A passion for nature and an invitation to celebrate Lebanese grapes and soil.
Since Vinifest 2017, we were curious to discover the wines of ‘Sept’ and get to know better their charismatic owner Maher Harb.
So we set the date and headed this day with a group of friends & wine lovers to Nehla in the mountains of Batroun on the road to Tannourine.
Deep in this beautiful mountain, we arrived at the 'Sept' vineyard and the new winery under construction. Maher greeted us and, without waiting any further, guided us to tour the property.
And, admiring the landscape, he started telling us his history:
“In 2010 mathematician, computer scientist, he returned to Lebanon from Paris, rather destined to become consultant in Business Intelligence. Except that the culmination of two years of reflection on himself and his passion to become a winemaker in the land of his father who died in the 90s, was a greater inspiration and motivation to return and pay tribute to his land.
The fields were wasteland ... So he started to create terraces, then planted, all alone, 5000 vines. He did not quite know how to do it, so he looked for guidance on the internet…
Between 2010 and 2014, while he was intermittently between small jobs in Saudi Arabia, France and Lebanon, Maher learned to cultivate vineyards, grow vines and started doing his first test wines.
In 2014, he went to France to do the OIV Master of Science in Wine Management, in order to at least have a scientific/academic background. A Master where for 1.5 years, he went roving in 25 countries, discovering wines and winemakers. At the end, he was not meant to become oenologist but rather came out with a major experience, a lot of information, sharing knowledge and ideas on the best ways to grow the vine and make the wine.
And there, he came back to Lebanon and created ‘Sept’, based on three concepts:
1. A biodynamic and natural agriculture. True organic growth of his grapes. A vineyard that respects the environment and wines that express the terroir;
2. Natural wines, naturally fermented using indigenous yeast, free from any additives, with only minimal doses of sulphates;
3. His plots (6000m²) being too small and not enough to ensure his living, he went exploring the diversity of the Lebanese vineyards and the typicality of the terroirs. And he committed to the exploitation, over the long term, of vines from other regions that allow him to develop wines that express this diversity and celebrate Lebanese authentic grapes and rich soil.
These are the 3 concepts of ‘Sept’.
Why the name ‘Sept’?
- Basically it was a conceptual project, family-inspired. - Maher did not want the pompous name of Château or Domain... it's his way of thinking. - He did find a name that fairly represents the link between him and his father but could not register it because it already existed in an appellation of another domain. - He always liked the number 7 ( VII tattooed on his arm since he was 10). - After a numerology research, undertaken by his brother on him and his father, he found out that both of them are numbers 7, which explains why Maher likes the number 7 and the link between him and his dad.
So he decided to call his wine ‘Sept’. And for the anecdote, two weeks after, he was inspecting his vines and going thru his terraces when he discovered that, without realizing, he had planted 7 of them!!
Doing all this so far was not financially obvious. He was so passionate that he had financed everything out of his odd parallel jobs, taking risks, accumulating and repaying debts etc ... But, at some point in time, it was necessary to find a small financing. So at the beginning of 2016 he started knocking on the banks doors. And after refusals for almost a year and a half, he was at the edge of stopping his activity when on June 7th, 2017 he got a call me from the last bank visited, confirming a small financing. That small breath of fresh air allowed him to buy the bottles, the bottling machine, the corker and the labels and he launched his first vintage in October 2017 at Vinifest with great success.
Since then it took off very well and Maher is proud and grateful for that.
He produced 5000 bottles of the vintage 2016, 7,500 of the one of 2017 and the goal for 2018 is to reach 10,000 bottles.
Each bottle comes from a grape variety from a single source, a single terroir, a single vineyard. Since he is not oenologist and having learned on the job, he thinks that this helped him create the wine that he wanted without going into a stereotype design of a technical wine."
A beautiful story and a beautiful outcome, but Maher still had to make us taste his magic potions.
So we went down the hill, direction Maher's house, a little further below the vineyard.
There the scene was ready ... A beautiful raw wood table and two side benches, glasses, bottles and a decanter were ready for our immersion in the wines of ‘Sept’.
Our tasting began with a very voluptuous, deep bright golden color, dense and round, single varietal Viognier. A very good start ...
It was then followed by another single varietal ‘Obeidy’, our Lebanese native variety. Delicate, of great freshness and floral perfume.
Then we switched to the "Cuvée du Soleil" red. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tempranillo (Spanish varietal). A complex and round wine with soft tannins. A delight for the palate.
And we ended with a sip of "Syrah de Nehla" a single varietal Syrah. A pure delectation.
Our group was enchanted to meet Maher and discover his wines which are, for the least, very promising for a bright future. And as expected they were eager to bring back home some crates of their preferred wine, in memory of these enchanting pleasures.
Thank you very much Maher for what you are passionately doing and for the good wines that “Sept” is offering us.