A riper style of Cab Franc, with none of the dill and green pepper found in leaner versions. Aromas of blueberry, raspberry, black olive, red pepper and pencil shavings. On the medium- to full-bodied palate, the fruits from the nose replay, adding some oak vanillins and savoury character. The tannins are well-developed but noticeable, showing the potential for cellaring. Serve at cellar temperature with a lamb stew or a grilled rib steak.
Originally from Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is actually the parent of the much better known Cabernet Sauvignon (a crossing of Cab Franc and Sauvignon Blanc). By controlling yields in the vineyard, the wine becomes elegant and spicy, with true potential for aging. Cabernet Franc is fairly late-ripening, requiring long hang times and a relatively warm and dry growing season to allow its inherently tough and potentially green tannins to ripen completely.
The Batroun Mountains wine region sits 55 km away from Beirut, right against the Mediterranean coast. Enjoying huge diurnal swings, the mountains enjoy 300 days a year of sunshine. Winemaking here is considered “heroic”, as the vineyards sit on hacked out rock terraces between 700 and 1300 masl. The second-largest growing region in Lebanon to the Bekaa Valley, the soils are Ferric clay with limestone slabs, all covered with varying-sized pebbles and rocks. The region is known for giving wines of particular intensity and depth, with care needed to manage alcohol levels and tannins in the reds in hot vintages.
The vineyards of Aurora Winery sit at 850-900 masl and are laid out on steep terraces in the Batroun Mountains, overlooking the Mediterranean and surrounded by olive, oak and pine trees. With a good base of limestone and clay covered with stones, there is great drainage, allowing the dry-farmed vines to dig deep for a water source.
Hand-harvested from steep vineyards, the wines are crushed and fermented in stainless steel. After a long, slow fermentation, with regular manual punchdown of the cap, the wines are transferred to French oak barriques for a year of aging, with at least another year of bottle aging before release.
In 2003, oncologist and wine lover, Fady Geara, decided to take the plunge and purchase land for vineyards near the town of Aurora, in the Batroun Mountains of Northern Lebanon. Just 900m from the Mediterranean Ocean, the winery “corrects latitude with altitude”. The hot summer days of the growing season are moderated by the cooling breezes off the ocean, as well as the large diurnal temperature shifts in the evenings. Rooted in ferric clay and limestone, with rocks and sand overlaying, this is the perfect terroir to craft wines of structure and power. Fady is still the winemaker, and combines modern winemaking techniques with Old World sensibilities. A huge fan of French wines, he has planted the big Bordeaux varieties, as well as (interestingly) some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. French oak barriques are his preferred choice, but he takes care to let the fruit come through when using oak. Batroun Mountain is the second largest growing region in Lebanon but, with only a handful of wineries working in this appellation, it is dwarfed in size by the Bekaa Valley. Batroun Mountain is well known for producing powerhouse wines and our selection from Aurora Winery fit that mold. These vineyards must be farmed and harvested “heroically”, by hand, on steep mountain terraces. Sitting at between 700 and 1300 masl, this is laborious and painstaking work. The resulting wines are textured, structured and elegant, with good cellaring potential, while still being enjoyable for earlier consumption.