Our local Adnam’s Cellar & Kitchen store has the double bonus of being just round the corner, but at the same time a great source of interesting wines. Last week I attended an in store-tasting of Lebanese wines from the Massaya Estate.

The vineyard is situated in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, one of the oldest wine growing regions in the world. Sami Ghosn and his brother were forced to flee the area in the 1970s with their parents due the war, but returned in the 1990s and reclaimed the estate from squatters.

Massaya Vineyards with Mt Lebanon in the background

In 1998, they sought sponsorship from Dominique Hebrard, previously of Cheval Blanc and Daniel Brunier of Vieux Telegraphe in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, with the aim of producing world-class wines. They released their first vintage the following year, in 1999.

Massaya means ‘twilight’ in Arabic and refers to the time of day when the sky turns purple as the sun sets behind Mount Lebanon. According to Ghosn, at 1000 metres above sea level, the altitude of the vineyard compensates for its latitude, with cool nights, sunny days and average temperatures of 25 degrees making for near perfect growing conditions.

Sami Ghosn presented five wines from the Massaya range, a white and a rose, plus three reds, as well as the aniseed-flavoured spirit Arak. The white, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay is vinified in new oak, and the oak flavours were just too strong for my palate. The French influence was particularly evident in the reds, which stood out on the night. My tastings notes on these are below.

Massaya Reds

Massaya Classic Red 2007
A blend of 60% Cinsault, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. A pale, easy drinking wine, with aromas of cherries, summer fruits and black pepper. (12/20 – tasted 04/03/10)

Massaya Silver Selection Red 2005
The top wine of the tasting. 40% Cinsault, 30% Grenache, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Mourvedre. Vinified in French oak. A much deeper colour, with a lovely herby nose – perhaps a hint of mint. Very smooth on the palate with complex flavours of black fruits, green pepper and spice, with terrific length. (16/20 – tasted 04/03/10)

Massaya Gold Reserve Red 2005
The premium wine of the range. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah. Vinified in stainless steel tanks, then aged in French oak. Intense aromas of blackcurrants and sandalwood on the nose. Powerful, full-bodied wine with lots of fruit on the palate and the characteristic spice. (14.5/20 – tasted 04/03/10)

These wines can be sourced via www.wine-searcher.com
Pictures taken from Massaya website