Jim Lutfy’s Favorite
Wine: 2008 Chateau Musar Red Wine
Region: Bekaa Valley, Lebanese
FWS Per Bottle Price $59.99
FWS Case (12 Bottles) Per Bottle Price $54.99
Description: In 1930, at just 20 years old, Gaston Hochar founded Chateau Musar, inspired by Lebanon’s 6,000 year winemaking tradition and his travels in Bordeaux. His ‘wines with noblesse’ greatly impressed senior officers in the army following on from the French mandate of the 1920s. Major Ronald Barton, of Château Langoa-Barton, stationed in Lebanon during World War II became a great friend, strengthening the links between Chateau Musar and Bordeaux that remain to this day
Serge Hochar, Gaston’s eldest son trained as a civil engineer, then decided to study oenology and with the encouragement of his father became a student of Emile Peynaud at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux. Having declared to his father “I want to make the wine my way, I want it to be known world-wide – and I want you to quit!” he became Chateau Musar winemaker in 1959, Gaston senior having graciously given way. He then spent 18 years perfecting the formula for Chateau Musar’s Red and was chosen as Decanter Magazine’s first ‘Man of the Year’ in 1984 for his dedication to producing superb quality wines during Lebanon’s Civil War (1975-1990). Serge has two sons: Gaston and Marc. Both have studied engineering and worked in the banking sector. Gaston now manages the day-to-day running of the Chateau Musar winery, Marc its commercial aspects.
“My brother looks after the liquid, I look after the liquidity.” Like his brother Serge, Ronald Hochar was encouraged to participate at Musar from an early age: both grew up washing bottles and working at the winery before pursuing their separate paths within the business. Ronald would work 7am-5pm in Ghazir then work in the evenings at the Musar shop in Beirut. “We were paid 5 Lebanese pounds a day” says Ronald “I learned everything about selling from my father.” Having studied law, Ronald’s good-humoured contributions on the commercial and logistical fronts (against huge odds he kept Musar’s trucks running during the war) remain vital to the business. Ronald’s son Ralph works with the on-trade sector from Chateau Musar’s UK office and his daughter Elsa recently produced a documentary film about Chateau Musar.
“In 2005, we experienced an unusual weather pattern in Lebanon – unequalled in 38 years! We had rain and snow throughout January which lasted until mid February – followed by rain in March and April. Humid but mild weather then set in from May through to September, with one very unusual day of rain on the 23rd July. The combination of high levels of humidity and comparatively low temperatures affected maturity and our
harvesting was delayed by about 10 days as a result.
It was hardly surprising, therefore, that on arrival of the grapes at the winery on the 18th September, we recorded medium alcohol content and high acidity. Fermentation was similar to our summer weather –never reaching high temperatures. In fact, this year, we had no need to cool the wines as temperatures never reached more than 30°C.
All our red varieties were very fruity this year, and the resulting wine is well balanced and characterized by rich, ripe fruits, good acidity and smooth integrated tannins.
The wines spent 9 months in cement vats and then a year in French Nevers oak barrels and the final blend of approximately a third each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan rested for another 9 months in vats before being bottled and stored in the
Chateau Musar cellars high in the mountains at Ghazir to
begin their journey of maturation and development, before being released in the spring of 2012.
The 2008 vintage is a deep blood red color with a smoky, spicy, nose of black fruits,
toasted bread, dark chocolate and cigar box – an impressive fragrance of fruits and
spices. The palate is well structured; full of black and red fruits such as cherries,
blackcurrants and prunes with a hint of dark chocolate and fresh tea leaves.
The finish is long and fine with velvety tannins.” -chateaumusar.com
Jim’s thoughts: “They waited nine years to release this fabulous wine. The 2005 vintage is the best young Musar I have tasted. It rivals the great 1982 and 1985 vintage. The wine encompasses both Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley into one. Lebanon was a French territory, and this wine surely has French flair. Savory flavors standout here, with earthiness and elegance. The wine has a long, deep finish. It is a powerful statement of a wine! Patience will be rewarded. Cheers!”