Chateau Musar Tasting with Serge Hochar at Hearth

Hearth NYC

Tasted October 26, 2009 by RajivAyyangar with 1,225 views


Paul Grieco (of Terroir and Hearth, formerly of Gramercy Tavern) coordinated the tasting, overseeing the pouring and arrangement. The wines were all poured at once, meaning that some of the wines were in the glass for 2 or more hours when we tasted them. While this makes it difficult to draw conclusions from my tasting notes, Musar is unique in that such aeration might actually improve the wines. Certainly they were mostly alive when we got around to tasting them.

Paul's enthusiasm for Musar was readily evident - this event took a lot of effort to pull off, and it was very well done. Serge Hochar led the discussion in his famously eccentric manner. Never answering a question, but rather using each question as a jumping point for a rhapsodic lecture on love, life, and winemaking.

I went with MC, and I was sitting directly to Serge's left. Other people in attendance included Rachel Mark and Bartholomew Broadbent of Broadbent selections, and also the winemaker from Quinto do Crasto.

Flight 1 - Reds (5 notes)

"95 was a great vintage for Musar Red. "
"Never before 15 years"
SH said of the 2000 and 1995: these are wine. The 1981 - now this is no longer wine, it is starting to show its true nature.

Paul Grieco is one of the foremost Musar experts - PG: You can't generalize with Musar. Bottles vary. Wine transforms in the glass. But no other wine delivers such interest in such a truthful, real way. The sell is a hand-sell, and we don't talk tasting notes. We talk about truth in the glass, un-compromisingness.

2000 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
85 points
m garnet, m brilliance. N: Brett, cherry, nuttiness. slight balsamic. hints of floral perfume. P: med- body. Med acid. soft. nice warm flavors on the finish. lingering soft integrated brett. Low+ soft tannins. Serge said this wine isn't ready yet. For me: 84-87.
1995 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
[EDIT: I scored this 'only' 88-92 points but I think I tasted it in imperfect conditions]

My favorite red of the group. m garnet, brilliant. N: brown toast. some figs, but not yet to the point where i'd say oxidized. raspberry. complex fruit with hints of earth. faint brett. P: m+/full bodied. Savory, umami, ripe. med+ tannins, really nice. 88-92. Maybe a tad disjointed, but seeing as the wine was poured 1 hr ago... it's hard for me to guess where this is in the evolution.
1981 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
m brick red in the glass. light acetaldehyde (oxidation). med+ body. Serge said "This is no longer wine. it's showing its true nature. It is starting to become more than wine". I think this is oxidized, or at least, I can't get past the acetaldehyde to taste the wine. No score.
1972 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
light garnet in the glass. Strong acetaldehyde on the nose. interesting fruit hints. med tannins. med acid. Appears more structured than the younger wines. Oxidized. No rating.
1966 Chateau Musar Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
Light copper red. N: light fruit, light brett, light earth. Well integrated, complex, and good nose! In the mouth, more angular/structured than the 2000 by a good amount. med+ tannins. light+ body. Flavorful. A bit too much tart acid (malic?) on the palate... almost tastes younger and more angular than the 2000. no rating.

Flight 2 - Whites (3 notes)

The whites might pair as reds, and the reds as whites (i.e. with fish). Hard to say. The whites are definitely bigger.

Grapes: White: Obaideh (indigenous Chardonnay clone) and Marwah (indigenous Semillon clone). 1969: Only Marwah. In 1995, 1999 - some Obaideh. Started using Obaideh in 1986. before that, all Marwah.

SH:"You taste the 59 red - it's great. You taste the 59 white - it's greater. You taste the red again, it seems somehow diminished. Why? A miracle of God?"

SH likes sweet whites - tokaji, sauternes. In his words, he is more sensitive to the dimensions of whites than to reds. "I'm addicted to my white wines. But I had to choose a wine to sell, to make the name Musar. For 10 years, I worked on the red. Now the red has succeeded and it is time to show my best wines [the whites]."

PG: Question: Admittedly a big factor of Musar is some VA and some Brettanomyces. How come I've never encountered these in the white wines? SH: Brett is alcohol-dependent, and the whites are lower in alcohol. ME: I think Brett is specific to red wines - Dubourdieu paper? I've never encountered brett in white. PG: This matches with what I've observed about Italian wines - More Brett recently in Italian reds, also higher alcohol levels.

Decanting: Reds need to be decanted - no fining/filtration. Bottled in the 3rd year, so not uncommon to throw sediment in 5-7 years. SH recommends tasting/drinking the sediment. Great taste. SH: "And it's good for you!" Whites: Could also benefit from being decanted.

1999 Chateau Musar Blanc Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
92 points
Light gold. Brilliant. Nose of sweet apple cider with a hint of balsamic. P: Med+ body, more apple/balsamic flavors, surpringly (after the nose) - this is dry. with superb acidity. evoked pictures of burnished gold. Clean, REAL finish with hint of marzipan and subtle complexity. 91-3
1995 Chateau Musar Blanc Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
91 points
Light gold. Brilliant. Nose again of sweet apple balsamic, w/ a hint of barnyard on the back end. Light body, med acid, tart finish. Tart on midpalate. Very interesting - wish I could spend more time with this. If I were to guess at the score range: 90-95+
1969 Chateau Musar Blanc Lebanon, Bekaa Valley
93 points
Light brilliant gold in the glass. Nose of light apple-balsamic with hint of brown sugar, burnt toast. earth, savory nose!. In the mouth, rich, earthy, charming, fascinating. mushrooms and earth on the finish. Med body. Med acid. TOTALLY INTEGRATED. 92-4


A singular experience, and an introduction to the unique world of Musar. I don't know if CoolVines can sell Musar. But I know I will probably buy Musar in the future. The wines are absolutely fascinating, and their flawed nature and unpredictability are small prices to pay for what these wines can deliver.

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