Lebanon is not the first country one would associate with winemaking, and it may not even be the twentieth that pops into mind. Any wine aficionado (or snob) would be keen to associate a wine’s attributes to more famous regions, for example exclaiming that it reminds them of Burgundy or Bordeaux. Few people would taste a wine and say “this reminds me of Lebanon”.
From this recent tasting, I think that could change in the near future. From this unusual region a wine has emerged that has clearly been influenced by the more established styles without being a mere imitation.
- Clarity: Clear
- Intensity: Medium
- Colour: Garnet
- Condition: Clean
- Intensity: Medium
- Development: Developing
- Sweetness: Dry
- Acidity: Medium+
- Tannin: Medium
- Alcohol: Medium+
- Body: Medium+
- Flavor Intensity: Medium+
- Finish: Medium+
- Quality: Very Good
- Readiness/Cellaring: Can drink now, potential to cellar
- Identity: Lebanon / Bekaa Valley / Cinsault, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache
- Price: High-priced (~$40)
- Long, thin tears
- Aromas of blackberries, clove, cinnamon, dark cherries, leather
- Flavours of sour cherries, molasses, cola, blackberries, clove, leather
- Fine-grained tannins, cleansing acidity
- Edges of gums puckering up, interesting textural experience
- Great example of a matured wine with more development potential ahead of it
- Match with braised meat dishes
My first encounter with Chateau Musar was in fact a bottle I sold at work. It was New Year’s Eve and a patron had requested the 2005 Chateau Musar Red. I hadn’t been aware that we had any Lebanese wines on our list so when it was pointed out to me I was curious. I eventually found the bottle and performed my usual ritual, displaying it to the guest, uncorking the bottle, decanting it, tasting it to make sure it was not corked… the wine was in perfect condition, well-preserved considering it was almost a decade old. Satisfied, I presented the wine to the table and poured it into the glasses.
The next day the following article appeared in my Twitter feed – Serge Hochar, winemaker at Château Musar and a pioneering force for Lebanon’s wine industry, has died in a swimming accident on holiday in Mexico aged 75.
This was a remarkable coincidence, to come across a wine only to discover that the maker has passed away the very next day. I was not exactly disturbed – from a rational perspective, the universe is a huge place and such coincidences are bound to happen. But I did feel a twinge of regret that I had only discovered this wine, crafted by a winemaker in a region so full of conflict, and that we might not be able to taste it again.
When you think of a vineyard, you imagine an idyllic landscape filled with rows upon rows of grapevines, leaves rustling gently against the wind. Whilst researching the region from where this wine came from, I found it difficult to reconcile that peaceful image with it’s tortured history, and I felt a greater appreciation for it.
Read more: The Story Of The Vine