Last August I noticed a Lebanese red on the menu in Brighton’s modern-Indian restaurant Indian Summer. I realise Lebanese wine has a long history (apparently grapes have been cultivated at high altitude in the Alpine-like climate of the Bekaa Valley for over 6,000 years), but I’d never tried one before. I work in a part of west London that has a large Lebanese community, and I’d never even seen it around there.
This was a Chateau Musar. The menu described it as “The legend… Dense, richly textured and spicy.” I was intrigued, but as it was the most expensive bottle on the menu I ordered a Chilean Pinot Noir instead.
So… some months later, I was excited to see a Chateau Musar red on the shelf at my local wine shop. As usual, I got into a lengthy chat with the owner about it, and she told me about the “Musar Brett”. This, if you didn’t know (I certainly didn’t), is a “fault” in the wine that some people enjoy, formed by a genus of yeast called Brettanomyces. It tastes, apparently, like bacon. I say “apparently”, because I got no hint of this whatsoever from mine.
Instead, I got what I usually describe as “cherry menthol”, with a hint of liquorice — a flavour I really enjoy. Admittedly, when I first tasted it I was put off by some harsh tannins, but these softened after I let it breathe, morphing into a nice long finish. The winery’s description also mentions black olives, which I’ve never had from a wine before. I didn’t pick it up this time, either. My nose still needs work, perhaps.
As the name describes, this Musar Jeune is one of the winery’s younger (and more affordable) wines. A rich, deep plummy colour, it’s made organically from Cinsault (50%), Syrah (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%).
A decent first exposure to Lebanese wine then. Although, if you’re an 80s kid like me you might have The Lebanon by The Human League in your head for days afterwards. I forgot how good a tune it is.
“The life was cheap on bread and wine, and sharing meant no shame.”
The Human League
(I didn’t share mine).
Chateau Musar Jeune 2013, 14%, £10.50 from Seven Cellars.