1960, 1974 and New Releases of Château Musar


Château Musar is a remarkable estate that gained prominence thanks to the late Serge Hochar, a remarkable man who died tragically in 2015 after a swimming accident in Mexico. I grew up watching the news of war-torn Beirut. Little did I know then that down in the Bekaa Valley, Hochar was making wine from Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault bush vines, as well as a white from indigenous Obaideh and Merwah varieties. The reds were inspired by Léoville Barton after Ronald Barton was stationed in Lebanon and met Serge Hochar’s father Gaston, who founded the estate in 1930. The wines gained popularity overseas, in no small part thanks to Michael Broadbent, a great friend of Serge Hochar (Broadbent Wines continue as their US distributor to this day.) I was fortunate to meet Hochar two or three times in London. He was an irrepressibly joyful man with limitless energy. Château Musar regularly appeared at dinners, more often than not, old bottles from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Sometimes they could be a revelation, and occasionally, an acquired taste. Two older vintages were shown at recent tasting hosted by UK importer, J E Fells & Co, and afterwards, I nipped over to another stand where the latest releases were being poured.

The 1974 Château Musar has a pale brick hue with a tuile rim. The nose is fully mature. Don’t come here looking for plenty of fruit; this is more about dusty earthenware, pressed flowers and a touch of oxtail. You have to stay with it because the aromatics become more and more enticing. The palate is well balanced with more weight than the nose suggests. Cohesive, peppery and savory in style, this has a modest weight with an animally finish that is not a million miles away from a Tawny Port. The 1974 is a delightful Musar that would outflank most Bordeaux clarets in this vintage. Very fine. 90/Drink 2023-2030.

The 1960 Château Musar is not as clear in color as the 1974 tasted alongside, but in many ways, I am more drawn to the nose that is like a mature, rustic Burgundy. The 1960 does fade a bit in the glass, so I would not decant it. The palate is fully mature and quite saccharine, with molasses, toffee and a red fruit remnant. It’s a little rondeur towards the finish. It almost works as a sweet wine! Certainly worth seeking out. 91/Drink 2023-2030.

The 2018 Château Musar Rosé has a light, slightly conservative nose, with strawberry and mandarin touches. It needs more vigor to come through. The palate is well balanced, offering orange rind and roasted walnuts, smoky in style, with decent weight on the off-dry finish. It’s the kind of Rosé I’d drink chilled with salted nuts. 86/Drink 2023-2026.

The 2017 Château Musar has a perfumed bouquet with well-defined plummy red fruit, fireside embers and pressed flower scents. A hint of VA in the background gives the aromatics a welcome kick. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins and well-judged acidity, harmonious, not powerful, yet full of flavor. A pleasing bitterness surfaces towards the finish, with moderate persistence and a residual white pepper tang lingering in the mouth. Very nice. 90/Drink 2023-2040.

Finally, the 2016 Château Musar White has a light bouquet with wild peach and apricot blossom scents and a touch of acacia honey in the background. The palate is a little oxidative on the entry, with toffee, apple, peach, banana and marzipan notes. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, though the palate soon becomes accustomed to the flavors. 86/Drink 2023-2030.

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