Massaya Newsletter, November 2022

A Vintage Revelation 

   The changes of the last three years in Lebanon were very profound. And although the situation is still confusing, the 2022 harvest has enlightened me. I felt that the energy at the winery has improved. For the first time, each member of our team proudly and heartedly watched over the grain.  For instance, the energy we spent sorting the grapes and handling them with care was somehow marvelous. In previous vintages, I could sense that some were constrained so I had to watch closely over the tedious process.

It took me a while to understand the new mind set at the winery. Before 2019 every Lebanese was tormented because the criteria of the "social success" was disproportionate: living a luxurious life beyond common sense. Obviously, a job in the field or in the cellar could not satisfy this excessive and inhuman ambition. The society realized that this frantic race has led the country to chaos. Instead of dreaming of fortune when sorting grapes, today the team thinks about the happiness of producing a good wine!

    After the cataclysm of 2019, there was a sort of reality shock. A kind of return to the roots and a return to the terroir. For the first time, I perceived that the vigor had changed sides. It is a kind of “Realpolitik” at an individual level, regardless of the calamitous geopolitics that is persecuting the land of the Cedar. The crisis broke us free! As if my compatriots wanted to turn the page and move on. People want to live and laugh, even if they have not managed to shape the Lebanon of their ambitions.

What about this 2022 vintage? A little pleasure. The grapes were beautiful and there were quite a few this year, everywhere, the volumes were significant. 
After a very wet winter with above-normal rainfalls and relatively low temperatures, it snowed 3 times on the Beqaa. We experienced a fairly dry spring followed by a summer with mild temperatures, the 40 degrees were exceeded only once or twice in July.
    After a slow start of the harvest between August 3rd and 10th, we had a big surprise around August 13th. A mercury that stubbornly wobbles between 41 and 43 degrees the day, while the soil in depth couldn’t be drier because the clay had already released all the moisture stored since the winter and needless to say that the rain had not caressed the vines since mid-May....

While we were still in the North of the Beqaa (TDB and Cap Est), gently harvesting our Grenache and Syrah, the densities had made a spectacular leap throughout the Beqaa on relatively late maturing grape varieties, such as Cinsault, Tempranillo and Clairette.

Fighting back, we had to whip to get back in tempo and it was during this intense race that I realized the dedication of our team and their energy to sort during very long hours, large volumes of grapes with the smile, the jokes, the fatigue, the laughter and the character of each.
     This vintage was not at the end of its surprises. Given the economic, financial, social, banking, hospital, societal crisis.... Many winegrowers have reduced treatments on the vine to squeeze expenses.

Eventually, the masks fell during this vintage, and I must admit that two of our small Cinsault suppliers also stumbled into the trap and could no longer deny that they treated their vineyards behind my back, since their grapes were disappointing... And to the great surprise of some of my colleagues, most of the vineyards on wetlands had deceiving grapes compared to vineyards located in the northern part of the Beqaa, more arid but more qualitative...

The bet that Massaya had made since the beginning was paying off and reinforced our convictions that to produce organic and biodynamic wines, it was necessary to rely on less productive terroirs, more painful to work, yet much more subtle and complex.

To answer, is this the best vintage of Massaya? Frankly, I couldn’t say before calmly tasting each vat, each demie muid, each foudre, each jar with our partners who are more able to assess objectively, given the experience of Daniel and Frederic Brunier and the knowledge of Dominique Hebrard. However, I can say unequivocally, that I had a lot of fun with our team during the 2022 harvest and I am looking forward to applying biodynamic practices more intensively in the vineyard!
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