Spending time with: Massaya’s Ramzi Ghosn

Ramzi Ghosn pours a glass of rosé at the Massaya winery in Tanail in Lebanon's Bekaa valley

Founded in 1998, Massaya’s arrival on the Lebanese wine scene dovetailed nicely with the first genuine stirrings of post-war optimism. The winery is a Franco Lebanese partnership forged between the Lebanese Ramzi and Sami Ghosn, the Brunier brothers of Domaine Le Vieux Telegraph and Dominique Hebrard, formerly of Chateau Cheval Blanc.

Massaya produces five wines:-

Classic rosé (Cinsault 40%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30% and Syrah 30%)

Classic white (Obeideh 35%, Clairette 35%, Sauvignon Blanc 15% and Chardonnay 15%)

Classic red (Cinsault 60%, Cabernet Sauvignon 20% and Syrah 20%)

Selection (Grenache Noir 40%, Cinsault 30%, Cabernet Sauvignon 15% and Mourvedre 15%)

Reserve (Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Mourvedre 40% and Syrah 10%)

 

Why Massaya?

What Massaya? The job? The wine? The name? the way of life? The daydream? The vision? The team? To answer your “why”, all the above.

What is your favorite grape?

The eye opener that is Cinsault. It yields flavors that express at best of our terroir and it respects the tricky Mediterranean summer cuisine. Even an lover of full-bodied wines cannot remain neutral in front of the Cinsault we produce in Lebanon. He might not like it, but he cannot deny its personality.

Describe Lebanon’s terroir

Terroir for lazy winemakers

Wine’s are like children? Do you admit to having a favorite? Yes of course I have a favorite, but not necessarily the same one all the time.  Wine is never the same. Flavors change depending on mood, company and atmosphere.

So which one today?

With spring invading our senses, Massaya’s Rosé of course!

Massaya is 16 years old. What was the most memorable moment during this time?

So many it’s impossible to answer. All in all, the way we were able to anticipate the hurdles faced by the industry and worked against the odds to fix them. It is very satisfying to contribute from the beginning and to be credited for some of the changes. I know it might sound arrogant but we revived the arak industry; we triggered the wine renaissance in Lebanon and we were instrumental in piquing international curiosity in our wine industry.

Massaya is 16 years old. What did you do wrong during this time?

It is very frustrating to realize that we know so little about the grapes, the wines and the terroir and we have to recognize that we are still learning and accept any shortcomings, ignorance and mistakes as part of this process.

Where do you want to see Lebanese wine in five years?

Well the dream is see the creation of a credible body to control quality and promote our wines. If we had this, our potential would know no bounds. In the meantime, let us see if we can sustain 50 producers without creating a glut and/or compromising our steadily growing reputation as an exciting wine producing country.

Which country drinks the most Massaya?

The USA, simply because of the size of the country not because of our market penetration.

To oak or not to oak?

Balance is the answer.

You have just come back from the US. What do people most ask about Lebanon and its wine?

Wines from Lebanon? Really? That is interesting.

 And what would you reply?

I ask if they know hummus? (99% say “of course we love it”). So I say, now you know what to drink with it.

Why can’t I find your wine and arak at Beirut duty free? Beirut Duty Free is a monopoly that imposes their prices and conditions on the entire industry. Regardless of the quality of the display and the prime retail location, Massaya refuses to have its sellers dictate prices. We refuse to sell below cost and because of this we have been cast as rebels. Our peers in the industry might be willing to sell at these prices but I hope that others will eventually follow our example. I predict that the day Lebanon’s wine producers can sell all their production at a normal margin, they will stop selling to Beirut Duty Free at these prices.

 

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