Domaine des Tourelles is one of the oldest wineries still operating in Lebanon, founded in 1868 by the French adventurer François-Eugène Brun as the first commercial winery in ‘modern’ Lebanon. The Brun family then owned the domaine, through the thick and thin of Lebanese history in the 20th century, until the last descendant died in 2003. Luckily, family members Elie Issa and Nayla Issa el-Khoury were able to buy the property and continue the fine tradition of winemaking.
Today the winemaker is Elie’s son Faouzi, who studied oenology at the famous university at Montpellier and worked with Rhône winemaking legend René Rostaing and at Bordeaux first growth Château Margaux before returning home. Faouzi is modest but unequivocal about the secret of their success, putting it down to the altitude at which the vines grow up in the Bekaa Valley. Warm summer days are tempered by cool nights so that the grapes retain freshness and vivacity even at optimal ripeness. Maturation in old concrete tanks that allow a slow permeation of oxygen also play a part, as does the 19th century winery itself built to an old Lebanese design that keeps the interior cool even in the middle of a Lebanese summer.
The estate encompasses 40 hectares of vines, all organically cultivated and dry-farmed and among the oldest in the valley. The vines have very low yields and are all hand-harvested before a fermentation using indigenous yeasts. The wines are then aged in stainless steel if white, and in concrete tanks if red, and are bottled with minimal sulphur.