Chateau Musar tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits
Tuesday 5 September 2017
It’s a very rainy, very chilly, supposedly spring night here in Wellington but the wines we are tasting are from a far warmer place – you could even call the Bekaa Valley hot. It’s in the north east of Lebanon, a country better known for war than for wine.
The wines we are tasting come from Chateau Musar, founded in 1930 by Gaston Hochar, who planted his first vines after returning from training in winemaking in Bordeaux, France.
The original name of the winery was Mzar, which was later lengthened for ease of pronunciation and spelling. The winery was inspired by the French, who colonised Lebanon after World War I. Lebanon became independent in 1943. It’s on the eastern part of the Mediterranean sea, so it is less than 200 kilometres from Cyprus.
2016 Musar Jeune Rose
Refreshing rose – it’s bone dry, has no oak, a modern label and is made intentionally to be a paler colour to cater for modern tastes (we do drink with our eyes, don’t we – don’t answer that). This wine is now 85% Cinsault and 15% Mourvedre; a classic combo from Provence in the south of France. Two years ago it was 100% Cinsault and a far darker coloured wine as a result.
Love the bone dry taste.
2014 Musar Jeune Red
Adaptation and change are the message of this wine, which contains Syrah for the first time (a decision that took two to three years of ‘heavy discussion’ at the winery, says Ralph Hochar). It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Cinsault; made from young vines with no oak use – it’s a drink-me-now style – soft and approachable with flavours of intense fruit, dark spice (cloves) and chocolate notes.
2012 Hochar Pere et Fils
This wine is now a blend of three grapes; Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache (it was formerly a blend of these three with a fourth – Carignan). The vines are older at 30-40 years of age and the yields are lower than in the Musar Jeune wine, so the flavours are noticeably more concentrated with …. each grape spends 4-6 months in French oak, it is then blended and cellared at the winery for another 3-4 years prior to release, so the 2012 is the current release. It will arrive in New Zealand prior to Christmas this year.
2011 Hochar Pere et Fils
Tastes like a cross between Nebbiolo and Chateauneuf du Pape, to me; high acid, firm tannins, red fruit, juicy long finish… succulent, bone dry, complex. This six year old wine has a complex range of flavours spanning red fruit (classic juicy flavours of a Chateauneuf du Pape), spice (cloves, cardamon) and black fruit (Cabernet Sauvignon). It has a medium body and high but balanced acidity adds freshness and length. Intriguing wine.
The flagship wines
The flagship wine was created by Serge Hochar who was 23 years old when he studied wine with Emile Peynaud at the University of Bordeaux.
2008 Chateau Musar
This wine has been made from certified organic grapes since 1996. The vineyards are certified organic via independent auditing by an Italian company.
It’s made from Carignan, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Mourvedre, fermented entirely from wild yeasts and the wine is not filtered or fined, so sediment can be heavy after a couple of decades of aging. Each grape spends one year in French oak and two years in concrete vats.
“At the end of the day, sediment is a natural part of the wine but fining would be us doing something to the wine and we would rather the wine aged naturally and had some sediment rather than us doing things to the wine,” says Ralph Hochar.
It’s an earthy wine with intense flavours of red and baked fruit and a savoury undertow, high acid, a long finish – it’s a fascinating style of wine.
2006 Chateau Musar
A beautiful drink now; savoury spice, sweet spice, red fruit, super fresh in flavour with so many different aromas coming through in every sip.
This drinks well right now and has the ability and potential to age for longer in cool dark cellar conditions.
Thanks to Ralph Hochar for coming to Regional Wines & Spirits to share his time and knowledge of Lebanon and its most famous wines from Chateau Musar.