Wednesday, 10 October 2012

What to drink with Lebanese food

First off, Lebanese is a lot of different types of food.  From Hummus, vine leaves, and pickled vegetables to potato coriander, chicken shawarma, spicy beef sausages and much more!  What wine could possibly match up well with such a variety of food?  The simple answer is Semillon!  I had a lunch the other day with 13 different Lebanese dishes and the Semillon worked beautifully for the entire meal.

I also imagine that a spicy Shiraz could could well if you wanted to switch from Semillon in the middle of a Lebanese meal also if some of the guests really prefer red wine.  I am confident that you cannot go wrong with Semillon for Lebanese food.  I have had three Lebanese meals in the last month, and I have had the 2005 Kelman Semillon, the 2003 Terrace Vale Campbells Old Vine Semillon and also the 1994 Waverley Estate Semillon.  These are three very different styles of Semillon and they all matched exquisitely with Lebanese food.

And for one of the meals, I also brought an open bottle of an excellent Riesling to try.  On its own, most people would say the Riesling was far superior as a wine to the 2005 Kelman Semillon, but the Kelman matched far better with Lebanese food.  That is why I continue to empasize the 'right grape with the right food.'

Both the Kelman and the Terrace Vale where a little crisper (and much younger!) than the Waverley Estate.  The best Semillon I have ever had (even superior to the iconic 1999 Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon) was the 1990 Waverley Estate Semillon.  This is among the top three white table wines  I have ever drunk.  But the 1994 Waverley Estate is very close!  It has a golden color, smooth, rich mouth feel, and tastes of orange and tangerine flavours with a touch of lemon.  It is simply heavenly and a great match for Lebanese food.

I found the smoother texture and richer taste of the aged Semillon to go a little bit better with the rich sauces for the shish barack and the yogurt.  It also matched up beautifully with the hummus with mince and pine nuts.  The 1994 Waverley Estate Semillon is just a better wine (and about twice as expensive) than the other two.  But the 2005 Kelman and the 2003 Terrace Vale Semillons are very good wines.  Most people would call then excellent wines and I have gotten great reviews from people I have shared them with.  But 15 - 20 year old Waverley Estate Semillons are in a class of their own.

There is no need to review the menu at a Lebanese restaurant to determine what wine to bring.  Just bring a Semillon and order what you like.  You won't be disappointed.


  1. Very interested to read your words on the 1994 Waverley Estate Semillon. I had 2 bottles of this wine (my wedding anniversary year) and took one to Tetsuya's for my 40th a few years back. Unfortunately, it had a bad cork and was completely oxidised. It didn't matter too much on the night because we had so many other great wines. However, I still have the other bottle, and I might now give it another go. It's one of the least well known Hunter Semillons but I do remember being very impressed when I tasted it at cellar door. The Tyrrell's '99 Vat 1 is one of my favourites so if it gets anywhere close I'll be happy.
    Paul B

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  3. While I love the Semillons at Meerea Park and Tyrrell's, the very best of Waverley Estate cannot be beat. Unfortunately they refuse to go to screwtop and the variability of the cork can be a problem. I have six bottles of the 1996 Semillon, and two of them have slightly different color. I have been fortunate in my life to only have about 9 corked bottles out of over a thousand bottles of wine, but 5 of them have been from Waverley Estate. While they are willing to replace them, for some of them, it is impossible to replace them. But a 20 year old Semillon from Waverley Estate is a drink of the Gods! I have heard the 1996 Semillon is closest in style to the 1990 Semillon, but I have not tried one yet. Check Meerea Park Alexander Munro or Terracotta Semillon as they are great for the money also.