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Lebanon tasting notes

text and photographs © 2012 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Wines of Lebanon.


Château Musar has its own offices and distribution in the UK, Telephone 0208 941 8311. See all stockists of Château Musar on wine-searcher.

red wines

Château Musar 2003
Lots of lift with a big, leafy and vegetal aromas with fennel, nuts and herbs. There is good berry fruit too, in a typically wild, but complex and forward style. Beautifully sweet fruit on the palate, the liquorice concentration and twist of chicory adding grip and tension, but sweet fruit plays into the finish. 91-92/100.

Château Musar 1999
The 1999 was not tasted at the winery but poured over lunch. Unfortunately it had not been decanted and as luck would have it the young waiter poured me the last of the bottle which was thick with sediment. So very difficult to judge, but it had a gorgeous nose with a ripeness of cherry and cassis fruit smoothed by cappuccino, spice and a savoury grilled-meat quality. I think this is probably an extremely good Musar and look forward to tasting it again.

Château Musar 1998
Such a pale colour and a beautiful nose, with gentle spice and floral notes, and soft, bracken and gently truffly, mushroomy notes. The palate is delicious, with a cappuccino softness and such lovely flavours with rhubarb and sweet black fruits, the flavours fully melded. This is drinking beautifully, with such lovely balance and freshness, with elegance and really long finish. Though Serge thinks this is not yet ready, I thought it was delicious and drinking perfectly. 93/100.

Château Musar 1974
At this time there was more than 50% Cinsault. Transparently pale ruby/tawny. Old, sweet, brown sugar and vaguely dank and leafy and vegetal, cep mushroom notes. The palate has real sweetness and a touch of that coffee and chocolate smoothness and richness, the lovely red fruit elegance comes through again, with very nice balance in the finish. Though spicy, the lingering impression is of its sweet fruit. 92/100.

white wines

Château Musar Jeune Blanc 2011
Musar Jeune is a new addition to the small portfolio. A blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Vermentino, this has apricot and a green fig, and green vegetable notes, the herby Vermentino coming through. The palate has masses of acidity (2011 a year with high acid levels) and a great juiciness too, and though quite full, it is about freshness and minerality and squirting lemony acidity. 89/100.

Château Musar Blanc 1972
Fabulous nose, the gunflint and vegetal aromas have damped down, little notes of dried apricot and fig. There is a touch of coffee, of sweet damp earth and of orange oil, in complex, layered aromas. The palate has that lovely cappuccino sweetness, the rich mouth-feel and quince and fig fruit and lovely tannins and creamy acids adding weight and texture, without any hint of heaviness. Lovely mushroomy and forest floor softness, and so long. Fabulous old wine. 95/100.

Château Musar Blanc 1967
Deep orangy colour. Quite oxidised, with bruised fruit and a touch of brown sugar. There's a soft spiciness and Seville orange, barley sugar and some mushroom the palate does not have the freshness and juiciness of the 1972, but it has its charms. 90/100.

components of the 2011 Musar

Tastings from tank and barrel of the component parts that will eventually be bottled as Château Musar 2011, red and white.

Obaideh 2011 sample
From "the oldest grapes on earth," according to Serge. The vines are on their own roots, planted in the Anti-Lebanon mountains. Lots of herby aromas, lots of sour apple and lemon rind are really fresh and acidity streaking across the palate. Picked two months after the first white grapes are picked and a month after the reds, yet only achieving around 12% ABV because of the 1400 metre altitude and very cold overnight conditions.

Merweh 2011 sample
Hugely sulphidic nose, boiled cabbage and broccoli, meaty, flinty and hugely distinctive, but not sure if I like it. The palate bursts with flavour, just decisively grapefruity and mineral-dry into the finish. Extraordinary and powerful stuff with masses of acidity. That nose would be an instant fail in a blind tasting, and yet traces of this same character are in the older whites.

Cinsault 2011 sample
Tight cherry and balsamic richness with real crisp, crunch and liquorice twist. Delicious, and destined for the Musar Grand Vin.

Grenache 2011 sample
Much softer, more jammy black cherry and strawberry-like. Lovely dry palate, a delightful edge of sweetness. Destined for Hochar Père et Fils.

Syrah 2011 sample
Again tight blueberry and blackberry fruit. A sweet earthiness and very peppery. Lovely sweet fruit, the plush ripeness finishing with some earthy, vegetal flavours and very good acidity. For Musar Jeune.

Carignan 2011 sample
Such, deliciously fresh, tight creamy fruit. It is vital and alive, but grippy and robust too, chewy and dense. For the Musar and fabulous quality.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 sample
Earthy, a touch of leafiness but really the tight, rich black fruit comes through deep and masculine. For the Musar.

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