New releases of Chateau Musar vintages come along like buses in a quiet rural village on a bank holiday weekend. None for years then two within moments of each other. But Musar lovers won’t be blamed for thinking that the 2010 vintage has somehow disappeared into the vinous twilight zone and vanished before even being drunk!
Of course, if you had read my recent review of the 2010 vintage… link below… you would know that it was not only an incredibly fine, high quality vintage but also a lamentably small production – all the necessary ingredients for uber collectibility.
So the fast forward button was pressed and the 2011 has been released, hopefully not too much ahead of its originally planned schedule. The wine is once again a classic Musar blend of roughly a third each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault from the Bekaa Valley, from vines with an average age of 40+ years.
The harvest of 2011 posed one of the most challenging experiences in wine-making at Chateau Musar over the last 20 years, as it was one of the most untypical years in Lebanese history. The year began with a cold January but with insufficient rain. February proved similar with March being sunnier but April and May produced the really big surprise with a level of rainfall to match January, February and March combined!
The main result of the rain was very late maturation, with flowering occurring 25 days later than usual and this delay continued over the maturation period and up to the harvesting day. Musar’s first Carignan was harvested on the 22nd September and then on the 23rd it rained for three days from the 23rd until the 25th September with the Carignan and the Cinsault not yet harvested. The Carignan resisted the rain but the Cinsault was more affected.
The harvest was finally completed on the 13th October, which was, with the exception of their 1983 vintage, the latest in the company’s history.
Chateau Musar 2011, Bekaa Valley, 14 Abv.
A classic dark broody Musar nose with expressive notes of earthy, plummy, foresty berry fruits with just a delicate drizzle of balsamic and black cherry reduction. Deep and lush, showing plenty of creamy oak and classic Musar sweet savoury complexity. Equally mouth filling and broad, the palate shows fine oak spice tannins, sweet caramelised plums with toffee brittle complexity. Sleek powerful texture, very fine length, this is a much more archetypal Chateau Musar with a little more youthful rusticity and grippy tannins than the ripe, suave, super polished 2010. Leave this release in your cellar for another year or two if you can and then drink over 20+ years.
(Wind Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)