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)

Andrea Mullineux – The Latest Cape Winemakers Guild Superstar…

The Cape Wine Makers Guild represents innovation, benchmarking and the sharing of knowledge spanning over thirty three years of winemaking excellence. The Guild, an association of some of South Africa’s finest winemakers, has evolved into a body of 49 members who jointly represent the pinnacle of South African winemaking.

So of course, when I recently hooked up with Chris and Andrea Mullineux at their Roundstone farm, no prizes for guessing which unicorn bottle I liberated out of their cellar!!🍷

Cape Winemakers Guild Andrea Mullineux Leeu Passant Old Vine Cinsault 2015, WO Franschhoek, 13.5 Abv. 

A beautiful expression from this 91 year old vineyard in Franschhoek. Andrea affords this grand old vineyard its due respect handling the fruit in a more serious crushed berry whole bunch style instead of a whole bunch carbonique style. Broad and texturally very complex, the wine unfurls in layers of sweet cherry, Turkish delight, marzipan and sappy oak spice. Full and distinguished, this medium bodied wine is an expertly crafted, supremely elegant version of Cinsault that turns a touch more serious and tannic on the firm, focused finish. Superb poise, impressive refinement and very precise and self assured. What else would you expect from Andrea Mullineux? Give it a year or 5 in bottle and drink over 20+.

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

Reinventing The Original Cape Red Blend – Tasting the New Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines Leeu Passant 2016 Dry Red Release…

I recently caught up with Swartland rock star wine couple Chris and Andrea Mullineux at their Roundstone farm to taste their new Leeu Passant releases. Of all the new wine brands released on to the South African and international wine market of late, few have generated as much discussion and debate as the Leeu Passant Dry Cape Red.

Too much of this discussion has perhaps superficially centred around the wine’s ultra premium pricing of £95-£100 per bottle and whether this pricing is merited instead of around the wine’s exceptional quality, its old vine fruit sources and it’s philosophical interpretation of a wine style synonymous with the early years of the 20th century Cape wine industry.

But new innovative wines that push the boundaries usually make easy targets for wine trade sceptics. It is without doubt the success of wines like this that will open new doors and pathways to financial viability and success for the whole of the South African wine industry. In the meantime, indulge yourself and savour some true precision winemaking with the Leeu Passant Dry Red.

Leeu Passant Dry Red Wines 2016, WO Western Cape, 14 Abv.

A blend of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc and 31% Cinsault using 100% whole bunch for the Cabernet Franc and Cinsault portions. 100% new oak was used for the Cabernet Franc fermentation. Lifted and aromatic, this wine initially displays a pronounced sweet leaf, red currant, cedar and red berry fruit character. Intensely focused concentration from low yields and super small berries in 2016 makes for a wine brimming with overt notes of earl grey tea, bergamot spice, pithy citrus peel, spicy red bramble berries and a broody, earthy red currant depth. A fine wine with ample structure and seriousness, impressive minerality, precision and power. This red will certainly be a great keeper that’s destined for many a collectors’ cellar. Hats off to Chris and Andrea Mullineux for succeeding in creating yet another collectable vinous gem in only year two of this new project. Drink on release if you are flamboyant, drink after 10 years if you are patient, and drink after 30+ if you are youthful and have time on your side.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 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 Cinsaut Celebration…

Last week I really enjoyed watching the live Wine Cellar (South Africa) #TalkingCinsaut seminar podcast featuring industry stars such as Eben Sadie and Ryan Mostert, as well as London local Ronan Sayburn MS, the wine director at 67 Pall Mall members club.

I have been planning the below Cinsaut Celebration tasting for some time and it promises to be another intriguing line up of wines tasted in the Handford Wines cellar. How will the Saffer boys stack up against some other exciting expressions from around the world!?

Who will dominate… Cinsaut or Cinsault??!

Ps. We missed the AA Badenhorst Ramnasgras 2014 off the below list. Another star with the Pofadder!


To book your place, call Handford Wines on  (UK) 0207-589 6113.