Friday, September 1, 2017

Massaya Le Colombier (2014)

When one thinks of wine, he or she probably thinks of France or Italy.  Australia or Chile.  Argentina or California  Very few people would think of Lebanon.  Yet, the land of the Cedars happens to be one of the oldest wine producing areas in the world. The history of wine-making can be traced back as far as 2686 BC, when wines of Byblos were sent to the Old Kingdom of Egypt.  Wines of other cities in what is now Lebanon -- such as Tyre and Sidon -- were reknown throughout the Mediterranean, spreading along with the Phoenicians as they traveled across the sea.

Wine continued to be produced over the years, decades and centuries.  As the region came under control of a caliphate, wine production decreased.  It was prohibited outright by the Ottoman Empire, although exceptions were made for Christians in the region (as consumption of wine by Muslims is prohibited).  Wine experienced a resurgence when the region came under the control of the French in the 1920s.  After Lebanon gained its independence, wine production continued, although it suffered during the long civil war.  Once the war ended and peace was restored, the wine production experienced another boom. 

The boom has taken place principally in the southern portion of the Bekaa Valley (or Bequaa Valley). The grapes grown in this region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. The largest producers are Chateau Ksara, which produces about 70% of the wine in the region.  The next largest producers are Chateau Kefraya and Massaya.

I recently purchased a bottle of Massaya's Le Colombier (2014).  The wine is described as a "vin plaisir" or "pleasure wine" that resembles a blend inspired by French wine.  The blend for Le Colombier is 35% Cinsault, 35% Grenache Noir, 15% Syrah, and 15% Tempranillo.  All of the grapes were grown on the hillsides of the Beqaa Valley.  The wine was aged in Faqra cellars, which were dug into the mountainside.  

The Le Colombier pours a deep crimson red, symbolic of a very hearty wine, well beyond any French blend.  The wine looks more like an old vine wine (the vines are old, some as old as 40 years).  As one breathes in the wine, there is some hint of fruit, but also earth, slate, and minerals. The fruit shows through more in the taste, There is some strawberry, but raspberry and blackberry notes quickly overtake the milder fruit.  There is a well developed tannin presence, which grips the sides of the tongue and never lets go.   The strength of the tannins is symbolic of the strength of the Lebanese people, who have endured so much over the course of history (especially between 1975 and 1992) yet their grip over their lives and their futures remained strong despite those odds. 

This wine is a great example of why one should venture beyond the standards.  Beyond a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.  Beyond a French Pinot Noir.  Beyond a Tuscan Chianti.  Beyond an Argentinian Malbec. The Le Colombier is a great example of why people should search out wines from regions that one would not think of when one thinks of wines.  This wine sells for about $12.99 per bottle.  

ENJOY!

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