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a vertical tasting if the wines of Château Musar
Part 1 of a series on Lebanese wine

Château Musar is an iconic wine from the Lebanon, rich in character and unusual in style, but with a loyal core of fans. It’s also a wine that tends to age very well. Both these factors made it seem like a good idea to have what’s known in the trade as a ‘vertical’ tasting – lots of vintages of the same wine tried alongside each other. A couple of internet wine geeks had this good idea, and I was lucky enough to participate in this event, which surely counts among the most fun wine dinners I’ve yet attended.

We gathered at a Lebanese restaurant in London, each clutching a bottle or two that we’d managed to source, together making one of the most amazing arrays of Musar ever to be gathered under one roof. Lined up, with whites from 1989 to 1997 and reds from 1966 to 1997, it looked an impressive, thirst-inspiring collection.

My tasting notes below are in the order they were served. Conclusions? Both the white and the red are fascinating, characterful wines that age really well. My preference is not to leave them too long – a decade to 15 years old seems to be their peak. I also liked the way that each vintage seems to have its own personality. Considering that the current release (red) is priced around £12, these wines are comparative bargains, too. Of the reds, my favourites are 1991, 1987, 1985, 1993 and 1994.

Château Musar 1997 (white)
Distinctive herby nose with a slight chemical lift. Soft, nutty palate is very rounded and quite nice in an oxidised style. Unusual but nice. Very good+ 86/100

Château Musar 1995 (red)

Château Musar 1996 (red)
Lighter colour than the other recent reds. Nice, expressive herby nose. Midweight palate is herby and expressive with some leatheriness. Light but quite elegant. Very good+ 88/100

Château Musar 1997 (red)
Firm, spicy nose leads to a taut, herby, leathery palate showing quite a bit of structure. Savoury with nice acidity. Still quite tight. Very good/excellent 90/100

Château Musar 1993 (white)
Quite an expressive nutty, spicy nose which is very full: some oxidised character, but it is still appealing. Full, savoury spicy palate. Tannic? Boldly flavoured with good acidity. Very good/excellent 90/100

Château Musar 1990 (white)
A deep gold colour, this is very evolved with a complex nose that is honeyed and spicy with a whiff of lifted acid. The palate is elegant and long with a good depth of nutty, honeyed fruit, a spicy edge and a hint of marmalade. Very good/excellent 92/100

Château Musar 1989 (white)
Quite a firm, spicy nose. Structured, spicy palate with some structure. A little crude on this showing but a good food wine. Very good+ 86/100

Château Musar 1991 (red)
Distinguished, classy nose which is spicy and refined, with some shy spicy ripe fruit. The palate is classy, tannic and spicy but still quite taut. A very elegant version of Musar but still classic with good length. Very good/excellent 94/100

Château Musar 1993 (red)
Full nose with complex oriental spices dominating. Spicy, tea-like notes carried by a touch of volatile acidity. Ripe, sweet rounded palate, which is expressive and spicy. Very good/excellent 93/100

Château Musar 1994 (red)
Very sweet ripe nose with some porty notes and wood spice. Raisiny, almost. Very ripe sweet palate which is slightly overpowering. Warming with an alcoholic edge. Very good/excellent 91/100

Château Musar 1990 (red)
Expressive, stinky nose but appealing, with some animal character. The palate is warm, herby and spicy with a nice leatheriness and good acidity. Stinky but nice, with good balance. Very good+ 89/100

Château Musar 1987 (red)
Classy nose which is ripe, rich, sweet and herby, with some leathery complexity. The palate is mature and rounded; rich and full bodied. Very smooth and refined with great balance. Mature. Very good/excellen 92/100

Château Musar 1988 (red)
Attractive spicy nose with some herbiness and notes of leather and tea. The palate is quite firm, spicy and leathery. Good complexity. Taut and still a little rough. Very good+ 88/100

Château Musar 1985 (red)
Warm, sweet rounded nose which is ripe and full. The palate is smooth and spicy. This is ripe stuff: quite youthful tasting with lots of sweet ripe fruit. Lovely balance and leathery complexity. Very good/excellent 92/100

Château Musar 1986  (red)
Quite a firm spicy nose with some leatheriness and herbiness. Quite volatile. The palate is savoury and quite tannic: nice but a bit firm. Very good/excellent 90/100

Château Musar 1982 (red)
Quite an old wine nose – leathery, herby notes dominate. The palate shows herbs, tea and leather. Nice but a little bit over the hill. Very good+ 86/100

Château Musar 1983 (red)
Appealing, softly spicy palate with some fruit sweetness. Nice density of spicy, sweet fruit on the palate. Tasty stuff. Very good/excellent 90/100

Château Musar 1981 (red)
Firm herby, spicy nose with some subtle herby complexity. Nice weight to the spicy palate with good structure and balance. Classic. Very good+ 89/100

Château Musar 1980 (red)
Mature herby spicy nose. A bit ‘old wine’ on the palate with nice smooth spicy character. Smooth and mature. Very good+ 87/100

Château Musar 1979 (red)
Sly, slightly medicinal nose with high acid and a roasted character. The palate is midweight and spicy with some undergrowth character. Very good+ 86/100

Château Musar 1977 (red)
Quite restrained herby, spicy complex nose. Palate is quite smooth, herby and spicy. Evolved and quite elegant. Nice stuff in a mature mould. Very good+ 89/100

Château Musar 1967 (red)
Light coloured. Perfumed nose with a spicy, savoury, herby character. Dry, savoury palate with spicy character. Appealing: quite a light style. Very good+ 89/100

Château Musar 1966 (red)
Spicy, savoury and leathery nose. Palate is dry and quite herby. Very mature and spicy. Very good+ 86/100

Château Musar 1972 (red)
Deep coloured. Tarry, herby spicy nose. Quite warm, spicy rounded palate which is full, soft and rich. Nicely savoury with lots of character. Very good/excellent 90/100 

see also: introduction to the wines of Musar, September 2001; Lebanese wines part 2: Massaya

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