Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 2 March

Wine Club 2 March
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Chateau Musar is beloved of Spectator readers, thanks largely to my sainted predecessors — Messrs Waugh and Hoggart — both of whom adored its wines. As a result, the Speccie has forged a bond with this Lebanese winery and, owing to the diplomatic exertions of our partners at Mr Wheeler, we are in the enviable position of being able to offer the latest Musar vintages exclusively to readers before anyone else has even had a sniff or a whiff of them.

The 2010 Chateau Musar White (1) is nothing if not quirky, produced from ungrafted old vines grown in the Bekaa Valley that were first planted almost 5,000 years ago. A blend of Obaideh and Merwah (and when did you last bump into them?), it’s fermented and aged partly in oak and partly in stainless steel. There’s lemony, Sémillon-like fruit on the palate, a white Rhône-like peachiness and a touch of oxidative savouriness on the finish. I would be lying if I didn’t say that it’s an acquired taste, but if you’re bored by the ubiquity of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and crave something different, it’s a taste worth acquiring. £23 down from £25.50.

The 2016 Musar Jeune Red (2) is an equal blend of organic, old vine Cinsault and Syrah with a touch of added Cabernet Sauvignon. Being fermented and matured in concrete vats, it sees no oak at all and is easy-going with fresh, lively, dark bramble fruit and a long savoury finish. Thinking ahead, it would make a great summer barbecue wine. £11.25 down from £12.75.

The 2016 Hochar Père et Fils Red (3) is noticeably more complex than the above. A single estate wine, it’s a blend of old vine Cinsault, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in French oak for six months. I love its rich spiciness and abundance of ripe dark fruit. Yes, you could drink it now with great pleasure, but I’d hang on to it for a bit. £13.75 down from £16.25.

Musar releases its grands vins only when they are deemed ready to drink — anything up to six or seven years after the vintage — and this is the first time that the 2012 Chateau Musar (4) has been offered. An equal blend of Cinsault, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon, from a bakingly hot vintage, it has all the Musar hallmarks of rich, ripe, savoury fruit backed by an underlying sweetness and softness. 2012 was such a small vintage that if Speccie readers leave any, it’ll then be offered by allocation. £23.75 down from £27.

The 2005 Chateau Musar (5) comes from a cracking vintage and, sadly, there ain’t much left and the price is steeper than I would have liked. But if Musar is your thing, you simply must grab it. It was one of Simon Hoggart’s favourite vintages and he greatly enjoyed it when he offered it here some six or seven years ago. It’s even better now and I just wish he was here to see how fine it has become. £45 down from £49.

Finally, the 2000 Chateau Musar (6), at the peak of its maturity and perfect for cracking open right now. It has delicious soft, mellow fruit with hints of fig, damson and plum; a touch of herbal spice; that typical underlying sweetness and a leathery earthiness (or maybe it’s an earthy leatheriness). Try it and you’ll soon know what I mean. But, heck, don’t agonise over it, just uncork and enjoy. £29.50 down from £33.

The wines are offered by the unmixed case or as part of the 12-bottle Musar Collection (two bottles of each of the above wines) or the six-bottle Musar Vintage Experience (two bottles each of the three grands vins). Delivery, as ever, is free.

Written byJonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray is the Spectator's wine editor.

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