Massaya, Wine of the Levant

Massaya, Wine of the Levant

Sunday September 4th, 2011 1 By Marion

The name Massaya wine comes from the sunset, which has a unique colour in Lebanon. They call it “Massaya”. Sami and Ramzi Ghosn chose this name for their winery located in the Bekaa Valley.

Bekaa Valley in Lebanon

In May this year I had the chance to visit the Massaya vineyards in Lebanon. Lebanon is one of the eldest wine producing countries in the world. It is there, in the fertile Bekaa Valley, that the temple of Bacchus was built about 150 before A.D. This makes from Lebanon neither an “old world” nor a “new world” wine region, but a third category: the “ancient world”. And the “Ancient Wine World” is really worth the journey…

The temple of Bacchus in LebanonIt is in this context that the fantastic story of Massaya was born. After the war, in the early nineties, the two Ghosn brothers Sami and Ramzi decided to come back to their parents’ vineyards in the Bekaa Valley. Their parents used to make Arak, the traditional aniseed-based spirit, from Obeidi grapes. Sami and Ramzi had the will, the ambition, but they did not know how to make quality wine that would be able to conquer the international markets. They had the fantastic idea to cross the Mediterranean sea to find one of  the best growers in the Châteauneuf du Pape area: Daniel Brunier from Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. Dominique Hébrard (ex Château Cheval Blanc) got involved too, and then all the ingredients for a magic success story were combined.

Massaya Vineyards and the Bekaa Valley

Together they invested in top modern cellars, shipping tanks, barrels and all that was necessary from Europe. They started planting vines using grape varieties from the Rhône and from the Bordeaux region. They selected the best vineyard, on the North of the Bekaa valley. There the vines are located at 900 meters altitude. They benefit from cool nights, long sunny days and melting snows in spring and summer. Therefore the grapes reach very good ripeness while keeping good acidity and the vineyards are clean from pests and diseases without suffering drought.

Today the wines are exported in many countries, the first markets being the US and the UK.  They are wines that reflect Lebanon: both authentic and modern and looking towards the future. The Goshn brothers make three different cuvées : Massaya “Classic” (10-15 $, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Syrah), Massaya “Silver” (15-20 $, Cinsault, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre) and Massaya “Gold” (35-40 $, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, Syrah). They also produce a white and a rosé.

Balbek and the temple of Bacchus

Lebanese Food

Fresh ingredients, raw vegetables, I love it!