Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan
75cl * Vegan * 14% ABV * Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Of all the history that influenced the late, great Serge Hochar and those at Château Musar, it was the Roman temple at Baalbek that held the most sway. As Serge said: ‘This is the only serious temple erected to Bacchus - the god of wine - anywhere in the Roman world. And they put it here, in the Bekaa. Why? Because the Romans and Greeks, the Phoenicians and Minoans, and all peoples who came before them, all knew that the Bekaa is the spiritual home of wine.’
Château Musar itself is set in the Hochar family's 18th-century castle overlooking the Mediterranean at Ghazir. Musar comes from the Arabic word for the place, M'zar, meaning a place of extraordinary beauty. A good hour from the vineyards in the Bekaa valley, the castle became the winery in 1930 and as the production expanded, deeper cellars were cut into the rugged mountainside. At harvest time the grapes are handpicked by Bedouins at dawn, who then drive them through the mountains to the castle for vinification. All Château Musar wines are at least seven years in the making, with the grapes fermented in cement vats, before being matured for around 12 months in French Nevers (oak barriques), with only a few per vintage being new oak. By the end of the third year the separate grape varieties are blended and then the wine spends three to four years further maturing in the bottle.
The 1997 vintage Chateau Musar has a rich, warm colour, now paling towards the rim, with a smoky nose full of spices and fruits. On the palate there are mixed berry fruits – cherries, redcurrants, pomegranates and Christmas spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Good acidity with good tannin levels results in a wine of classic structure with long ageing potential.
Drinking window: Now - 2025
"First tasted with Serge Hochar in the Chateau Musar cellars, December 1999. The wine was still in individual vats: Cinsault from the garrigues of Kefraya in the Bekaa Valley: crisp, fragrant; attractive, some elegance. Carignan from Aana, a little further north: more flesh, nice fruit, very tannic. Cabernet Sauvignon was an incredibly deep colour: green, stalky nose; austere, astringent. It would be another year before blending. Most recently, seemed fully developed, good flavour, lovely aftertaste." Michael Broadbent, Vintage Wine (May 2002)
"Redcurrant scents, and a clean, fresh, intense flavour, more drily curranty than is usual for Musar – Andrew Jefford, Decanter Magazine, January 2004 The Chateau Musar 1997 will be familiar to all devotees of that deep, dark, rich, fleshy, fruity and – aptly – cedary wine and it's scrumptious." Simon Hoggart, The Spectator (February 2004)
"Very light in colour with maturity on the rim: salmon ruby. Surprisingly intense and concentrated nose with strong ash and autumnal smells; great acidity, damp leaves and old bonfires. On the palate, very sweet fruit and a long finish which goes through several evolutions (one of which develops old pomegranate flavours) in the longest aftertastes of any Musar. Full mouthfeel defies the lightness of the wine. Almost chewy in texture." Bartholomew Broadbent (October 2019)