Chateau Ksara Release Their First Single Varietal Merwah White From the Bekaa Valley…

Chateau Ksara’s maiden release Merwah is an attractive expression of this ancient biblical variety that combines Lebanon’s formidable vine growing terroir with top winemaking expertise. Produced from grapes harvested from vines that are over 60 years old grown on the terraced hillside slopes of the tiny North Lebanese village of Douma which is situated at over 1,500 meters in altitude.

Pesticides and herbicides are not used, so the grapes are grown almost organically. The soil ranges from chalk, to clay and chalk, to clay and limestone, but it is always stony. The Merwah grapes were harvested at very low yields in mid-October and vinified with minimal intervention. The yields were 37 hectolitres per hectare and the wine was given some lees ageing but saw no oak treatment.

This white wine is a true rarity with Merwah seldom bottled as a single variety but usually blended with Lebanon’s other indigenous white variety Obaideh or else Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon. Quantities are very limited but it will be worth the effort to track down a bottle to experience this ancient grape variety in the form of wine and not Arak.

Chateau Ksara Merwah 2017, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 12.5 Abv.

Crystalline bright lemon yellow colour, this exotic little white has an aromatic nose of fresh lemon zest, white peach blossoms and dusty dried baking herbs with just a hint of crushed gravel minerality. The palate is medium bodied, relatively taut but deliciously vibrant and fresh. There is textural weight and a sleek, seamless mouthfeel with layers of lemon biscuit, Japanese green tea, lemon bon bons, white peach pastille finishing with a juicy green apple crunch. A wine that is beautifully light and fine boned but that also confidently conveys a focused vinous intensity. Delightfully refreshing, this is definitely one of the summer months. Drink now to 2022+

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Chateau Musar Going Back to Basics with the New Release 2011 Vintage – One of the Latest Harvests on Record…

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.

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2018/04/30/chateau-musar-2010-a-vinous-collectors-piece-in-the-making/

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)

Chateau Musar 2010 – A Vinous Collector’s Piece in the Making…

2010 was a year to remember in Lebanese wine-making history. Even from January it was obvious that this year would be lacking in water as snow fell only once on the 17th January (it was the shortest ski season ever!) and rainfall stopped on the 23rd February.

March was so hot that the vines began to blossom in early April and in May and June the vines were so vigorous and green following successful flowering, that Musar thought they would have the biggest harvest ever. However in mid-July things began to change and the temperature rose dramatically. A heat-wave hit Lebanon which lasted for about 23 days with an average daily temperature of 40 °C and the highest ever temperature in the Bekaa Valley was recorded at 48.5° C.

The grapes didn’t mature, they dried, as water disappeared from the grapes causing high sugar concentration. Cinsault and Carignan were less affected by this heat-wave than the Cabernet Sauvignon which suffered the most – dried grapes with high sugar content, high acidity and unfortunately the estate lost approximately 45% of their Cabernet Sauvignon this year.

The Musar winery north of Beirut just off the road to Byblos.

Fermentation began normally but Musar took the decision for the first time to ferment between 26 and 28 ° C to give the natural yeasts the ability to finish fermentation because of the high sugar content but mainly to preserve the fruity aromas that they were worried the wines may lack due to the heat-wave affecting the grape skins, where the esters responsible for aromas exist.

All in all, this extreme prolonged heat-wave resulted in a significant loss of grapes this year and the Chateau Musar Red 2010 will be sold globally exclusively on an allocation basis. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan were blended in 2012 after having spent a year in untoasted French Nevers barrels and this vintage was bottled in the summer of 2013.

Chateau Musar 2010, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 13.5 Abv.

For a wine from a supposedly warm, dry vintage, this beautiful expression shows incredible precision, purity and focus. The 2010 has a compelling nose reminiscent of a youthful Cru Nebbiolo blended with 10 year old Grand Cru Cotes de Nuits Pinot Noir. There are wonderfully complex aromatic notes of cherry kirsch liquor, tar and roses, sweet earthy forest fruits, hints of balsamic, sun dried cherries, frais des Boisses and a subtle complexing note of freshly polished mahogany. The most intriguing aspect of this wine is it’s incredible focus, piercing palate freshness, medium bodied freshly weight allied with incredibly fine harmonious sweet chalky tannins. With the heavenly fruit purity of the finest Musar vintages married to the elegance of a more suave, feminine, seductive vintage, this 2010 is sure to be noted as one of the most lithe, elegant, attractive expressions from the Bekaa in more than a decade. Drink this beauty now or cellar for 15+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)