Deep ruby with a bricky rim. Decanted. Beautifully scented with the Cinsault (an orange character) and not dominated by the Cab. Silky, elegant and long. Perfumed but not floral. Silky, fresh and perfectly clean. Transparent. Fine, dry texture but so elegant. Utterly delicious and juicy and totally de nos jours. - Julia Harding MW, Jancis Robinson Purple Pages
Wholly its own, this wine is a Lebanese benchmark and a darling of sommeliers. From the Bekaa Valley springs this mysterious elixir of Cabernet Sauvignan, Carignan and Cinsault, mostly planted in the 1930s. Château Musar was run by the magisterial Serge Hochar until his passing in 2014, and it continues in the very able hands of his progeny. After studying enology at the University of Bordeaux, Serge returned to the estate and established the style of the domaine: the parcels are singly fermented in cement tank and aged in barrels of Nevers oak before being blended and bottled. The bottles are then aged a further 4 years before release from the domaine.
In terms of resemblances (and in blind tasting) Musar can be somewhat of a chameleon, inviting comparisons to the Rhône, Piedmont, Tuscany, Bordeaux, and a whole host of other regions. Yet the wines have their own alluring signature and once you’ve cottoned onto that one can easily grow obsessive. In any event, it’s a standout for any adventurous wine taster and for their complexity and pleasure these bottles represent some of the finest values out there.
The 1997 has long been a favorite of mine, unusually high-toned and red-fruited for Musar. To tart red and black fruits one can add a kaleidoscope of savory and spicy notes: leather, black tea, autumn leaves, garrigue, sage. The combination of polished red fruit with forest floor notes is particularly beguiling, and the tannins are close to fully resolved (note that the quote above includes 'silky' twice!) The mid-palate offers excellent length and the wine has notable vibrancy throughout. An excellent wine with food or without, and one to contemplate regardless (after a quick decant).