of sunshine a year. Soils are limestone with a bit of gravel over clay, and these are dry grown bush vines. This is a ripe, harmonious expression of Carignan with sweet dark fruits, a hint of dates, some cranberry brightness and a grainy structure. It has massive drinkability and some warm spices. It’s very Mediterranean in style, showing some purpose but also generosity, with a bit of warmth and some herbal aromas in the mix with the fruits. Very stylish and quite complete. 92/100 (£17.99 Flagship Wines)

Domaine des Tourelles Vieilles Vignes Cinsault 2018 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
14% alcohol. In 2014 Tourelles made this wine for the first time, taking 70 year old Cinsualt bush vines, and fermenting and ageing the wine in concrete tanks with wild yeasts. It’s a really beautiful expression of Cinsault, with lovely aromatics of spice, wild strawberries, cherries and dried herbs. The palate has a nice structure that’s integrated beautifully with the silky texture of the red berry fruits, with lovely purity and drinkability. There’s some substance to this wine: it’s Glou Glou plus! Ripe but very well balanced. 94/100 (£17.99 Talking Wines, Flagship Wines)

UK agent: Boutinot

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