Thursday, 16 October 2008

Middle Eastern Wines at Malouf's

Malouf's Arabesque, Elements, Kowloon
15th October 2008

When I heard that Malouf's Arabesque, one of my favourite Hong Kong restaurants, was hosting a Middle-Eastern wine event I got a tad excited. The setting was casual and it was a pleasure to try the wines on a barmy evening on their upstairs balcony. A selection of high quality, Mediterranean inspired finger food from their meze menu was on offer and it was all extremely tasty. The event cost a hefty $317 each, but after stuffing myself on delightful food and being left with a couple of bottles of wine to finish I really couldn't complain.

Etko Winery, Cyprus (website)
Olympus is Etko's everyday drinking range and Olympus Dry White is made from the indigenous Cypriot grape Xynisteri; full and long it had pleasant nutty flavours but was a tad simple. The Olympus Dry Red was made from local Mavro as well as Grenache and Carignan. Fresh and light I enjoyed this easy drinking proposition; the Grenache was obvious on the nose with delicious cherry and pepper aromas. I also liked the Nefeli Dry White, again made from Xynisteri; it was a well balanced wine with a lovely minerality. The Semeli Dry Red 2004 featured Mavro, Grenache and Shiraz and was a much bigger wine than the Olympus red. It had a herbal nose and palate dominated by cherry and chassis and definitely needed time in the glass to open up. Priced between $120 and $170 these wines from Etko offered enjoyable drinking, decent value and an opportunity to try some Cypriot grape varietals. They are imported to Hong Kong by Wine Patio.

Halana, Morocco (website)
Established in 1994 Halana purchased sixty year old vineyards in the hope of re-establishing the Moroccan wine industry. They are situated near the former Moroccan capital of Meknes, the country's main wine producing region. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Halana Syrah Rose 2006; this fresh and balanced wine had strawberry flavours and decent weight. The Halana Merlot 2006 was a tad too sweet and jammy for my taste, but had plenty of dark fruit flavours and a soft drinkability. For some reason I had no notes on the Syrah 2006 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, but remember enjoying the Cabernet. At only $90 a bottle Halana wines are good value and worth a try, especially the Rose. They are imported by Fico.

Chateau Musar, Lebanon (website)
Lebanon is perhaps the site of the world's first wine production and founded in the 1930s Chateau Musar is often seen as the cream of their wine industry. The vineyards are located in the Beqaa Valley, 15 miles north of Beirut. Their red wines are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan and Grenache. I enjoyed the Chateau's second wine Hochar Pere et Fils 2001, it was a medium bodied and pleasant drop showing aged characteristics, but still had plenty of sweet fruit and a fresh nose. The Chateau Musar Red 2001 was a really interesting wine. Perfumed and subtle it had lovely aromas of spice and a refined dark fruit dominated palate. At $230 is a fair price for such a top quality wine. Again imported by Fico.

Barkan, Israel (website)
Barkan is a large Israeli producer. First we tried the Barkan Classic Shiraz Rose, it was a nice drop that I think benefitted from the addition of 15% Tempranillo. It had delicious almond and herb flavours on the nose and strawberries on the palate; dry and drinkable it really was rather pleasant. The Barkan Domain Merlot was also fresh and drinkable with red fruits, herbs and a touch of vanilla. The Barkan Reserve Merlot was a darker proposition with tobacco, cherry and plum aromas and a bold, sweet palate. Perhaps a tad one dimensional the Reserve Shiraz was dominated vanilla oak. I liked the Reserve Cabernet. This dark wine had a classic cassis and blackberries on the nose and a smooth, fruity palate, though the lack of tannins would suggest a drink now proposition. The oak influence on these Barkan wines was pretty obvious and they were all about vanilla oak and ripe fruit.

I enjoyed myself at Malouf's Middle Eastern Wine tasting. It was fantastic night with nice wines, lovely food and great friends.

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