The Bekaa Valley is one of the oldest grape growing and wine making areas in the world – viticulture here dating back some 6000 years. The Hochar family are relative late-comers – arriving in the 12th century AD! The modern history of Chateau Musar begins in the 1930s when Gaston Hochar platned a vineyard after returning from Bordeaux. Serge Hochar began with the 1959 vintage (which I once tasted – it is still good today). The wines became famous in the ‘70s and ‘80s in the UK and US, in the midst of the Lebanese civil war. Serge passed away in 2014.
Chateau Musar Blanc is made from Obaideh and Merwah grapes, indigenous to Lebanon. Yields are low – 10~20hl/ha, and the altitude high (c1400m!) for these untrained bush vines. Fermentation and ageing (9 months) takes place in French oak barriques.
2006 (12.5%) A top year, made difficult by war in July.
2000 (12.5%) A good year.
A true small family domaine, ‘garagiste’ producer in Gevrey. The two top wines are this 1er cru (his only one), and Charmes-Chambertin (his only grand cru). Yet all of these are of benchmark quality, and enormous personality for their appellation. Vines are old (1907-1917), vineyard care is exceptional, and yields are naturally low. Grapes are 100% de-stemmed, crushed, cool pre-ferment maceration, native yeast fermentation. Bachelet’s wines have a wildness and plenty of Gevrey’s spiciness and dark fruit. Easier said than done but did you find the village?
2006 – (13.5%) good, but challenging vintage, now approaching maturity.
1998 – (13%) Difficult vintage, but some real successes. Highly structured wines.
2nd growth Pauillac sitting just across the road from Latour and Pichon-Lalande and sharing similar deep gravelly terroir. Christian Seely of owner AXA Milesimes has put enormous effort into raising quality here since 2001. The wine now is highly selected (less grand vin, more 2nd wine), and for the grand vin only coming from the best vineyards within the estate. It is quintessential Pauillac strength combined with a priority for finesse, flow, and balance. It is often one of the smartest buys in Bordeaux.
2008 – (13%) wonderfully balanced classic wines from cool late vintage.
1989 – (13%) hot summer leading to bold, ripe, tannic, slow cellaring top wines
This is one of classic Barossa family estates – now in its 5th generation at the helm. As Australia transitioned from fortified winemaking to table winemaking in the ‘70s, the style exemplified by the Burge family emerged into what can now be considered the classic style – unabashedly voluptuously ripe fruit at harvest, winemaking to capture the resulting concentration, and ageing more in American oak than French. The resulting wine when young is boldly fruity and sweet, but well balanced examples age well, developing quite some complexity with age. 20 years +/-, like this pair is perfect to see that, yet well-stored examples are rare to find. (These have been cellared perfectly since release). The ‘Meshach’ is the Burge family’s top wine.
1996 – (13.9%) The best vintage of the decade, perfect ripeness and freshness.
1994 – (14%) A classic, more earthily expressed textbook vintage, exceptional.
This is the leading estate in the appellation, and the three so-called “La La’s” are the top examples within the range. La Landonne is a single vineyard wine and is 100% syrah. It is the most powerful and backward of the three vineyards, and so it is also the slowest to develop in the cellar. Rather unusually, these wines receive 42 months ageing in new French oak barriques – something I think that results in even more cellaring being required before this is fully absorbed. But there is no question about the quality of mature La La’s.
1999 – (13%) Outstanding year – perhaps the most perfect vintage since 1978.
1986 – (13%) Wet difficult summer, good harvest, early developing wines.
|2004||Ermitage Blanc ‘Le Meal’, M. Chapoutier||750||WA 100|
|1997||Ermitage Blanc ‘Le Meal’, M. Chapoutier||750||WA 96-100|
|2008||Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru ‘Aux Reignots’, Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux||750||BH 92|
|2001||Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru ‘Aux Reignots’, Domaine Robert Arnoux (now Arnoux-Lachaux)||750||BH 90|
|2006||Barolo ‘Cannubi Boschis’, Luciano Sandrone||750||WA 97|
|1998||Barolo ‘Cannubi Boschis’, Luciano Sandrone||750||WA 94-96|
|2006||Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Henri Bonneau ‘Réserve du Célestins’||750||WA 94|
|1999||Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Henri Bonneau ‘Réserve du Célestins’||750||WA 94|