Klaxon alert! Calling all wine lovers! Whatever you’re doing, stop it this instant and read this immediately for we have a bona fide belter of an offer this week: an exclusive on the newly released 2015 Chateau Musar.
Thanks to our chums at Mr Wheeler and their longstanding relationship with the estate, Spectator readers have first shout on this magnificent wine and if you like Musar — and come on, everyone likes Musar — I beg you to get stuck in. I’m assured that the 2015 vintage cannot currently be bought anywhere else in the UK.
Not only that, we also have a strictly limited selection of older vintages of Chateau Musar comprising one bottle each of the 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2009 in a wooden box complete with Chateau Musar: The Story of a Wine Icon from the Académie du Vin Library, a foil cutter and a two-pronged ‘butler’s friend’ corkscrew all for just £289. Do we love you or what?
Of course, Spectator readers don’t need me to tell them about mighty Musar. After all, my two sainted predecessors — Messrs Waugh and Hoggart — were both huge admirers and early supporters of this extraordinary Lebanese estate, established in Ghazir in 1930 by Gaston Hochar with vineyards in the Bekaa Valley. Wars, revolutions and an unpredictable climate have all taken their toll but only one vintage has ever been completely lost: 1976.
To whet your appetite for the 2015 grand vin, try the 2019 Musar Jeune Red (1), an extremely easy-going and quaffable blend of old vine Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It saw no oak at all and is deliberately made for early enjoyment. A gentle touch of tannin adds structure, a fine acidity adds freshness and plenty of spicy red and dark fruit adds joy. It’s soft, succulent, uncomplicated and instantly appealing. £11.50 down from £12.75.
The 2018 Hochar Pere et Fils Red (2) is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in French oak for six months and bottled last summer. As above, it has wonderfully come-hither ripe fruit and an attractive underlying freshness. There’s a more savoury kick to the finish, though, and a whisper of dried herbs and merest hint of chocolate just at the end. £14.75 down from £16.50.
As for the 2015 Chateau Musar (3) itself, well, it’s a beauty of course, a blend — as of yore — of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan. It was a fiendishly tricky vintage with a frost in April and a heatwave in September threatening total disaster. Indeed, some 65 per cent of the Cabernet Sauvignon crop was lost. What little wine that was made, though, is glorious.
The Hochar family famously only ever release their wines when they’re ready to drink, usually seven years after the vintage. The 2013 sold so quickly, though, that the release of the 2014 was brought forward. The knock-on effect has been that instead of waiting until January 2022 to release the 2015, the family is releasing it now, albeit in severely reduced quantities. If Musar is your thing, I beseech you to grab this offer with both hands since you’re unlikely to get another chance.
It’s a beautiful wine with both delicacy and power. There is that inimitable Musar sweetness on the palate with cherries, damsons, plums, prunes and dates to the fore, and tingling spice and dried summer herbs on the finish. It’s soft and mellow enough to enjoy on its own although it really shines — as I discovered last night — with garlic and anchovy-studded roast leg of lamb. You will love it! £29.00.
The Musar New Vintage case has four bottles each of wines 1-3 while the Musar Vintage Experience wooden box (restricted to one per customer) has one bottle each of the six different vintages detailed above. Delivery, as ever, is free.