(Small) Vertical Chateau Musar tasting

musarI don’t know if two years can be called a vertical tasting but I’ve always wanted to write about one. They sound so sophisticated but, it must be admitted, they usually comprise a lot more vintages than the 2004 and 2005 Chateau Musars that Richard kindly opened this evening.

So, the iconic Musar from the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Comprised of five grape varieties, whose proportions vary annually, it costs about £20 – 25 and is now quite widely available. Richard remembers buying a case in the 1980s for £50 and still proclaims it as one of those epiphanic vinous moments.

The colours were similar, medium red with the 04 slightly lighter with a browner rim. The 04 was clear whilst the 05 was hazy. Both had quite pronounced windows.

Their bouquets were different. The 05 had a richer, fuller, not particularly delicate nose but with some high notes. The 04 was much more delicate, quite light and finely floral.

The 04’s palate was full, lively, exciting with different flavours revealing themselves. I described them as  young plums followed by hints of apricots. There was obvious refreshing acidity and a medium length with soft tannins. The 05 showed greater tannins and grip and, I thought, was still green. It was quite interesting how both wines had some much acidity; they were crying out for food, but not big flavours – lamb would have been a great match for their acidity.

Verdict – 04 ready but will get better for two years, 05 not yet – give it another five years.

[Richard: My case of Musar (I think it was the 1978 vintage) came from the Spectator Wine Club – Auberon Waugh, who ran it, was a great fan of the label. A fabulous wine and I can still remember drinking the last bottle. Since then, for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve hardly touched the wine but bought a case of the ’05 from the Wine Society (£20 a bottle but out of stock) a couple of years ago so thought we’d try one. The ’04 came from MWW (also about £20).

My comments are just about ‘day 2’. The first thing I noticed was that the difference between the two vintages was maintained. Both were complex, fuller, longer, no less aromatic but the ’04 clearly had the edge. The ’05 is savoury but a little thinner and the texture reminded me of an old-style Rioja. I’ll decant the next bottle opened.

Angie also tried the wines on day 2 – never having drunk Musar before – and was very impressed, calling the ’04 ‘stupendous’, as it was.]

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