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Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon

Lebanese legend

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Bekaa Valley 2009, Château Musar ($54.75, 13393000)
A blend of nearly equal proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan from organically farmed vines averaging 40 years old and planted in gravelly soil over a limestone base. The vintage was unusual in that the harvest was interrupted by an unprecedented two days of heavy rain in early September; the grapes picked after the deluge were said to be juicier and more perfumed. The varieties were vinified separately. Alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeasts was slow and took place in temperature-controlled (sub-30°C) concrete vats. Six months later, the wine was transferred to French Nevers oak barrels for one year’s maturation. The monovarietal wines were then blended and transferred to concrete tanks for another 12 months. Finally, the wine was bottled and aged four years in the bottle before being released in 2016, seven years after harvest. Unfiltered and unfined. A small amount of sulphur dioxide was added at bottling. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Complex, enveloping bouquet of roasted plum (“pruney” per another taster though not to my nose), spice, graphite and a whole set of aromas heading into tertiary territory, including baked earth, leather, dried herbs, dried leaves and camphor. Medium- to full-bodied and dry. The sun-ripe fruit is inflected with minerals, minty herbs and old wood and structured by vibrant acidity and shaggy tannins. Though you wouldn’t call it deep, the wine has plenty of ballast. What’s most remarkable, however, is the sensuousness, the fluid savour that lasts through the long finish, and that sui generis combo of Bordeaux-Rhône structure and solar fruit. At peak? If so, it’ll stay there for several years. Maybe not a great Musar but definitely an enjoyable one. (Buy again? Yep.)

Bekaa Valley 2006, Château Musar ($52.75, 13391389)
Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), Cinsault (33%), Samsó (possibly a clone of Cinsault, 17%) and Carignan (16%). The summer was one of the coolest on record, reportedly producing grapes with higher than usual acidity. Wine-making was as for the 2009, with the blending taking place in 2009. Musar releases its wines only when it considers them ready to drink, normally seven years after the vintage, but in this case the estate waited until the spring of 2017. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
A redder-smelling and decidedly tertiary bouquet: raspberry liqueur, “tobacco,” herbs, old wood and leather. Smooth, round, velvety and a notch less weighty than the 2009. Here the brambly fruit definitely has a “pruney” edge. The tannins are approaching full resolution and, while the acidity is present, the wattage is low. The long finish brings a faint cabbage aftertaste. Tasty but also about to leave the plateau and enter the downslope of its life span. Of course, that could just be our bottle, consistency not being one of Musar’s strong points. (Buy again? A bottle for one last fling?)

Revisiting the wines after the tasting was over and everyone else had left only confirmed my earlier impressions. After an hour or so in the glass, the 2009 was alive and kicking while the 2006 seemed increasingly loose-knit, even to the point of beginning to fall apart.

MWG February 8th tasting: flight 5 of 5

Written by carswell

March 20, 2018 at 14:30

Asphalt and corn

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Bekaa Valley 2012, Musar Jeune, Château Musar ($25.80, 13210197)
A blend of Cinsault (50%), Syrah (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) from organically farmed vines grown on the western slope of the Beqaa Valley at around 1,000 metres above sea level. The jeune refers to the wine’s early drinking window, not the age of the vines. The varieties are vinified separately. Fermented in temperature-controlled (28°C) concrete vats with indigenous yeasts. After blending, the wine was matured three to four months in concrete vats. Unfiltered and unfined. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Divin Paradis.
Clove, plum, blackberry evolving into leather and earth. An asphalt note is very present. On the palate, the wine is medium- to full-bodied and fruit forward though fundamentally savoury, not deep but far from superficial. Round tannins and soft acidity give the wine a satiny texture. The fruit tends to mullberry and black cherry. Unfortunately, the asphalt is also present as a flavour and the notes of “nail polish remover” (a marker for ethyl acetate, popularly if inaccurately referred to as volatile acidity) are hard to ignore. A bottle opened the weekend before was far fresher, cleaner and more interesting, leading us to suspect this was an off bottle, a not uncommon occurrence with Musar wines. Still, after more than a decade’s absence, it’s great to have this storied estate back at the SAQ. (Buy again? Yes but keep your receipt in case your bottle is defective.)

Texas 2013, Merlot, Reserve, Becker Vineyards (c. $20.00, importation valise)
100% Merlot from various parcels; the winery is based in the Texas Hill Country AVA but the wine’s broader appellation may mean some of the grapes come from outside the viticultural area. The grapes were harvested over four weeks, cool-soaked for 10 days, fermented with selected yeasts and pressed. The wine was transferred to French and American oak barrels for malolactic fermentation and maturation, with stirring several times a week. 13.8% ABV.
One of the oddest noses I’ve encountered in a red wine: rubber, “bacon,” “pâté chinois” and ash but, above all (and congrats to J. on pegging it), “canned corn.” In the mouth, it’s heading into full-bodied territory. There’s some red and black fruit if you look for it but the corn is unavoidable. Acidity is sufficient and the soft tannins gain some presence on the finish. Yet, even setting the corn aside, this is simple, vague (not identifiably a Merlot) and pretty much devoid of appeal except as a curiosity. (An off bottle? Maybe. Buy again? Nope.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

June 23, 2017 at 13:26

Petit Noir, petit prix

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Bekaa Valley 2009, Petit Noir, Cave Kouroum ($13.55, 11097549)
Founded in 1998, the winery is based in the village of Kefraya in the Bekaa Valley. The 180 hectares of vineyards are on the eastern slope of Mount Barouk at an elevation of 900 m. This is a blend of Cinsault (50%), Carignan (25%), Grenache (15%) and Syrah (10%) from sustainably farmed vines. The grapes are manually harvested and sorted. Traditional vinification with both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation taking place. Matured six months in French oak fûts. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: ABVS.
Pencil shavings, red berry jam, dried herbs, hints of sweet spice and a whiff of alcohol. Smooth, clean and medium-bodied. A really promising attack fades disappointingly fast and there’s not much else to take its place. A bit hot at room temperature, better after a couple of hours in the carafe and 30 minutes in the fridge: rounder, fuller and fruitier with good acidity and a fair finish, though you’ll have to look elsewhere for depth. With its savoury Rhône-ish flavour profile and Bordeaux-ish structure and weight, it’s stylistically between a Côtes-du-Rhône and a cru bourgeois. Memorable above all for being one of the better reds in its price bracket, not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Buy again? Sure.)

Written by carswell

September 4, 2015 at 12:05