Sunday, 14 June 2009

The wines of Musar - a special treat

We promised you here to give a bit of extra attention to the wines of Château Musar. So here we go.

Château Musar is the best known wine estate from Lebanon, and belongs to the top worldwide. The story of Musar is closely related to both ancient as recent history. Although the estate was founded in the 1930's, Lebanese winemaking goes back much further; there are even references to be found in the old testament of the Bible. The country's wine region is the Bekaa Valley, an area that had much to suffer during the days of the civil war, and where the current situation is quite unstable as well. However difficult the situation, the Hochar family, who owns Château Musar, never stopped producing wine. A miracle in itself. Click here for a very interesting article about the history of Musar and its wines.

The estate's top wine is simply called Château Musar. A red, white and rosé is made. We tested the red and white. These wines are very different from others in the sense that they are typically not fruit-driven, but very structured and built for the long haul. Both are usually only released 7 or 8 years after the harvest, and are capable of ageing much longer.

The Château Musar Blanc 1999 we drank recently (OUA - 12.300 OMR) was very a-typical, golden in colour, with tones of dried citrus, butter, nuts, cookie dough and spices (star aniseed, cloves, bay leave). It will never be a crowd-pleaser, but if you are interested in thinking out of the box, you will certainly find it interesting. Do drink with food though.

The current vintage of Château Musar Rouge is also 1999 (OUA - 18.500 OMR). It is a medium-bodied red, with an earthy, spicy profile, filled with dark fruit and oriental spices. Although, supple, it is by no means easy, and will be able to age graciously. Some time ago we also tasted the 1995 Rouge (not available in stores here) and it was a completely different beast: a very thick, almost agressive nose, with lots of acidic red fruit and prunes. To taste it was a bit nervous, with lots of acidity, redcurrant, and tobacco notes. A difficult wine. Of the two, the 1999 will be easier to win the hearts of people.

Musar also produces a more affordable wine, designated as Cuvée. We tried the Cuvée Rouge 2004. None of Musar's reds are deeply coloured, and neither is this. Although this wine is made from Cabarnet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault (all grapes that are able of producing very concentrated wines), it is more akin to a Pinot Noir in both colour and scent. It has a beautiful nose of red- and blackcurrant and forest floor. It is light-bodied, buth full of flavour. There is plenty of ripe fruit, nice acidity and a peppery tannic finish. At 5.200 OMR (OUA) this is great value.

Knowing that much of the Lebanese culture is about food, it will come as no surprise that all of these wines perform best at the dinner table. But the Cuvée Rouge will also do fine on its own. You might want to try it slightly chilled, to ensure optimal freshness.

The wines of Château Musar are relatively widely available here, both in stores and restaurants. A good excuse to give them a try sometime soon. They deserve your attention.

1 comment:

  1. As an addition, we can highly recommend a visit to the Musar winery. We went there last month and had a great time. The winery is situated in Ghazir, close to Beirut, and boasts one of the most impressive bottle cellars you'll ever see, with vintages going back to the 1930's. And with Musar's renowned ageing capability, it is a unique opportunity to buy a bottle from you birth year.

    Tours are given by appointment only, and if you specify beforehand, it is possible to have an extensive tasting afterwards.