Wines | Massaya

SKYFALL AND THE WONDERFUL ROLE OF NATURE IN OUR WINES
Beautiful rain this year and lots of snow on Mount Lebanon; these are exciting times. We’ve had well above average rain and the quality of the snow has kept the ski slopes busy. There’s the same buzz at Massaya Faqra restaurants and Boutique.

Of course, at Massaya it’s not all about great food in warm and cozy surroundings. We’ve been out pruning the vineyards in the Beqaa and preparing to plant new vines as well as grafting rootstocks planted two years ago.
The rainfall and snow are positive signs at this time of year. They’re good for the vines and for the morale of the Massaya team. In the years when rain is scarce, we tend to worry and wonder if perhaps desertification is materializing. We tend to forget that temperature changes are gradual and unpredictable so this winter the fear of becoming like the rest of the region has not been on our minds. It’s too early to say what will be the impact of the rain on grapes and the harvest but it is all looking positive.

And as good news seldom comes on its own, we can celebrate finally having a government in Lebanon. After eight months the political stars aligned between the local leaders, the regional powers and the super powers to give birth to a cabinet. At last we can say that we look like any other country with a government and a president. For most nations that’s a natural situation; for us it’s not so not common. All we need now is favorable weather as we prepare the vineyards.
This is the key period for pruning and grafting, we’ve been pleased to welcome our partner Frederic Brunier who came from Chateauneuf du Pape to give valuable advice. There are few people with the experience that Frederic has accumulated in terms of vineyard development and maintenance. What’s more, with younger members of the Brunier family joining after studying viticulture and winemaking, our partners at Vieux Télégraphe are updating some of their techniques.

 

 
Probably our most challenging objective this year is to teach our team more about vine grafting. Grafted vines are made up of two plants with a root portion (rootstock) joined with the budwood (scion) from another plant. If the scion dies and the plant re-grows from the roots, the emerging vine will be the undesirable rootstock rather than the scion (usually a variety). For instance, some scions such as Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet may not flourish in soil that is made up with clay or chalk. Nor will they be resistant to insects (phylloxera).

To overcome this problem, we aim to pick the best rootstock for the conditions and combine it with the scion we need, say Mourvèdre. So, even if the soil is unsuitable, we can grow Mourvèdre successfully because the scion has been grafted to a drought resistant rootstock that is compatible with the terroir.
These are techniques that were used by our ancestors and at Massaya we have been returning to those methods. The cycle starts with planting the rootstock then waiting two years before grafting followed by another two years before we harvest any fruit. The vines are then of a better quality and the likelihood of success is greater.

Previously we imported vines that had been grafted at a nursery but then the results tended to be less satisfying. Or we have relied on outsourced grafting teams hired locally but then we were relying on people who did not necessarily share our philosophy.

There are many grafting techniques but without going into too many details we have set a new horizon for Massaya this year by integrating these techniques into our farming. The objective, as always, is to control the quality of our work and to improve our vineyard standards.

At this stage, we are pruning and collecting the scions of Clairette and Tempranillo. This has to be done during the dormant stage of the vines so we can graft the rootstocks at the beginning of spring to give the process the best chances of success.

Our visitors often think that Massaya is all about food and restaurants. In reality we are first and foremost farmers determined to improve our skills and raise our quality standards every year. The hospitality we offer is a pleasure that comes from our initial passion - nature!

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