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Chateau Musar Bekaa Valley Lebanon 2012 £29.95
CHATEAU MUSAR BEKAA VALLEY LEBANON
In their youth, Chateau Musar Reds are dense and richly-textured, with intense ‘baked fruit’ characters: plums, damsons, cranberries, cherries, figs and dates. Bordeaux grape Cabernet Sauvignon lends black fruit flavours; Rhône grapes Cinsault and Carignan contribute fragrance (violets; pepper) and supple spiciness. Either set of qualities might dominate a particular vintage, but the style is always emphatically Lebanese: enticingly aromatic, with persistent fruit flavours. Over decades the wines acquire tawny hues and mellow notes.
Seven years in the making, Chateau Musar Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault from vineyards near the Bekaa Valley villages of Aana and Kefraya on gravelly soils over limestone. Planted from the 1930s onwards, yields are low from these mature bushvines (average age: 40 years): Between 15 to 35hl per hectare.
The varietal components in Chateau Musar Red undergo lengthy fermentations in cement vats at temperatures below 30°C. 6 months after the harvest they are transferred into French barrels (oak from the forest of Nevers) for one year.
The varietal components are brought together two years after the harvest; the resulting blend is then placed back in cement tanks before being bottled 12 months later. Each wine is blended to reflect the character of the vintage. After 4 years’ bottle maturation in the deep stone cellars of Chateau Musar, the finished wines are released a full seven years after the harvest.
Bottled unfined and unfiltered, Chateau Musar Reds are suitable for vegans (fining agents often contain animal proteins); they’re also richly-textured and likely to ‘throw a crust’. This is a common feature of most fine wines and is especially true of Musar Red vintages over a decade old. Ideally, bottles should be standing up the night before opening to allow the sediment to settle. After careful decanting (and discarding of sediment, usually in the last centimetre of the bottle) the wine should be allowed to breathe for several hours and served at 18°C with roasts, grills (especially lamb), casseroles, game, and mature cheeses.
2012 was an interesting year of contrasts as January and February were extremely cold and snowy, April proved fresh and rainy giving a boost for the opening of the buds. In early May, all the vineyards were astonishingly green with many small buds. June was very hot indeed but the vines withstood this and flowering occurred with such success that we were expecting a big harvest this year. A very hot July followed with 10 days of heat wave with temperatures of 39 and 40 degrees – this caused the vines to tire and green leaves turned pale, even yellow in some places, almost as if October was early and causing the harvest to be much smaller than initially hoped.
Sugar content rose dramatically but acidity remained high. The red grapes were mostly harvested by vineyard and rarely by grape variety – Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault were first picked during the last week of August from Kefraya vineyards, followed by Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon from Aana and towards the end of the harvest, the other vineyards of Carignan and Cinsault were picked from there. Red fermentation was difficult this year due to different levels of grape maturation. Some vats fermented very slowly with others much faster but in both cases, the results were very promising. This vintage was blended in February 2015 and bottled during the summer of 2015.
Chateau Musar Red 2012 has a dark burgundy colour, a nose of matured stone fruits, plums and figs with liquorice and spicy notes. It has big developed ripe fruit on the nose and a bold taste profile of juicy, black fruits plus mocha and leather and a beautiful lingering finish.
“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” Jonny Ray – The Spectator Magazine March 2019
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