- BlendObaideh 60%, Merwah 40%
- RegionBekaa Valley
- AppellationBekaa Valley
- VineyardMount Lebanon slopes
- OakNevers oak barrels
- Aging/Cooperage9 Months
- Harvest DateObaideh - September 20th and October 1st 2016 for the Merwah
Chateau Musar Blanc Bekaa Valley 2016
“Musar’s whites and rosés are less well-known. More’s the pity: both are unusual and superb.” – Andrew Jefford, Decanter
When it comes to the world’s most singularly unique winery – my vote has long been cast for the iconic Chateau Musar. Lebanon’s oldest winery – and the only one to have survived the decades-long civil war – this is a wine geek and sommelier favorite the world over. The blanc is made from grapes you’ve never heard of, and tastes like nothing else you have ever tried...and it is, in my opinion, spectacular! If you want one wine to silence a room, and moments later incite a wave of passionate defense and scholarly deconstruction – there is simply nothing better!
Jonathan Ray, wine editor at the UK’s The Spectator Magazine, and former wine critic for The Daily Telegraph, put it all together rather nicely, saying, “The 2016 Chateau Musar White is an extraordinary wine. It’s likened by some to a mature dry white Bordeaux and by others to a Manzanilla. I reckon it could pass for old white Rhone or Rioja. The truth is that it’s not like anything else at all. Yes, there’s that oxidative character, so typical of Musar, but there are also notes of honey, nuts, cream and citrus. It’s rich but dry.”
Exactly. The grapes here are two native varieties, 60% obaideh and 40% merwah. They are believed to be anciently related to chardonnay and semillon, with perhaps another link to chasselas – the favored white grape of Switzerland. These varieties have been planted by Chateau Musar from the very beginning – all the way back to 1930 – when a young Gaston Hochar returned from Bordeaux with a dream of planting vines of his own. In 1941, the ties with Bordeaux were fortified further, as Major Ronald Barton (of 2nd Growth Bordeaux, Leoville-Barton), was stationed in Lebanon, and befriended Gaston, consulting casually to influence what would become the classic “Musar style”. Gaston’s son, Serge, would later go on to study at the University de Bordeaux under Jean Ribéreau-Gayon and Émile Peynaud – industry titans that are often described as the founders of modern oenology. It would be Serge who would take the winery to glorious heights – expanding sales to Europe and beyond as his homeland suffered in the grips of a nearly two decades civil war. Throughout the conflict, even as war raged right on the property, with tanks and machine gun fire over the vines, the Hochar family managed to make all but one vintage – 1976. (Read more about the war years of Chateau Musar here.)
It’s easy to get caught up in the winery’s history, clearly, and I await the day a movie adaptation hits the silver screen. Perhaps I’ll be the one to write it...perhaps. Until then at least, I will revel in the sipping and sharing of these singular wines – starting with this exceptional 2016 Blanc. The golden-hued and weighty wine pours out with immediate aromas of marzipan and highly perfumed, dried ornamental flowers. There are oxidative notes of ripe red apples, then salted caramel, golden raisins, chervil, pine tar, clover honey, Medjool dates, green almond skins, and crushed river rocks...just to get things started. The wine is full-bodied and slightly viscous, but never cloying or sweet – instead relying on an expressive phenolic bitterness that expands the fruit and flavor profiles to every nook and cranny of your palate. There is gorgeously integrated acidity – almost hard to notice, but undeniable – as your mouth begins to salivate immediately after your first sip, and doesn’t stop for minutes after. This won’t be everyone’s favorite – consider it along the lines of the acceptable dissent of any fine art piece...but to those that this ambrosia suits – it will whisper in your ear and leave you forever changed. We don’t have much, but I can’t recommend enough that every wine drinker has this beauty at least once in their life...and we fans will drink the rest on the regular!
PAIRING IDEAS: I’m chilling down a bottle (but not too cold) to have with Samkeh Harra – a spicy, garlicky, and creamy whole roasted fish (typically Red Snapper) that hails from the city of Tripoli in Lebanon. Should be a feast!