Chateau Musar Report
by Peter Troilo
Legendary wine crafted in the shadow of BacchusSerge Hochar has been crafting the wines at Lebanon's legendary Chateau Musar for 54 vintages. In 1984, he received Decanter Magazine's first "Man of the Year" award for his dedication to producing superb wines during Lebanon's Civil War (1975 - 1990). Last week, along with his son Marc, he joined a group of industry professionals and Chateau Musar fans for a presentation and dinner at l'Escale Restaurant in Greenwich.
Serge is the eldest son of Gaston Hochar. In 1930, at just 20 years old, Gaston founded Chateau Musar. He was inspired by the 6,000 year winemaking tradition in Lebanon and believed he could craft a wine that would challenge the great chateau of Bordeaux. After the second World War, Gaston encouraged Serge to study winemaking with Émilie Peynaud at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux. Peynaud passed away in 2004 and
is still revered as the forefather of modern winemaking. He pressed Serge to change the winemaking techniques at Chateau Musar believing that Musar could make supremely distinct and elegant wines. Turns out he was right. Peynaud always was.
After completing his studies at the University of Oenology, Serge returned home and said to his father, "I want to make the wine my way, I want it to be known world-wide – and I want you to quit." Gaston graciously step aside and watched his son develop a technique and formula for the Musar wines. It took Serge 18 years to perfect the style. Then a civil war broke.
Chateau Musar cultivates cabernet sauvignon, cinsault, carignan, obaideh, and merwah in the Bekaa Valley 19 miles east of Beirut. The red grapes are grown on vineyards planted in 1930 in the west of the valley. the soils here are not unlike Graves in Bordeaux or the Southern Rhone. The white grapes (obaideh and merwah) are grown toward the east of the valley in more chalky and limestone soils similar to towns of Meursault and Chablis in Burgundy. The valley is, coincidently, home to the Temple of Bacchus. From behind the glass, Serge doesn't need the help.
In good taste,
1981 Chateau Musar Blanc - $374 per bottle
Stunning complexity, the '81 was produced using just merwah (closely related to semillon). Dark gold, brown yellow color the wine exhibits notes of honeysuckle, dried fig and lemon curd aromas. The palate is richly textured but supremely focused. Over the course of three hours it underwent total metamorphosis.
1999 Chateau Musar Blanc - $70 per bottle
This is a blend of obaideh (closely related to chases las chardonnay) and merwah. The '99 took us all by surprise. It's complexity lies in the structure of melon fruit and acidity that develops on the tightly focused finish. The extraordinary entry showcases bright citrus fruit that's wrapped in creamy almond texture. A terrific value and still in its infancy.
2005 Chateau Musar Blanc - $45 per bottle
Marked by a wet, cold winter, a mild spring and summer with a short, unusual spike in humidity in July the '05 showcases orange blossom, honey, wild flowers. The wines is dinstincly Graves in style lending medium body and golden fruit. I suspect this wine will last two decades.
1983 Chateau Musar Rouge - $475 per bottle
Because of the fighting in the Bekaa Valley, it wasn't clear if harvest in '83 would be possible. Serge was in Paris on the 23rd of September when his office called from Beirut to inform that the situation had improved and harvest was possible. Tricky vintage due to over mature fruit. Two fermenations. Spice, rose petal, full bodied, supple, elegant. It was bottled until 1987. Truly luxurious.
1990 Chateau Musar Rouge - $240 per bottle
It almost caused a argument between my wife and I. Shortly after tasting the wine I tweeted, "1990 Chat Musar needs a dark corner and your lover." She texted me immediately, "What's going on down there?" We had a good laugh about it. It's the lastst of the wartime vintages. Harvest began 09/12. Logistics of getting grapes to winery were as difficult as ever, taking nearly five days to arrive. Harvest was completed on 09/27 and blockades where placed on 09/28 preventing them from leaving the winery. Green bell pepper, mint, herbal dark fruit and sensual palate. This is almost as sexy as it gets.
2001 Chateau Musar Rouge - $62 per bottle
The '01 has a Heavier domination of cabernet sauvignon and carignan over cinsault. the aromas are dominated by cigar box spice, baked plum and cherry fruit, warm chocolate and olive tapenade. The palate shows a balanced palate of fruit and acidity with a tannic structure that provides a long finish. Another wine in its infancy that could last decades.
For ordering information, please call Peter Troilo at (203) 655 - 9045 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org