Ixsir Grande Réserve Blanc 2019
Among the many waves of Bordeaux 2020 samples which have been arriving at my door recently, there have been a good number of interlopers. Quite a few have been samples sent from the Loire Valley, recent deliveries being a 2020 selection from Domaine du Haut Bourg, in Muscadet, and some recent vintages from Domaine des Aubuisières, in Vouvray, all of which I will report on in due course. But there have been others from less familiar corners of the wine world, including a couple of bottles from Ixsir, an interesting project based in Lebanon.
Readers with good memories might recall my report on the 2018 El Ixsir Blanc, posted some time last year, nevertheless a quick two-sentence refresher is warranted (if not for you, then certainly for me). The Ixsir project, which was created by Étienne Debanné and Gabriel Rivero, has focused on the revival and replanting of vineyards at a number of sites in Lebanon. While the project serves as an indicator of the country’s viticultural and vinous heritage, the varieties planted are a diverse mix of almost entirely familiar names; a non-exhaustive list would include Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in white, and Syrah, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon in red. If you are looking for something a little more esoteric there is some Arinarnoa and Caladoc, both of which are crossings which date to the 1950s.
The estate makes several levels of wine, with El Ixsir at the top, while the mid-range wines are presented under the Grande Réserve label. The white is a blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, sourced from a variety of vineyards, ranging from Kab Elias at an altitude of 950 metres, up to Halwa at 1400 metres, lying close to the border with Syria. The vinifications are traditional, with a relatively short élevage of just six months in oak barrel of varying ages. The wines are made with consultation from Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, which probably explains why they suddenly turned up on my doorstep alongside some Bordeaux samples.
The 2019 Ixsir Grande Réserve Blanc is a blend of 60% Viognier, this being the estate’s principal white variety, complemented by 25% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Chardonnay. It was aged in 15% new oak, 30% second-fill barrels and 55% third-fill barrels. In the glass it has a polished lemon-gold hue, while the nose is dominated by the aromas of sweet tropical fruits, lifted with intriguing orange zest and citrus pith complexities, along with the scents of chamomile and mint. The palate continues with a sweet sense of ripeness, but this is countered by an interesting touch of bitterness which adds lift and freshness. Texturally it is fine, plump but it has energy, despite its soft structure and gentle acidity, thanks principally to that little amaroidal note. Overall this works, although I see it as a plump style for current drinking, and not one to commit to the cellar. And although it displays no heat on the palate, the alcohol level is 14.6%, something which only reinforces this conclusion. 90/100 (17/5/21)