Thursday, June 9, 2022

Meet the producer: Ixsir of Lebanon

Unique master class at London Wine Fair 2022 organized by Enotria&Coe on Lebanese mountain wine produced by Ixsir. The name comes from "elixir", an arabic (Al-iksir) word meaning the purest of all substances, a secret potion that will give eternal youth and love.

Our speaker today was a Spanish man, Gabriel Rivero, a co-founder and te4chnical director. He was educated in oenology in Madrid and then grew professionally in Bordeaux and then worked in Lebanon before founding Ixsir in 2008.

Most wine lovers know Lebanese wines from the Bekaa valley, but this producer focuses on wines from the mountains of the country. Cool climate allows for better acidity and there is plenty of water, no need for irrigation.

Today Ixsir owns 6 vineyards all over the country and in addition 85 families work in communities and provide Ixsir with their grapes. These are all international varieties, there are precious few local ones and they are mostly used for distilled products.

Lebanon has been making wine for over two and a half millennia, but the Ottoman period almost completely wiped out all enological traditions. The wars in the second half of the XX century only made things worse. Now there are about 70 vineyards or so that are seriously back in business and each tries to mark his or her own personality, and avoid just copying other Mediterranean styles.

Uniquely, Lebanon does not have any system of controlled denomination (like AOC in France or DOC in Italy) so producers are free to experiment to their heart's content! What France did leave was a lot of grape varieties and know-how but the industry was in a shambles when the French left. Only after the end of the civil war in the 1990s did it really begin to flourish.

Today Ixsir produces close to 500,000 bottles per year, and do not want to grow bigger. Focus on improving quality instead.

Below some tasting notes from this masterclass.

Grande Reserve White 2019
Viognier 60%, Sauvignon blanc 25%, Chardonnay 15%
Biodynamic wine even if certification has not yet arrived. Perfect balance between acidity and smoothness, vanilla, good length and complexity. Trade price GBP 20.
Score 90

Grande Reserve Rosé 2019
Mourvedre 40%, Cinsault 40%, Syrah 20%
Sourced from three vineyards located at 450 to 1400 meters above sea level, steel only.
Elegant, smooth, easy Summer wine. Trade price GBP 18.
Score 86

Grande Reserve Red 2015
Syrah 50%, Cab sauvignon 39%, Arinarnoa 11% (a tannat/cab sauvignon cross made in France)
Sourced from different sites between 950 and 1150 meters above sea level.
Matured in French oak for 12 months, one third each new, second and third use.
Smooth elegance but still good fruit and structure make for a perfect balance. A complex wine to drink now. Trade price GBP 23.
Score 89

Grande Reserve Red 2012
Syrah 50%, Cab sauvignon 39%, Arinarnoa 11%
A bit rough, will need time to hopefully smoothen out. Trade price GBP 23.
Score 85

El Ixsir Red 2015
Syrah 45%, Cab sauvignon 45%, merlot 10%
Sourced from vineyards at various altitudes including one at 1800, possibly among the highest in the world. French oak barrels for 24 months, half new and half second use.
Balanced, and mod complex and long, ready now. Trade price GBP 42
Score 93

El Ixsir Red 2012
same grapes and vineyards as previous wine.
Spiciness of syrah prevails, backbone is provided by cab sauvignon, elegance by merlot. a good interpretation of the Bordeaux blend. Trade price 45 GBP
Score 92

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