Lebanon's Chateau Musar is not a wine in a hurry. The red (a blend of old vine Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan) sees its first release only after a seven year ageing process, and much is held back. Musar consider anything up to about twenty years old a 'current release', and vintages going back to the 1950's can still be had (for a price). It can also vary in style year by year, veering sometimes towards Bordeaux and sometimes towards the Rhône. But it always has an inimitable 'Musar' quality that runs right through it.
So what do you pick? For our money, the wine needs at least ten years, peaking as it approaches twenty. Recently, we've tasted several from the early 2000's / late 1990's and two stand out. The 1998 and the 2000 are both Musar at its finest, and together show both sides of its character perfectly.
Chateau Musar 1998
The 1998 Musar is from the Rhône side. There is a little more Cinsault in the blend than usual and it is relatively (for Musar) light - but perhaps elegant is the right word. It is fragrant and aromatic, a very complex Musar drinking at its peak.
Chateau Musar 2000
The 2000 is Musar in its more stately Bordeaux mode. With a little more Cabernet Sauvignon it is fuller-bodied than the 1998 and richer, but still wonderfully harmonious. Also drinking at its peak now.
If you're one of many lifelong Musar fans then now would be a good time to buy these vintages. They are due shortly to slip beyond 'current release' status, when prices climb pretty steeply. And if you're new to the party, we can only say that these two wines illustrate perfectly what makes Musar a legend of the Mediterranean.
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