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Château Musar, Grand VinBekaa Valley, Lebanon 2016 (750mL)

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Château Musar, Grand Vin Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2016 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

Anyone who’s been with us during a major holiday knew we’d bring the heat today, and we’re doing so in the form of a two-part Château Musar feature. It’s as if the world’s largest vacuum is switched on when Musar’s iconic Grand Vin makes an appearance, and it’s fully deserved: The intrigue of this battle-hardened Lebanese estate rivals that of Château Margaux, all while having an immensely longer cellar regimen (6+ years), proportionate aging potential (30+ years), and a wildly undervalued price tag.


Last month, I had the great fortune of tasting this thrilling new release in San Francisco alongside Musar proprietor Marc Hochar, and it already has so much to offer at this young stage. Their flagship Cabernet-Cinsault-Carignan blend unquestionably exists as one of the great red wines of the world, possessing the savory traits of evolving Bordeaux and the sleek power of Southern Rhône. All, of course, while remaining distinctly “Musar” in character. The bottom line? It’s one of the most alluring cult labels of contemporary times and this vintage promises to be a collector’s item for many decades to come. Happy Thanksgiving, all! Enjoy up to 12 bottles. 

NOTE: Don’t get too drowsy! You’ll want to be wide awake for this afternoon’s offer…




Bordeaux is a useful comparison in that Château Musar’s founder, Gaston Hochar, was of French descent and studied winemaking in Bordeaux. His son, Serge, who died at age 75 in 2014, also studied in Bordeaux, under famed enologist Émile Peynaud. And yes, Musar utilizes a healthy dose of Cabernet Sauvignon to create their ethereal, long-lived reds. But again, Château Musar is really unlike anything else. Grown in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, near its eastern border with Syria, and vinified just outside Beirut, Musar wines aren’t just a good story—what’s in the bottle is for real.


Of course, there was Lebanese wine during ancient times, but viticulture had been all but abandoned when Gaston Hochar established Musar in 1930. His first good customers were French soldiers (France occupied Lebanon at that time), but the wines didn’t really catch on internationally until the late 1970s when they were “discovered” at a wine fair in the United Kingdom. At this point, it was Gaston’s son, Serge, making the wine. Having spent well over 18 years perfecting their flagship red, the worldwide acclaim that Serge had worked for came with a bittersweet taste: Lebanon was embroiled in a decades-long civil war. Somehow, the Hochars continued to produce wine throughout the brutal conflict, literally trucking their grapes across warzones and occasionally using their cellar as a bomb shelter. That’s what prompted Decanter to award Serge their inaugural “Man of the Year” title in 1984 and, much later on, a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from a respected German publication. Upon Serge’s passing in 2014, his two sons, along with Serge’s brother Ronald (who was with him every step of the way) and Ronald’s own son, have been running the operations. 


Serge was widely known and loved in the wine community for his charm and his philosophical bent—given what he went through to make wine, he was entitled to his cryptic pronouncements. He was a ‘natural’ winemaker before that was a thing (organic vine work; native yeast fermentations; minimal use of sulfur), and he was also inclined to hold wines in his cellar for many years before releasing them. As he once quipped to the British wine writer Andrew Jefford: “The value of our stock is ten times our annual sales.” 


Today’s 2016 is their classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, and Carignan grown in gravelly soils at high elevations. These elevations help mitigate the arid Mediterranean climate of the Bekaa Valley. With warmer nights in the Spring and an average daily temp of 93 degrees throughout July, 2016 became the earliest harvest in history with the Cabernet being picked in mid-August! Additionally, some of the vines here date back to the 1930s and all yields are EXTREMELY low. In the winery, the grapes underwent a long, varietal-separate fermentation on ambient yeasts in concrete vessels before being transferred into new and used French oak barrels. The varietal wines were then blended together in the beginning of 2019 and sent into concrete yet again before an unfined/unfiltered bottling six months later. It then stayed in their cellar, maturing quietly, for three additional years. It’s a classic, if not extreme, example of Hochar’s willingness to effectively age the wine before selling it to you. 


Just like most younger Musar bottlings, this 2016 should be decanted for at least two hours before serving in large Bordeaux stems. On the nose, you’ll discover Musar’s always-ripe and alluring aromas of kirsch, black raspberry, golden raisin, fig, roasted plum, chocolate, damp herbs, exotic spice, and baked clay. The palate is medium-plus-bodied yet seamless with deep, fruit-accented layers that pulse with fresh acidity. This is absolutely enjoyable right now but the magic of Musar always occurs way down the road when 10, 15, 20+ years have passed. Whenever that time comes for you, savor slowly with your favorite people. Cheers!







Château Musar, Grand Vin Bekaa Valley, Lebanon 2016 - SommSelect

  • CountryLebanon
  • RegionBekaa Valley
  • SoilGravelly Limestone
  • FarmingSustainable
  • BlendCabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault & Carignan
  • Alcohol13.5%
  • OakFrench Barrels

  • CountryLebanon
  • RegionBekaa Valley
  • SoilGravelly Limestone
  • FarmingSustainable
  • BlendCabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault & Carignan
  • Alcohol13.5%
  • OakFrench Barrels
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stems
  • DrinkingNow-2046
  • Decanting2+ Hours
  • PairingPersian-Spiced Lamb Shanks