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It comes from where?! A cool wine to try

September 6, 2010

(A Re-Post from the Pinot Boutique blog,

The first up is Chateau Musar, a decidedly cool winery because of its unusual location. The winery itself is found in an 18th Century castle in Lebanon, about 15 miles north of Beirut. And yes, you read that right, Lebanon. That alone wouldn’t make Chateau Musar a cool purchase if the wine isn’t any good. But this wine is good, and also a little bit different in more than just location.

Chateau Musar was founded back in 1930 and has survived through many hardships. Their red wine is a blend that could include Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault and Mouvedre. In different vintages, comparisons have been made to Bordeaux or Rhone wines, but every written description of their wine makes note of the uniqueness of the flavor profile. Their red wine can definitely show some of the classic dark fruit of either of these famous French regions, but also tends more towards the earthy side. It can be tough to describe this wine without falling into the over-used wine terms that sound, well, overblown or indecipherable to most casual wine drinkers (something I hope to avoid, if possible, in this blog).

The best advice I can give to anyone thinking about buying a bottle for themselves is this: spend up on Chateau Musar if you already know that you like a wine with some earthy, funky qualities (leather, spice, barnyard). If you aren’t sure, but are ready for an adventurous wine, this is a great way to go. Chateau Musar can be a sublime experience of the unique with just a hint of the familiar. It is also necessary to decant this wine. Don’t just open the bottle to “let it breathe,” make sure to pour it into a decanter for an hour or more of aeration.

It had been said that the wines can be inconsistent from year to year, but it seems that in recent vintages things have smoothed a bit. The primary winemaker, Serge Hochar (one of the sons of the winery’s founder), likes to age his wines before release, so finding an older vintage isn’t uncommon (though finding Chateau Musar in a store can be). It’s fun to be able to purchase a wine of an older vintage right off the shelf, and for less than a small fortune, too.

Now the kicker: I spotted the 1999 Chateau Musar at Wegman’s supermarket in Mt Laurel, NJ. I never expected to see a wine like this on a supermarket shelf, but there it is! At just under $40, it’s not your everyday drink, but is still a very good price for this wine. Make sure to call the store first to see if it’s still available; I expect this to disappear at some point soon as more people discover that it’s there.

1999 Chateau Musar label

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