Wines of Massaya, Lebanon

The one I have most experience of is their Classic Red,  a lot of experience in fact. For the last couple of years the 2005 and 2007 have been my house red. It’s a Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah blend – 60% Cinsault and 20% each of the other two – and usually retails for around £10.00.  (I got mine for a case price of £7.50 from Arthur Rackham, but their website is now down so I am not sure they are still trading.) Looking back over my tasting notes for the past couple of years I cannot see any consistent variation with vintage or age, so I will present a composite tasting note of both vintages, drunk some 3 or 4 years after the vintage year. It can be a tad rubbery and sulphurous, a tendency possibly exacerbated by its screwcap closure, so I usually give it a good shot of oxygen by inverting the open bottle over a carafe, letting the wine freely glug and splash around. Don’t worry about the sediment; there is none. Then if convenient I leave the wine for a couple of hours or so in the carafe before drinking, and that deals with the problem.  In appearance I’d describe it as medium intense mid-red. Holding the glass to my nose, the first impression is a hit of aromatic red fruit, which along with the corresponding impact on the palate, is very attractive. And looking beyond that,  there is a lot more interest: spice and, more intriguingly, chocolate and coffee notes, again on both the nose and palate. All with good intensity and length. Add to that appropriate acidity and astringency, and you have a mouth-watering food wine that is decent/excellent value at £10.00/£7.50.  On the right day this gets four stars, but usually ***

Silver Selection is the next step up in the Massaya range. I have tried a couple of vintages of this red, but only one bottle of each: in 2008 I tasted the 2004, and in 2009 the 1999. They represent a definite improvement in quality, and the 1999 was a beautiful mature wine with fine-grained tannins. The 2004 was hard and quite astringent, but had a delicate floral nose and I’m sure a few more years would have knocked off the hard edges. The Silver Selection blend is Grenache 40%, Cinsault 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 15%, Mourvedre 15%. Expect to pay around £14.00. 10 years after the vintage is probably about right for drinking, but I’d give both vintages ****

The Gold Reserve is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre. This, like the Silver Selection, was under cork. I tried the 2004 vintage in 2009, and it was far too young. It could well turn into something beautiful, and it had all the hallmarks of a good wine – intensity of fruit etc, etc – but I cannot honestly say I enjoyed it that much. As you might know, Cabernet Sauvignon is not my favourite variety, so that might have had something to do with it.  £20.00 to £30.00 for this one. For potential: ***

The only other wines produced by Massaya are white and rosé versions of the Classic range. I tried the 2005 white in 2009, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Obeideh. Prices are similar to the Classic Red. It could have been intended as a stylistic thing, but this was oxidised, and I did not like it. *

Author: Steve Slatcher

Wine enthusiast

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