Wines | Massaya

THE ELUSIVE QUEST FOR AN EASY GOING WINE
The year of celebrations to mark Massaya’s 20th anniversary ended in December with a feast of truffles. Our guest chef Daniel Hebet from France created a wonderful dinner that was truffles all the way – 3kg of them! From starters to dessert this was a memorable meal and you can see the pictures on our website. Besides the food, Daniel and his assistant jeremi Fontin created a creative energy in the kitchen that spread through the restaurant.

Chef Daniel was not our only visitor from France. December is the month when the four active partners in Massaya get together for the crucial task of tasting and blending the new vintages. Brothers Sami and Ramzi Ghosn were joined by the vastly experienced French wine makers Dominique Hebrand and Daniel Buriner. In all, 42 vats were sampled and for the most part met our objective of easy going wines.

 

 
What do we mean by easy going wine? It’s difficult to explain – but let’s give it a try. A wine is easy going when you limit human intervention. It means you respect nature by keeping to a minimum the processes that are necessary to create wine. We want nature to transform the grape juice into wine while the winemaker takes a back seat. This way, the characteristics of each cépage, or grape variety, and the influence of each terroir is reflected in the glass. So sometimes having a lazy winemaker helps!

When grapes are beautiful, mature and healthy it means the vineyards have been properly cared for during the year. The grapes should be evenly mature to express the cépage and the terroir. Quality grapes give the confidence to the winemaker to relax and trust nature. This has been the Massaya ambition in recent years.


 
At our tasting this year we decided not to disclose the terroir and cépage and in most cases the group successfully pinpointed the origin and the dominant grape variety. For Cap Est, that goes without saying. The wine comes from the remote, harsh and dry village of Ras Baalbek located at the end of the mountain range that separates Lebanon from Syria. The scent of rosemary and thyme and the unmatched airy structure that keeps on releasing emotions in your palate... it had to be Ras Baalbek Grenache.

The yummy, peppery, juicy, smooth wine had to be cinsault of Halwa. This bold structured, velvety, warm sip should be the mourvèdre of Haddath Baalbek, a village nestled in the mountains on the road from the Beqaa to the Massaya winery in Faqra. Bingo! This white wine that is so fresh elegant, fatty and mineral with a distinct texture should be from the grapes of Massaya Faqra, indeed it is…


 
Over two days, one at Faqra and one at Tanaïl, the experience was very satisfying for the partners. Then followed discussions about improvements and the way the kitchen at Faqra should follow the same philosophy of respecting the ingredients instead of hiding the flavors with too many spices, sauces or complex techniques that could be satisfying in the short term but could lack the elegance and finesse of a skillful, simpler cuisine.

So here we are, having good time talking about wine, food and life in general as if the environment, politics in Lebanon and France epitomized by the movement of the gilets jaunes is just a bad movie. Cheers to Massaya for all it has created after 20 years of hardship and challenge.


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