There are many ways in which a wine can earn its reputation, but its hard to beat Chateau Musar for it's endlessly fascinating story and incredible longevity.
Chateau Musar is located in the Bekaa Valley in what was known as the "bread basket" of Ancient Rome, about a 2 hour drive south east of Beirut, at approximately 1000 metres above sea level. Gaston Hochar wanted to bring back viticulture to a land that had a history of winemaking dating back almost 30 centuries and in 1930 began cultivating vines. Though it was only in 1959 that his son Serge, who sadly passed away in 2015, actually began bottling the wines, and then a further 13 years after that the wines were introduced to the international market, the same year that the first shots were fired of the on-again-off-again civil war that went on for 20-odd years following that. The uncompromising and defiant nature of the whole operation should speak for itself.
The blend for the Musar red is usually made up of the perfumed Cinsault, the spicy Carignan and powerful Cabernet Sauvignon, with other varieties present in small quantities in back vintages, including Syrah and Mourvedre. As Serge explained, when describing the 'Musar Man', “the Cabernet Sauvignon is the skeleton, the backbone, which I hide with the muscles, which come from the Carignan, and the skin, which is the Cinsault”. The grapes are grown on a stony, clay soil over a limestone base, and are all hand-picked after a very low-intervention growing season. These grapes are then driven 70km from Kefraya and the surrounding villages to the winery in Ghazir which usually would take about 1.5 hours, but one that has taken days or weeks at the height of the Civil War - the 1984 vintage had to take a detour through the sea which led it to start fermenting en route and thus was never released, while the 1990 had to drive an extra 250km to avoid roadblocks.
The grapes go through a 5-week maceration period in concrete tanks, with gentle extraction using some pigeage but mostly remontage. After about 6-9 weeks it is transferred to Nevers casks in which it spends about 10-14 months after which it is transferred back into concrete tanks for a further year. Only after this is it bottled, without filtration - resulting in a much lighter colour than many other wines made form the same variety simply due to the longer wait before bottling.
The Musar white is generally a blend of approximately 60% barrel-fermented Oibaideh (Serge compares it to Chasselas) grown in Ain Arab on the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon mountains, and 40% barrel-fermented Merwah (compared sometimes to Semillon) grown, ungrafted, at Baquaata, a site 1500m above sea level on the seaward side of Mount Lebanon.
Patience is one word that comes to mind. The estate keeps at least 25% of the stock from each vintage as Serge explained, “give my wines more time, and they will give you more joy.” In fact, the Ghazir cellars have had to extended to make space for these massive back-vintage stock. As frustrating as it must be for his bank manager, he stressed "...making money is not the prime objective. The prime objective is social: country, roots, genes, history."
Each vintage is completely unique, with some being compared to Bordeaux, to Hermitage, and even to Burgundy. However, one thing is for sure, they are always stunningly complex, incredibly unique and long-lived, so much so that Michael Broadbent, who in 1979 initially gave the 1967 vintage four stars, gave it the same rating when trying it again in 2000! This is a truly legendary wine and we couldn't be happier to be able to offer such a variety of vintages.
2006 Chateau Musar Red
£115 per 6x75cl inc. duty, ex. VAT
£135 per 3x150cl inc. duty, ex. VAT
A beautiful deep, ruby hue with lots of almost confected cherry, blackcurrant and cranberries on the nose with a hint of liquorice. The palate has an explosion of brambly and hedgerow fruits with blueberries and cherries - this is a mid-weight vintage from Chateau Musar with excellent acidity and fine tannins.
1999 Chateau Musar Red
£140 per 6x75cl inc. duty, ex. VAT
The colour is a brilliant, deep red with a nose full of red and black fruits - cherries and cassis, with nuances of vanilla and chocolate. This follows through to the palate which is rich, well balanced and powerful. Mellow spices are evident in the beginning, mature red fruits surround very smooth tannins and a hint of orange is apparent on the very long finish.
“Fans will know what to expect – others will be delighted to discover a rich, dark, velvety wine with cedar, smoke, even chocolate and liquorice, topped off with a wonderfully fragrant perfume.” Simon Hoggart – The Spectator 28th January 2006
“If the 1997 was Bordeaux-style, this gives more of a nod to the Rhône. An enticing, dangerous scent of violets, game and incense, with a concentrated, full-throttle flavour of dense, sweet fruits.” Andrew Jefford – Decanter Magazine The Magic of Musar January 2004
1981 Chateau Musar Red
£152 per 1x75cl inc. duty, ex. VAT
"A scent of fragrant sweet roses, and sweet, exotic fruits with a raisiny edge to taste. Despite this sweetness, the flesh and the sensual Cinsualt `skin’ of the wine was still much in evidence. As we drank the wine (at dinner on my first night in the Lebanon in 1993), it became cleaner and more refreshing: another Musar hallmark." Andrew Jefford, December 4, 2013
1970 Chateau Musar Red
£365 per 1x75cl inc. duty, ex. VAT
"Beautifully evolved with sweet herby aromas and mature leathery notes. The palate is slightly raisined and figgy, with good balance. Interesting stuff, but drink soon as it's just starting to fade. Very good/excellent." "Vintage 1970 (96) points is a big, muscular musar, still tannic with a long life ahead. We have tasted it on several occasions and it has always presented itself as a wine of world class." DN vinguide Norway, tasting in 2002
2008 Chateau Musar White
£110 per 6x75cl inc. duty, ex. VAT
Chateau Musar White 2008 is pale gold with aromas of orange peel, peach blossom, lemon and pear. The palate has notes of stone fruits with orange zest overlaid by roasted almonds – it is very fresh despite its weighty texture. It is all at once; flowers, lemon, spice and honeycomb underpinned with a fresh acidity and very good length. Gloriously complex with a penetrating acidity that comes from old vines.
1990 Chateau Musar White
£60 per 1x75cl inc. duty, ex. VAT
A very complex and intense nose brimming with notes of honey, toasted brioche, apples and oak. The flavours are reflected on the palate. Incredibly balanced and soft with a stunning richness. Very long finish. A very special unique wine of intense character and complexity. It can be served very slightly chilled but it is preferable to serve this wine at room temperature with food.
1981 Chateau Musar White
£88 per 1x75cl inc. duty, ex. VAT
"Blend of two local varieties, Merwah and Obeideh. Both varieties are partly fermented in oak barriques where they mature for a further nine months. They are then blended, bottled and aged for a further four years before release. 25% new barriques each year. Bouquet of butterscotch, marshmallows, cooked apple and lemon. Dry and full-bodied with tart acidity. Very granny-smith apple on palate, with mineral notes. Very long, toasty caramel finish." Jancis Robinson, tasting in 2001
We have access to many vintages dating back numerous decades as well as many different sizes, so if there's a particular year or format you're after please do enquire!
All wines are also available in bond.