I have to tell you that Château Musar is my favourite red wine. I’m lucky enough to have several bottles at home from different years: 1991, 1996 and 1999 (I hear 2000 is now released). Château Musar is ideally drank between about 10-15+ years old. The 1991 is being kept for a special occasion. I hope it’s okay…!
Musar is pretty unique for the fact it’s from Lebanon, not a country you’d immediately link with wine. But, if you think about where Lebanon is (i.e. on the Mediterranean), it’s location is very conducive to wine making.
Viticulture in Lebanon was introduced 6000 years ago by the Phoenicians who traded their wines throughout the Mediterranean and planted the vine in southern Europe….
…The Bible is full of references to the wine of Canaan which is located today in southern Lebanon. According to the bible, the Hebrews had brought home a bunch of grapes so big that it took the strength of two men to carry it.
The reputation of the wine of Canaan was such that Egyptians reported it to be “as abundant as flowing water” and this probably inspired the Romans to choose Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley to build their largest temple ever, and to add, several centuries later, another temple devoted to Bacchus.
Whilst they produce a few different wines the classic Château Musar Red is probably the most famous. As we’ve come to expect their excellent website is full of information about the wine.
It is when the grapes reach optimal maturity, typically between the 5th and the 15th of September, that the harvest begins at Château Musar.
The grapes are handpicked as the sun rises across the Bekaa valley and are then swiftly transferred to the cellar in Ghazir where fermentation takes place followed by maceration lasting 2 to 4 weeks.
During the first year the wine is racked into Bordeaux type barrels made from Nevers oak and where it matures from 12 to 15 months.
Our philosophy of respect for nature and ecology is the reason for which our wines are neither fined nor filtered and receive no chemical additives with the exception of the minimum necessary dose of sulphur.
At the end of the second year blending takes place with the proportions of cabernet sauvignon, carignan and cinsault varying with each vintage, the only deciding factor being taste.
During the third year bottling takes place after which the wine is allowed to rest 3 to 4 years in our cellars before release.
To best appreciate the subtlety and complexity of Château Musar red we suggest decanting between 30 minutes and 2 hours before serving. Our wines, in particular the older vintages, are keen travellers, yet we suggest you leave them to rest 2 to 4 weeks before serving, and all the while decanting with great care.
While Château Musar red is certainly ready to be enjoyed upon release 7 years after vintage, or at the age of discretion, the patient are rewarded as they are exceptional after 15 years of age.
So, my 1999 bottle was on the young side when I tasted it. I must admit I was a bit apprehensive as I’d been looking forward to opening the bottle for a while but was worried about the age. This wine had to live up to my expectations. I think the first bottle I ever tasted was an early 1980’s vintage.
Château Musar is a wonderful smooth rich fruity taste-explosion of a wine, a real “red wine”. I think one of the most telling things about this wine is that even though it is rich and powerful it is also so smooth that even Mrs ITsFood (who is no red wine fan) loves it. The Château Musar website supplies tasting notes for each vintage. The 1999 notes say:
1999: This is the basic palette from which Serge Hochar, no dry academician, creates his blends:
- First, a Cinsault from a single, soil-rich vineyard in Ana: deep core, young Provençal scent; delicious flavour, wonderful richness and flesh. Soft tannins.
- Next, a Cinsault from Ammiq’s very gravelly soil: fragrant, lighter style, more charm.
- Then Carignan from a lighter soil in the Ana district: Deep, velvety; spicy garrigue scent (I was reminded of Corbières in the Languedoc), flavour more aromatic.
- Lastly, Cabernet Sauvignon from Kefraya’s rocky soil: very deep purple; sweet, lovely crisp flavour, excellent tannins and acidity.
- End taste of violets and blackcurrants
Well? I think some key words from the notes above describe the wine perfectly. Soft tannins… Fragrant… Aromatic… Sweet (think fruity)… It was wonderful. Yes I could tell it wasn’t as aged as some of the other bottles I’ve had in the past but it was still excellent. Perfect with food but I love this wine so much I can just as easily carry on drinking it all evening (if there was ever enough!). My tasting notes simply said…
…yummy, spot on…
Well you can’t argue with that! I always had to try to track this down in shops in the past but now it seems it’s more easily sourced. Waitrose tend to stock it, I’ve also seen it in Tesco’s (a while back though) but I bought my latest batch from Sainsbury’s. It tends to come in at around the £14 (~$28) mark but if you wait for one of the special “25%+ off 6 or more bottles” offers you can get the price closer to £10 which is a bargain.
If you’ve never tasted Château Musar before I strongly recommend you get a bottle. It’d be a perfect Christmas dinner wine. Robust and powerful but smooth and fruity as well. A real winner, 5 stars.
Château Musar 1999