The wine was produced in Lebanon's famed Bekaa Valley. This region is probably more known to Americans as a site of much contention during Lebanon's many conflicts than as a wine producing region. It does, however, have a very rich and varied wine history. In fact, records date grape cultivation and vinification there to about 2,000 years before the time of Alexander the Great. Phoenicians traded wine produced in this area with many other, the Egyptians being among their most avid customers. Those historic traders protected their cargo from oxidation by covering it with a layer of olive oil and sealing it in jugs with pinewood and resin. Their practice preceded, and perhaps even inspired, the traditions of Greek Retsina. The Romans revered the area as a wine source enough to build a temple dedicated to the wine god Bacchus. What is now part of Lebanon was also the site of the story of a miracle in the Bible of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding. It is an area with much wine history, indeed. However, it is only recently that its wine has come back into view on the world scene.
Two Lebanese brothers Sami and Goshm were second generation productions in this very historic wine region before being forced to leave the country during the Civil War of 1975. They returned seventeen years later and revived the production of a traditional Lebanese brandy-like anise liquor called Arak. With the addition of French partners a few years later, they expanded their portfolio and wine production began in earnest.
Since conflicts in 2002, the regions volume and number of vineyards and wineries has continued to grow with 50% of its production going to export with France, Great Britian and the US as its principal customers.
The wine I brought home was a 2008 Massaya Classic Rouge and it was a delightful red blend with Cinsault as its dominant, informing grape (60%) Rounding out the Cinsault was an addition of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, followed by eight month of non wood container ageing before bottling. It was interesting to discover that Cinsault is the dominant grape varietal in Lebanon. This probably derives from the French influence in that region and, in fact the first Cinsault vines were brought to that country from Algeria in 1857 by Jesuits monks.
As you might suspect from its Cinsault dominance, the Massaya Classic Rouge offered a nice fruity bouquet and a blend of strawberry, raspberry and cherry fruit flavors on the palate with a nice (and somewhat surprising) long finish. An added light accent of spice on the finish was also a pleasant surprise. All in all, this was a quite enjoyable wine in a very moderate (under $15) price range. I will definitely take a good look when encountering any wines from this Lebanese region in the future and will be on lookout, in particular, for the Massaya label.
(Images in this post were obtained from www.massaya.com)