Mis à jour : 25 sept. 2018
The passion to dare and the joy of succeeding ...
Few months ago I had the pleasure to meet Christine and Elie Chehwane. A first meeting at an exhibition stand, where I have discovered the whole range of quality wines that Latourba offers.
I was also present at the inauguration of their boutique, wine-bar and restaurant at the Symposium Lounge - Sin El Fil, and since then have been following them in all the wine exhibitions.
But I have so far not had the opportunity to discover their domain in Saghbine.
Now I can finally say, it's done.
Indeed, we had planned with them for a day discovery/tasting and lunch for a group of friends and family and we headed on a beautiful Sunday, towards the lake Qaraoun.
Very beautiful region of West Bekaa with panoramic, breathtaking views.
Latourba is 65 hectares of land. A single vineyard that is tucked away on the border of the Qaraoun lake and the Litani River. Idyllic surroundings and rich soil. The land that has witnessed history and civilization from the Phoenicians to the Romans and to the Ottomans. It was the roundabout between Mount Lebanon, Damascus, Baalbek & Haifa.
On our arrival, Christine & Elie greeted us warmly and directed us to their cellars.
We first discovered that Latourba is not only a beautiful large vineyard but that the Chehwane also own and raise horses, a herd of few hundred cows and goats, and cultivate every spot of their land with all sorts of plants, and trees.
And while Christine was preparing the scene for the tasting and lunch, Elie took us on a tour in the property telling us Latourba’s story from inception…
Elie is an Electromechanical engineer and was (still) running two companies in this field. After the Lebanese civil war, while his friends went investing in various remote places, he decided to return to his village to invest in vineyards. A friend of his, dropped his job in another winery, and setup a project with Elie to buy plots of land and plant vines.
They started planting in 2005. In 2006, 10’000 vines were lost due the war and the lack of initial irrigation of the young plants.
Also in 2006, Elie’s partner decided to work abroad on a different project leaving Elie by himself. And when he came back he wanted to limit the production to 20'000 bottles while Elie wanted to benefit from his great vineyard to produce a wider variety and larger quantity. And since they did not agree, Elie decided to buy the shares and to continue alone.
He then travelled to France, Champagne-Ardennes region to meet an oenologist and launched a partnership for a production of a sparkling wine Champagne method. His partner came to Lebanon and spent 2 years working with Elie to develop this production. Then he left to go work in Canada on Ice Wines.
To make quality wine, you need to uncover the richness of your terroir. The romans did and were producing wine in this region. Elie, with his Greek winemaker, decided to make single varietal wines to closely apprehend the fertile quality of the terroir and better follow, appreciate and measure maturity.
Latourba grows 18 grape varieties, especially Mediterranean varieties such as Albariño, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Fianno, and more classical Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit-Verdot, Syrah and Merlot etc. Not to forget the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for the sparkling white and rosé wines.
Overall, to date, 140'000 vines are planted in different parcels of this unique 65 hectares single vineyard.
400 tons of grapes are harvested yearly.
A part is used for Latourba’s own production and the rest is sold to Ksara, Ixsir and Clos St Thomas.
The first vintage produced was 2014: 15000 bottles. In 2015 the production was doubled. 65’000 bottles were produced in 2016, 75’000 in 2017 and aiming for around 120’000 in 2018.
Our tour with Elie, ended-up around few authentic Roman caves discovered on his land.
Then we assembled for a photo-shoot in this splendid panoramic scenery, but also to understand that Elie’s project is far from being only what we saw here. Actually, he intends to build a new winery up the hill, as well as a restaurant with a panoramic view and a playground for children…A complete beautiful domain in perspective.
On our way back, both sides of the pathway were lined with a variety of plants and trees such as pink berries, prickly pear or olives...
Elie’s dedication to his land and region was obvious. He explained that him and some other owners in the region wanted to create craft projects and encourage agribusiness in order to fix people in their territory and give them work.
Our tour was finished, and we were thirsty and eager to start the tasting…
3 young wines of the 3 colors,
1 single varietal of white and 4 of reds, plus 1 blend of red and a very promising sparkling wine.
Obviously, we were not intending to taste them all… So, we started with the young white: 'Cival' and we tasted 2016 and 2017: Elegant, refreshing and well-balanced wine, with notes of citrus, stone fruits & tropical fruits flavors. A very pleasant wine at this level.
The single varietal ‘Chardonnay’ was to follow. Golden yellow color, stone fruits, sweet spices and oak flavors for a smooth and well-structured wine.
Then we picked one single varietal red the ‘Petit Verdot’: A very deep dark ruby color. Full-bodied, well-structured tannins and unique aromas of leather, black and dried fruits and a hint of tobacco. It is beautiful now and will be greater maturing few more years.
We ended with the ‘LITAJ’, the premium blend of Latourba’s reds: Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet- Sauvignon. Deep red color with purple hues. A combination of complex aromas and flavors of red fruits and spices, tobacco and dark chocolate. A beautiful oaky long finish for a wine that promises to further improve with years.
We all loved what we were tasting….
And after we finished lunch,
Elie granted us the privilege to taste Latourba’s sparkling wine the ‘Unique’ which is not yet in the market.
A very promising surprise to all.
What better to end our visit to Latourba.
We spent a beautiful day, full of wonders and really enjoyed every minute.
We are thankful and highly appreciate Christine and Elie’s generosity, hospitality and delightful great wines.
This was not the end but the beginning of a good friendship and a long route to definitely follow with Latourba’s wines.