Remarkable Quality (and Value) From Lebanon

Today’s Story: Chateau Musar

Chateau Musar was established in 1930 in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon by Gaston Hochar when he was 20 years old. Inspired by his travels throughout Bordeaux and the 6,000-year-old winemaking history of Lebanon, Gaston set about producing wines with a non-interventionist philosophy and planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault for his reds in high-altitude gravel and limestone soils. During WWII, Major Ronald Barton of Château Langoa-Barton and Leoville-Barton was stationed in Lebanon and became friends with Gaston which strengthened the tie to Bordeaux and exists to this day. In 1959, Gaston’s eldest son Serge took over winemaking after studying at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux and started making wines “his own way.” Shortly thereafter, in 1961, Gaston’s second son Ronald joined the family business to handle the financial and marketing aspects. Serge was named Decanter Magazine’s first ‘Man of the Year’ in 1984 thanks to his steadfast production of quality wines during Lebanon’s Civil War (1975-1990) and the brand continued to build upon international fame for its elegance and quality. In 1994, Serge’s son Gaston joined the winery and was accompanied later in 2010 by his brother Marc. The two manage the estate together today with Gaston running the winery operations and Marc running the commercial aspects.

Chateau Musar became Lebanon’s first certified organic winery in 2006 and their wines spend a remarkable 7 years at the winery before release. The red wines are fermented in separate cement vats, racked 6 months after harvest, aged for 12 months in French Nevers oak barriques, and bottled without filtration at the end of the third year after harvest before the blend is aged an additional 3-4 years before release. The white wines also ferment in Nevers oak barrels for 6-9 months but are bottled after their first year and spend 6 years in the cellars before release.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Chateau Musar Rouge

Roughly equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, and Cinsault; 13.5% ABV

The 2011 Musar is opaque deep ruby in color. I decanted this for about an hour and drank it over the following hour. The nose showcases aromas of blackberry, plum, black cherry, anise, cigar box, forest floor, slight barnyard, exotic spice, and faint smoke. Once in the mouth, this displays notes of redcurrant, juicy plum, dusty cherry, black raspberry, worn leather, tobacco, dried earth, crushed rock minerality, baking spice, and black pepper. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, tight-knit and dusty medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $50. Chateau Musar is always one of my favorite wines to buy in the $50 price-point because they offer incredible value and the opportunity to explore a wine region I wager most people haven’t experienced. These wines are also incredibly cellar-worthy. Pair this with peppercorn-seasoned steak, venison, or mature cheeses.

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