Musar Vertical with B. Broadbent

Pera SF

Tasted March 13, 2016 by RajivAyyangar with 474 views

Introduction

Tim, Ashish, Gence, RJ, BB, NH.

https://www.evernote.com/l/ABbkXenPAedH4INv6Y8y6-JZxvTTzVXQk70

What a wonderful night of shared experience, meditativeness, lively discussion, and memories. There was much reference and gratitude for Serge.

Flight 1 (1 note)

White
2013 Turasan Emir Turkey, Central Anatolia, Cappadocia
85 points
Medium ruby with a hint of gold.
Light and vaguely nutty. Neutral apples. Medium all around.

Flight 2 (8 notes)

Red
2005 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
93 points
Medium ruby. Dark nose of slight sweet fig, blackberry, sweet red cherry. Slight mushroomy savory development with some well-integrated clove-y brett.
Muscly and youthful, with precise ripeness. Very slight cedar and savory bell pepper pyrazines. Seems to be doing its best Bordeaux impression.

Seems in the bolder style of Musar, but it’s too young to tell.
Score: 9-9.5

Tasted the next morning, it was a bit less complex, but it had developed some of that tertiary dark fruit - a sort of blackberry essence / blackcurrant that’s more intense than it was the previous night. It resembled a lesser version of the ’99.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
1999 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
93 points
Double-decanted 8 hours in advance.

This is starting to transform from primary and youthful dark fruit to the tertiary fruit of developed Musar. Right now it has a bit of both, but not much of either. Still muscular and dark-fruited, with more overt Brett than the ’05, hints of cassis, sweet tomato, beef broth (phở bò), moist earth, and mossy stones.

Score: 9-9.5

Tasted the next morning, it had developed more of the intense tertiary fruit, like the ’95 (but less complex).
Red
1998 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
93 points
A bit reductive - bitter burnt papad. Burnt flowers. This is the most Burgundian of the flight, with lighter body, more elevated acid, and primarily red fruit. Dried strawberry, hints of ripe cherry.

More ephemeral than the others and difficult to pin down, but beautiful nonetheless.

Score: 9-9.5
Red
1995 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
100 points
Double-decanted 8 hours in advance.

Amidst a flight of intense and complex wines, this stopped me in my tracks. Memories of all the previous moments I’ve had the ’95 came floating to mind. Last time I wrote that the wine told me something about the future. This time it told me something about the past. I’m not old, but I felt my age. I felt the weight of memories I’ve attached to this wine - all good, some bittersweet.

As it turns out, the emotions of special moments spanning a decade—dinners, anniversaries, birthdays, evenings with friends, an evening with Serge—can find a focal point in a single glass of liquid. Remarkable.

In the context of this tasting, this was the first of the transformed wines (B. Broadbent agreed). The ’95 has firmly turned into early stages of maturity. The primary fruit is replaced with the tertiary, wiser fruit that seems to be the fundamental magic of Musar.

My theory is that somehow Musar evokes the illusion of fruit with oxidation, development, sweetness from well-integrated oak, brett, and freshness from VA. Once it seizes upon this illusion of fruit, it can actually intensify with age (as we saw from the ’72).

I’m not sure how to describe the fruit quality - like the wisest and most pure cassis, blueberry, fig, yellow apple, and blackberry essence.

Detailed. Complex. Captivating. Intense. Rewards scrutiny. Laden with memories for me.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
1982 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
93 points
Double-decanted an hour in advance.

Immediately out of the bottle, this was slightly reductive, showing some rubber and a slightly burnt quality. There’s some dark fruit here - some tertiary Musarian blackberry and cassis. It’s lighter and more wan than the ’72 - it seems less alive. There’s also overt acetaldehyde (bruised apple), perhaps indicating a compromised bottle, though not any more oxidation than I’d expect on a wine of this age.

After an hour:
Moderate-minus garnet to an orange rim. Nose has a hint of the intense pure essence of blackberry (Musarian tertiary fruit). Complex and shifting. Slightly lighter in style than the ’72 and ’99. Maybe similar in structural weight to the ’95, but with more tired fruit. Slightly toasty, still a bit burnt and reductive. A lovely prickle of VA with slight anise character.

After a while it took on an awesome nutty character, then changed that for a reductive coffee, matchstick, mineral note.

In time these flavors gave way to beautiful bitter dried grapefruit, citrus oil, and dried roses.

Score: 9-9.5 (possibly compromised bottle).
Red
1972 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
100 points
Double-decanted an hour in advance.

This wine seems to prove my theory that Musar doesn’t merely hang on to its fruit longer than other wines, it actually changes out its primary fruit for a completely different fruit, which I’ll refer to somewhat oxymoronically as “tertiary fruit.”

Moderate ruby-garnet to an orange rim. It was phenomenal straight out of the bottle, with tertiary dark blackberry essence leaping from the glass. It doesn’t show much oxidation at all. Savory integrated brett, complex tamari and blackcurrant notes. Rounded softened tannins, but still present. I can’t believe how good this is!

Overall the character was similar to the ’95 but with an added tone of brilliant blackness. Slightly toasty, blackened and charred blackberry essence. Also at various moments, dried apricot, orange peel, amaro herbal notes, anise, flemish sour notes, like a rich BFM brew.

Age with power. Complexity with playfulness. Wisdom with unpredictability.

Is this where the ’95 is headed? Will it be different when it reaches this stage? What was the ’72 like in its youth? How many transformations has it gone through? What did it taste like in 1976, when Serge sipped a bottle amidst bombs in his home in Beirut? Where does this magical “tertiary fruit” come from? What will become of it?

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent and taste the wine.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
1969 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
flawed
Serge was just a man, and his wines are not invincible. This one was clearly maderized - a nose like a fino sherry. Light and nutty with clear acetaldehyde.
Light brown and cloudy, this deepened in color a bit to brown with a tinge of garnet. The nose seemed to make a slight resurgence, with a hint of exhausted blackberry.

The next morning it was weirdly darker in color, but still quite oxidized. The acetaldehyde was less overt, but on the other hand there was intense ethyl acetate / acetone / VA.

no score - Flawed.
White
1991 Chateau Musar Blanc Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
100 points
A blend of Obaideh and Merwah from ancient vines with pyrrhic yields (a glassful from each vine).

T.S. Eliot defined great art as “easy to recognize, hard to understand.” This applies here.

In the glass, a supernaturally glowing amber with copper flecks—one friend exclaimed “This color is just ridiculous!"

The initial wave of aroma is intense and complex to the point of being overwhelming. Time stands still, the room becomes quiet. It presents as a blanket of detailed images - toast with honey (like aged Semillon), nutty yellow apple (development), honeyed cashews, bruised candied white flowers, sweet carrot halwa, apple butter, apple-balsamic, clove, almond, and toasted scone. The nose is fractal, in a way. It rewards scrutiny with ever-increasing complexity.

The developed note of carrot, tamari, and honey intensifies over time in the glass, and on the micro-scale, within a single inhalation.

There’s no oxidation or Brett here, despite being as “natural” as a wine can be (no sulfur, no wild yeast, no manipulation except maybe a small quantity of used Nevers oak.

This has undergone the transformation from a wine of fruit to a wine of wisdom - the fruit has been replaced by a honeyed, savory character, that Bartholomew Broadbent says will intensify with more age.

There’s nothing to judge in this wine. Only questions to ask of it. Where has it been? What is the range of its current wisdom? What will it gain with age? How did it get to be what it is?

I’ve written before that 'Serge Hochar posed impossible questions that his wines answered’ - a nice turn of phrase, maybe, but I’m starting to think that his wines raise more questions than he did.
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