Wines | Massaya

LESS IS MORE AS QUALITY SHINESS THROUGH A SAMLLER HARVEST
Traditionally the feast of the cross on September 14 marked the starting date of the harvest across Lebanon. It was the signal to pick pomegranates, grapes, walnuts and quince with festivities in the rural areas around hrisse cooking (stew of wheat and sheep) and all kinds of social celebrations and preparations known as the moune when families began to fill their pantries for winter.
With climate change now affecting rainfall and temperature, the feast of the cross has come to signal the end of the harvest.

 
This year we started the grape harvest for the white wine on August 1 and for the red wines, on August 10. The lower than average winter rainfall meant that the grapes were maturing ten days ahead of schedule. The grapes were perfectly ripe and beautiful with the exception of some varieties such as Cinsault, Carignan and Chardonnay which were affected by oïdium, a minor disease related to exposure to excess humidity during the early vegetative cycle.
Overall, rainfall was 30 percent below average this year. However, with the months of May and June relatively humid due to some late rain, production increased on some terroir by 30 percent. This was especially noticeable in Haddath Baalbeck, home to the Mourvedre (Terrasses de Baalbeck) and to the Clairette, a white variety that we ferment at Faqra.


Grenache, a disease resistant variety of grapes, was perfect this year with regular yields and beautiful results at Ras Baalbeck . These are the grapes used in Cap Est.
Climate change is without a doubt affecting the timing of harvest but beside the weather conditions, we have a human factor that is shifting the harvest calendar: the introduction of early maturing grape varieties. For instance some colleagues are using Muscat, Pinot noir, Merlot - varieties that are adapted to more temperate weather and are hardly compatible with the vineyard calendar of Lebanon.
At Massaya the early variety that we use for the reds is Syrah and for the whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. We develop these varieties at a higher altitude (in our vineyards in Faqra and in Haddath Baalbeck) in order to delay the maturity of the grapes. Our traditional white grape variety Obeidi however, is still picked after September 14; It’s as if our ancestors made a point of respecting the traditional calendar.
Early maturity of grapes, be it human or weather enticed, could mean less complexity for the wines. One could compare it to cooking in a pressure cooker versus simmering in a thick pot: The flavors and ingredients integrate better when cooked slowly in a pot.


Of course the stage of maturity is not the only factor to affect the complexity of the wines. But at Massaya we believe that 70 percent of the quality comes from the vineyards and just 30 percent from the winery. We are proud to say that in 2018 we used only organic spraying and very rarely fertilizers. We did have some Chardonnay affected by oïdium, but if that is the price to keep the ladybugs alive in the vineyards, that’s absolutely fine with us!
It is still too early to give a final assessment regarding the 2018 harvest, as we will wait for the visit of our French partners in December to grade the results. Meanwhile, we know that the team did a fantastic job this year and derived much pleasure from tasting and retasting the vats.

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