9th January 2016 : "Musar & Other Wines from The Lebanon" hosted by Lyn & Dave in Henfield
A full house for our first Tasting of 2016 (word must have spread about the excellence of Lyn's cooking...).
We welcomed new members Clifford, Sioned & Peter and guests Nicky & Gary who we hope to see again in the future.
We all know of Lyn's penchant for Château Musar reds and so we were not surprised to find Musar well represented this evening. Dave sought to broaden our experiences by introducing other Lebanese wines with which we were probably not aquainted:
The White Wines:
1. Château Ksara, Blanc de L'Observatoire 2013; 12.5%; £10.49 from Hailsham Cellars (www.hailshamcellars.com, www.winedirect.co.uk)
Blanc de L'Observatoire 2013, from Château Ksara, is an unoaked, floral white wine, made from 45% Clairette, 35% Muscat and 20% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. It shows hints of hazelnuts on the nose, with a crisp, citrus palate.
2. Ixsir, Altitudes White 2010; 13.5%; £17.99 from Hailsham Cellars (www.hailshamcellars.com, www.winedirect.co.uk)
Al-Iksir, meaning Elixir, is the purest form of all substances, a secret potion that grants eternal youth and love. Ixsir was therefore chosen as a fitting name for a new project established by a group of friends who share the desire of creating the finest wines Lebanon has to offer, and have been willing to spare no expense in realising their dream. The winemaking consultant is Hubert de Boüard of Château Angélus and the grapes are selected from the best terroirs throughout the Lebanon, sponsoring sustainable development within growers' communities. The winery is situated beneath an historic manor house in Basbina and its breathtaking blending of sleek modern lines with ancient heritage has earned it acclaim as one of CNN's greenest buildings of 2011. The Altitudes wines are named after the exceptional 1000-metre-plus terroirs of the Bekaa valley and they are pure and unoaked, whereas the Grande Réserve wines are powerful, rich and barrel aged. Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon provide zest and body respectively, while Muscat and Viognier adds an alluringly exotic tropical fruit bouquet
3. Château Musar, White 2007; 12%; £27.00 from Roberson Wine (www.robersonwine.com)
Still a pup, this white is yet to fully open up but shows well with food. A wine to be treated like a red, not to be chilled, just brought down a couple of degrees with 10-15 minutes in the fridge door. Now showing a creamy buttery nose, slightly dusty oak, lots of herbs, oily waxy notes, on the palate great acidity, citrus fruit freshness holding everything together really well into a savoury finish. A wine that you want to keep coming back to, quite the conundrum
Moving on to the Reds selected by Dave & Lyn:
4. Château Musar 2008; 14%; £21.99 from Waitrose
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan. Through 20 years of civil war, Serge Hochar continued to produce terrific wine at Château Musar despite his vineyards being in the war-torn Bekaa Valley. The astounding quality is testament to his dreams, talent, and resilience. A rich velvety blend of Cabernet and Cinsault, it ages like fine Bordeaux but is drinking well now too. The blend is full of spice and peppery fruit sitting over earth and chocolate. It's sheer pleasure in a glass. Concentrated plum and blackberry fruit, hints of fig, prune, distinct liquorice and spice. Firm but fine tannins, good acidity and body, vibrant and fresh with streaks of cedar and cinnamon. Long finish.
Château Musar will last for decades and can be enjoyed with everything from French-style roast lamb, to North-African cuisine.
5. Château Ksara, Le Prieuré 2011; 13%; £10.49 from Hailsham Cellars (www.hailshamcellars.com, www.winedirect.co.uk)
Grapes: Cinsault, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. This dry, full-bodied and spicy red displays a simple and intense nose. On the palate, its refreshing acidity, fleshy tannins, and broad texture precede a medium finish. In the heart of the Bekaa Valley, Château Ksara was founded in 1857 by Jesuit Priests, but the international recognition really began in around 2000. The perfect accompaniment to deliciously spicy Lebanese cuisine.
6. Ixsir Altitudes Red 2010; 13.5%; £24.99 from Hailsham Cellars (www.hailshamcellars.com, www.winedirect.co.uk)
Grapes: 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Caladoc, 22% Syrah, 17% Tempranillo. Warmth, sharpness, and ripeness are key here. Strawberries, oak and cassis on the nose. The open, accessible palate structure is enlivened by blackberry and cassis with a hint of green pepper, with ripe, soft tannins lending complexity and a long, silky finish.
7. Château Musar 2003: 14%; £22.99 from Hailsham Cellars (www.hailshamcellars.com, www.winedirect.co.uk)
Château Musar Red 2003, deep, intense ruby in colour, has a complex, intriguing array of aromas: toasted bread, cigar box, fresh tea, plums and Eastern spices. On the palate, there are mature fruits: plums, figs and cherries with hints of tea leaves and dark chocolate. The wine is intense and gregarious, the first taste releasing complex notes of currants, cherries and spice. The structure is light and airy, blending Musar's classic fruit flavours with a hint of game and finishing with a cleansing acidity. Our first indications were that the 2003 vintage would be full-bodied, powerful with great length and 7 years later upon release in 2010, we have been proven right: these will be the defining characteristics of 2003.
8. Massaya Gold Reserve 2008; 14.5%; £32.99 from Majestic 'Special Delivery' (www.majestic.co.uk)
The 2008 GOLD RESERVE is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Mourvedre (40%) and Syrah (10%) The wine is powerful starting off quite 'New World' and ending with much more character. It is ready for drinking now, but will continue to improve up to 2019 - these things can't be rushed! This Lebanese estate is a joint venture between Ramzi & Sami Ghosn, Daniel & Frédéric Brunier (Vieux Télégraphe) and Dominique Hébrard (ex Cheval Blanc). Having survived the totally unnecessary war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, Massaya celebrated their 10th anniversary midst more warring in 2008. The Tanaïl/Massaya vineyards are located at an altitude of 1000 metres above sea level in the fertile Bekaa Valley where the slopes are protected by Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountains. Free of frost and diseases, the Bekaa Valley enjoys a unique climate with long gentle summers, wet winters and an average temperature of 25 degrees - perfect for viticulture. Daniel and Frédéric Brunier have introduced a showpiece winery copied from Vieux Télégraphe and Les Pallières in Gigondas - alternate small wooden and concrete vats, all designed by the same winery architect. The winery is uniquely situated in the middle of their vineyards.
After the tastings Lyn more than lived up to her reputation as the Society's finest chef (at least for this evening!) and produced a Lebanese buffet banquet for all to enjoy.