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Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Chateau Musar Tasting at The Dulwich Wine Society

The Dulwich Wine Society (DWS) was established in 1991 and meets every Wednesday evening from 7:30pm at the Crown & Greyhound Pub in Dulwich Village.

(Picture Courtesy of Crown & Greyhound)

Dr G and I were DWS members throughout our 7 year stay in Dulwich from 2001. We made many good friends at the Society and learnt a tremendous amount from its many speakers including an eclectic mix of wine makers and merchants, lecturers and Masters of Wine like Tim Atkin and Jasper Morris to name a few.

Every week, 8 or 9 different wines are presented with a 20 minute break half-way through for some bread and cheese. This is a good opportunity to meet and socialize with other members. The Dulwich Wine Society is a non-profit making organisation and for more information about its programme and fees, visit their website.

Every Easter, the Dulwich Wine Society organises a trip to a wine producing region of France. This year, we attended their tour of the Northern Rhone in April, staying in Hermitage and visiting various vineyards in Coindreau, Cote Rotie, St Joseph, Cornas and St Peray (a separate post on this trip will follow shortly).

This week, we attended a very special evening presenting the wines of Chateau Musar with Jane Sowter, the International Sales Director. I have always loved the Chateau Musar reds and couldn't miss out on this vertical tasting. This is Jane's fourth visit to DWS, and I well remember her last visit in 2003 when we bought a dozen of the fantastic 1995 vintage, some of which we still have.

Chateau Musar was established by Gaston Hochar in 1930 in the Beqaa Valley, North of Beirut. It produces a variety of wines but is most famous for its cult top red "Chateau Musar". This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, and Carignan, and is aged for 12 months in French Nevers oak.

For this tasting, 10 different wines were presented starting with their entry level wines, the Musar Jeune range of 2009 red, white and rose wines retailing at around £9 a bottle. These are new wines produced in the last two years in a more youthful and easy drinking style with no oak aging. They were refreshing, well made with clean fruit and ready for drinking now as an aperitif or with food.

The Hochar Père et Fils Red 2004 (the next quality level up) was presented next. This was a robust blend of Cinsault, Cabernet, Carignan and Grenache coming from a single vineyard with 50-year old vines, and matured for 9 months in oak. It had a lovely nose of damsons, red berry fruit (cherries) and spice, and retails for around £12.

After the break (food organised this week by Cathy Perry, including her fantastic, signature homemade pâtés), we had the much awaited vertical tasting of the "first growth" Chateau Musar reds. This ranged from the 2004 vintage which is about to be released going back as far as 1998.

Each of them was made from grapes fermented in concrete vats, the wines spending in 12 months in Nevers oak barriques. The wines had the characteristic Musar nose of damsons, red cherries, spice and pepper with elegant tannins and a leathery depth but stand out vintages in my opinion were the 2004, 2001 and the 1998. As we tasted the older vintages, the aged qualities for which Chateau Musar are so famous became increasingly apparent including aromas of game, incense, musk and violets.

The latest 2004 vintage was one my favourites but has not yet been released and the price is not yet announced. Its older siblings, the 2003 vintage is currently retailing at Majestic for £18 or Berry Brothers for £22, while the 2001 are priced at £24 at The Fine Wine Company and the 1998 at £36 at Roberson Wines.

To find out more about the Dulwich Wine Society's full summer programme, visit their website here. To learn more about the fantastic range of Chateau Musar wines, click here.


  1. As an Englishman with a Lebanese wife, I have enjoyed more than the occasional bottle of Musar, even visiting the vineyard in Beqaa/Bekka valley the last time we were visiting relatives there.

    I'm glad you agree that it's a delicious drop of red stuff!

    I've been reading your pages from the shadows for a while now Luiz but this is my first comment; a terrific blog, very interesting and entertaining.

  2. Hi Luiz! That's my kind of society.
    Thanks for the introduction to these wines!

  3. No Musar whites? I like them almost as much as I like the reds, I think :-)

  4. Long-time fans of Ch Musar, we went to a Red-Cross Middle-East fund raising event in 2006 put on by Cambridge Wine Merchants, held in Emmanuel College,Cambridge.

    We worked through 4 reds from 1979 to 1999, as well as a couple of whites (1994 and 2003). We also tried a Hochar Pere et Fils red 2001, and a red and a white from the Cuvee Reservee range.

    The vertical tasting was fascinating, as such a variety of flavours and textures emerged, though all were instantly recognisable as Ch Musar. We especially liked the Ch Musar red 1991.

    It was also fascinating to learn about the wine making process and how it co-existed for so many years with a particularly vicious war.

    I envy your recent tasting! Thanks for the detailed notes.

  5. The week before we left for Lebanon (got back yesterday) we went to the new Bistro du Vin for dinner and the sommelier suggested a glass of the Hochar Père et Fils Red 2003 as a match for Pete's steak. Pete thought it superb!

    In Lebanon itself, we didn't visit Chateau Musar, just a brief stop at Ksara, wines from whom we drank regularly during the trip.

    I tink one of the reds Pete most enjoyed from from Massaya and I loved a dessert wine from Karam. (The Ksara dessert wine was truly awful).

  6. The Chateau Musar white 2003 was also tasted.. a wonderful wine, drunk at room temperature like a red,


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