Wines | Massaya

THE GEOPOLITICS OF WINE MAKING
Wineries require significant investment and need a stable and predictable environment in which to prosper. However, we can hardly say that the last 20 years have seen a stable geopolitical environment in Lebanon.
This is where we direct the question to Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
 
 

According to the latest news the two leaders are starting a new maceration in south west Syria called ‘de-escalating’, a process kick-started with proper pruning between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. According to Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, there will now need to be a long process of fermentation generating a surge of diplomatic and military temperatures and the release of toxic tensions. This is meant to spread into Syria and other regions before settling down, fining and filtration followed by a tasting of the new vintage from the White House chateau owner.

Usually winemakers are dependent on the weather and must adapt to the uncertainties of climate. In Lebanon the weather is steady, pretty much predictable and very accommodating. But geopolitics – that’s a very different story.

 

Just the other day, over brunch at Massaya Faqra, the topic of the changes that have taken place in Lebanon’s wine sector over the past 20 years came up again. We were hosting a group of American restaurateurs who were keen to learn about our way of making wine. They are opening a new outlet in Washington DC and want to feature more wines from Lebanon. Along the discussions, statistics were impressive with a huge increase in the number of new wineries and, interestingly, a spread of vineyards. This is evident wherever you look - in northern Lebanon, southern Lebanon and Mount Lebanon. Viticulture is an active business.

Interest in our wines from buyers in the United States is not new and our recent visitors were part of an export growth story. While this appears to be a very healthy situation, we cannot ignore the long-term challenges. The remedy for one of these should be in our own hands, another is way beyond our control.

 

At present, Lebanon lacks what we can call a wine identity. Although we all grow our grapes in similar terrain the type of wine in the bottle varies widely. Some wineries produce a Rhone style, others favour Bordeaux or Tuscany or the robust reds of Australia. When you think of wines from the great producing regions of the world it is easy to imagine how they will taste. Sadly, no one can define a wine from Lebanon. The quality varies and so does the style.

We think it is important for winemakers in Lebanon to follow broad guidelines - not because we think all wines should taste the same but because their origin should be obvious in the same way that Burgundy or Rioja have a distinctive provenance.

Areas where there can be a common approach include choice of grape variety, viticulture and fermentation techniques. The ageing process and release date could be harmonised so that wines from Lebanon have a distinct personality. We are prepared to be a part of such a process. So, what’s holding everyone back? Perhaps we are all too busy to face on day to day the geopolitical challenges that impact more our wines than the sacrosanct terroir!


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