Winemaking involves many challenges, most of which are presented by the vagaries of nature – weather, pests, diseases, wildlife. But in Lebanon, bombs and bullets have been an all too frequent threat to the winemaker’s craft. One of JN’s Lebanese wine partners is Massaya, run since the 1990s by courageous brothers, Sami and Ramzi Ghosn. The winery is situated in the north of the Bekaa Valley, an area whose winemaking credentials date back 5000 years to the Phoenicians. Massaya is one of nearly 40 wineries in the country.
A strong French influence pervades Lebanese winemaking with another of JN’s partners Frédéric and Daniel Brunier of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf du Pape having invested in the project with money and expertise. As well as the ever-present threat of collateral violence, the situation has recently become more tense, with the Syrian situation presenting a new threat. Many of Massaya’s grape pickers are from Syria and the army is preventing them from crossing the border.
However, the Ghosn brothers are defiant and are determined to push on with new wines and new projects. Recently they have been moving towards making lighter, fresher wines with lower alcohol levels. Their entire range is getting an overhaul with new packaging for nearly all of their portfolio of wines and new names and blends in the offing. The Ghosns see wine as one of the best ways to break down barriers in a country that they insist is a melting pot with open-minded people.
Recent articles in much respected press highlight the duos struggles and success.
The Drinks Business - Winemaking in Lebanon 'More Dangerous' than ever.
Imbibe - New direction for Lebanon’s Massaya winery
Massaya Classic Red 2012
Bottle Price: £12.99 / €18.75 Case Bottle Price: £11.69 / €16.88
This is an easy-drinking, fresh wine, a blend of Cinsaut, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It's an ideal wine for a picnic or barbecue - drink it when it is young and fresh and a little cool. It would also be an ideal partner for French cuisine especially cassoulet.
"Rich velvety plush dark fruits, overlaid with spice". (John Wilson, Irish Times, 27 Sept 2014).
Massaya Silver Selection Red 2010
Bottle Price: £18.99 / €26.99 Case Bottle Price: £17.09 / €24.29
The Silver Selection red is a complex blend of Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre. It is a deep, spicy wine with luxurious tannins and fresh ripe fruit. Aged in French oak to impart depth and complexity, it is reminiscent of the southern Rhone wines, testament to Massaya's partnership with the Brunier brothers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape's Domaine Vieux Telegraphe.
Nestled between the mountains and Mediterranean at an altitude of more than 1000m, Hébrard of St-Emilion and Brunier of Vieux Télégraphe are involved in this blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre. Rich and explosive. Powerful and different. A sort of cross between Ch Musar and St-Emilion (Jancis Robinson, Financial Times Online, Dec 2010).
Massaya Classic White 2013
Bottle Price: £13.85 / €19.95 Case Bottle Price: £12.47 / €17.96
Massaya Blanc is made with Clairette, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Obaideh, a fragile, soft-skinned indigenous grape. Massaya Blanc has a beautiful golden hue with a silver rim. The nose reflects white flower aromas. The palate has an almost velvety texture and is fresh and elegant with a good mineral balance. The finish is pleasant and silky with a pleasing hint of anise that keeps the palate fresh and which is a reminder of its Mediterranean origin. It will complement shellfish, baked fish, blue cheese and more hearty charcuterie. Light and deliciously approachable, the Massaya Blanc is also a pleasure to drink on its own.