Hogan’s Chateau Musar Inspired Red Blend Shows the Wonderful Diversity Available to Winemakers in the Cape…

Hogan Wines is a small, family-run business that launched its first wines in South Africa with the 2014 vintage. After seven years of working with various wineries in the Cape and overseas, Jocelyn Hogan teamed up with her parents, Dunstan and Trish Hogan to produce initially a pair of innovative wines at their cellar in the Banhoek Valley.

The maiden release Hogan Chenin Blanc 2014 was harvested from 38 year old, south-east facing bush vines planted on decomposed granite from Joubertskloof in the Swartland. This wine immediately garnered 4.5 Stars in the Platter Guide and 92/100 points from Winemag.co.za.

The maiden Divergent red blend comprises of 34% Carignan, 33% Cinsault and 33% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Carignan was picked from 12 year old bush vines from Wellington and the Cinsault from a vineyard of 40 year old unirrigated bush vines in the Helderberg. Finally, the Cabernet Sauvignon was picked from 16 year old trellised and irrigated vines from the Polkadraai area of Stellenbosch. All components were crushed and destemmed except for the Cinsault which retained 30% of whole bunches.

The Divergent red blend was of course inspired by the very sad premature death of the late great Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar on the 31st December 2014, only weeks before the 2015 Cape harvest and of course not long after his first visit to South Africa to speak at the famous Swartland Revolution gathering. Having met Serge many times, I am certain he would have been a big fan of Jocelyn’s red blend.

Hogan Divergent 2015 Red Blend, WO Coastal Origin, 13.5 Abv.

I have not tasted this wine for a few years, but considering it was made from a highly revered vintage, I thought it was time to revisit this Musar inspired blend. The nose is intriguingly exotic, at first showing earthy red berries, red liquorice, savoury notes of red orchard fruits, sundried red cherries, red plums, wet hay, grilled herbs and a finely interwoven granitic, stony mineral nuance. The palate is soft, sleek and ultra harmonious combining a density of palate weight and mineral tannins with an incredibly subtle intensity of fruit concentration. Certainly quite light on its feet, the Cabernet Sauvignon almost certainly lends some extra depth, frame and mass while the Carignan adds a garriguey complexity of dried herbs, rosemary and mint choc spice. The Cinsault is undoubtedly the glue that seamlessly combines these varietal partners all together in the most sumptuous, elegant, red berry fruited mouthful of deliciousness. This wine is settling down nicely at 5 years old and is certainly approachable now. However, the time it takes to evolve in the glass suggests that you might want to leave your bottles for another year or three before revisiting… if you have a will power of steel!

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 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)

The Next Big Thing In South African Wine? Tasting the New Release Lourens Family Wines Cinsault Based Red Blend…

Franco Lourens is the assistant winemaker at Alheit Family Wines in Walker Bay and another of his own label new releases is this superb red blend from fruit sourced around the Western Cape. Cinsault is already seducing journalists and consumers around the world with the likes of Sadie Family’s Pofadder, Naude Old Vine Cinsault and others. But the category is evolving fast and new Cinsault based red blends are now starting to steal the headlines.

Quality wines to turn heads recently include the Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Leeu Passant Cinsault – Cabernet Sauvignon Blend and Adam Mason’s Raised By Wolves School House Red Cinsault – Cabernet Sauvignon. And who could ignore the iconic cult wine Follow the Line from Duncan Savage!? Well here is another cracker to join the ranks. Using fruit sourced from unique vineyards across the Western Cape, the grapes underwent spontaneous fermentation with natural yeasts in open top fermenters without any additions of any sort. The wine was then aged in old French oak barrels for 9 months and bottled without acidification or fining.

Mono-varietal wines are often the styles to grab consumer attention as they are easier to pigeon hole and easier to understand. But with the South African category maturing nicely, you can expect to see more Cinsault based blends making headlines in 2018. This will certainly be one of them.

Lourens Family Wines Howard John 2016 Red Blend, WO Western Cape, 12.5 Abv.

A blend of 43% Cinsault from Darling and Stellenbosch, 43% Carignan from Wellington and 14% Grenache Noir from Bot River. The aromatics on the nose are incredibly intense and perfumed almost catching one unawares. Poured in a Zalto Burgundy glass, there are notes of lavender, marzipan, sweet red peppercorns but also violets and dried coriander seeds. While all very floral and lifted, there are also deeper, darker savoury notes of bresaola, cured meats, and red cherry spice. You just don’t know where the palate at 12.5 Abv is going to take you. This is a real joy-ride in the back seat of a high powered sports car. The palate is beautifully balanced and fresh, but shows impressive concentration of flavour. There are layers of sweet pithy red cherries, wild strawberry, sweet peppercorns, and raspberry ripple and the finish is rather enticing with pink stick candy and strawberry bon bons. Amazingly suave and harmonious for this type of red blend, with the varieties all pulling in the same synergistic direction. An absolutely delicious wine displaying very accomplished winemaking using high quality fruit. This wine is named after and dedicated to Franco Lourens’ father, Howard John Lourens. I imagine he must be very proud of this namesake from Franco. Drink now to 2026+

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

A Characterful French Inspired Carignan Red from Lourens Family Wines…

Tasted an interesting bottle last night from a new(ish) venture in South Africa ~ Lourens Family Wines made by Franco Lourens, the ex-assistant winemaker at David Finlayson’s Edgebaston Wines, now working with Chris Alheit Family Wines. His first red release is this characterful old bush vine Carignan from fruit sourced in the Paarl region.


Franco has taken this Southern French variety and crafted a plump, fleshy, savoury fruited expression that definitely reflects its homeland origins with real Cotes du Rhone nuances. Named after his father (and investor), the Howard John Carignan 2014 will appeal to Rhone lovers and New World drinkers alike. This wine is priced at £17.99 per bottle in the UK.


There is a natural, minimalist leaning to the wine which used no yeast inoculations, enzymes, added acid or fining agents during production. Winemaking included a portion of whole-bunch grapes which were fermented spontaneously, with maturation lasting 12 months in old French oak. The alcohol has been re-stickered to read 15 Abv, but underneath reads 14 Abv. Probably somewhere inbetween, though picking earlier may have benefited this wine and yielded a higher rating. 


Lourens Family Wines Howard John Carignan 2014 Paarl, 15 Abv.

Tasting Note: Lovely dark seductive opaque red plum colour. There’s a real earthy melange of red fruits on the nose… red apple skins, waxy red plums, pithy baking spices, and a definite black current crumble pie ripeness note. Also hints of incense and Victoria plum confit. The palate is rich, opulent, savoury, ripe and attractively spicy, fanning out over the palate with warming baked black plum, red peppercorns and red apple purée complexity. Very full, round and textural with a hint of prune, fruit cake and raisined cranberries on the finish. This is a full throttle wine that should appeal to Languedoc / Rhone lovers as well as Rhoney New World lovers. (Wine Safari Score: 89/100 Greg Sherwood MW)