When it comes to adversity, there is little that has not been thrown at the people of Lebanon in the past few years. But as expected, resilience has once again become the byword for the tenacious locals in their struggle to resume normal lives after political turmoil, the Syrian refugee crisis, economic difficulties, the Covid pandemic and of course the disastrous Beirut port explosion on the 4th of August 2020. While all this chaos has been going on, the determined winemakers of the Bekaa Valley have soldiered on with their treasured alchemic art of turning grapes into incredibly fine wines.
After an almost 16 month wait, stocks of the highly anticipated 2015 Chateau Musar finally landed in the UK market at the end of 2021 defying ongoing shipping problems and global container shortages. True to the theme of adversity, the 2015 harvest proved to be one of the most challenging in a generation according to Chateau Musar. The start of the year was promising with January and February 2015 offering up plentiful amounts of rain and snow, followed in March by more snow before the weather gave way to warmer conditions in late March. But the optimism was short lived when in mid-April, exceptionally cold nigh time conditions returned with temperatures dropping to as low as -12 degrees C in one instance, damaging the already opening buds. By early May, the vineyards were filled with hectares of blackened vines suggesting a potentially catastrophic vintage ahead.
But miraculously, secondary green shoots emerged from the vines helped by higher temperatures in June and July. Clearly, yields were going to be greatly reduced for this harvest. The Syrah grapes were the first reds to be harvested on the 1st September with reduced yields of between 75% and 80% from the average while fortunately, the Cabernet Sauvignon seemed to be less affected when harvesting started on the 3rd of September. However during September, a heatwave struck the vineyards and while the Cabernet fruit avoided the worst of the frosts, the subsequent heatwave reduced yields by up to 65%. The Cinsault harvest started on the 8th of September with reduction in yields of between 40% and 70% depending on the vineyard location. The Carignan and Grenache were harvested on the 11th September with both varieties experiencing a reduction of 50% in yields before the final bunches of Mourvedre were harvested in early October. 2015 is certainly a year that will be remembered for its climatic difficulties but also hopefully for the final wine quality that reached the bottle.
Chateau Musar 2015, Bekaa Valley, 14% Abv.
Another seductive vintage of Musar with expressive aromatics of sweet red cherries, plum liquor, cinnamon spice, sweet cedar, cherry tobacco and balsamic reduction. The palate shows wonderful textural precision with polished sleek tannins, stewed cherries, hints of cola, pithy black currant and sweet sappy spice and a suave, super elegant finish that possesses an impressively pure, weightless intensity. This is a seriously classy Musar that has more in common with harmoniously elegant vintages like the 2010 than higher horsepower years like 1995 or 1999. Simply beautiful to drink now but exhibits a vibrant freshness that will keep this wine singing for many years to come. Drink now and over the next 20+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)