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.
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 were planted in two parcels, the first in 2009 and the second in 2012. Both 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. Proximity to the walnut river creates a microclimate that results in cool springs and warm falls and allows longer hang times for the grapes. 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. Yield is tightly controlled to a maximum of eight grape clusters per vine.
The traditional red Bordeaux blend — a particular favourite in the Batroun Mountains — is known for its powerful structure and deep flavors. Dark fruits and berries, such as plum and blackcurrant, are commonly used to describe the flavours of red Bordeaux. Tannins tend to be relatively high, giving the wines a firm structure. Cabernet Sauvignon is widely accepted as a compulsory component of any Bordeaux blend, with Merlot following closely behind.
Although 2018 yielded a smaller harvest than 2017, the grapes were fully mature and well-balanced with the signature acidity that Aurora wines are known for. The grapes are carefully handpicked, then de-stemmed and fermented at 22°C in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in 30% new oak barrels for 12 months, bottled two years after harvest and then aged in the bottle for an additional two years before its release. All lab products used at the winery are organic, including the yeasts used for fermentation.
Aromas of black and ripe red fruits, followed by black and red berry flavours and secondary notes of mocha and chocolate on the palate. Medium-bodied with firm tannins balanced by lovely acidity and a long, slightly minty finish.