The new 2004 Chateau Musar is now available in the shops. This is a truly special wine from the Lebanon. It is like no other wine, although in the past I have put it up against a right bank Bordeaux.
It is full of Eastern promise, but above all the vintages vary year on year.
I remember once at a wine fair, visiting the Lebanese stall and talking at length about Musar,with the stall holder. We touched on our favourite vintages for a while and then I brought up 1999.
I said it was awful, with too much burnt rubber on the nose and continued that I had refused to invest in that year. The stall runner agreed, saying that his uncle Serge Hochar, had put too much Cinsault into the blend that year and the wine had been kept in barrel for an extra six weeks.
Serge Hochar, it must be pointed out, is the estate manager at Musar and his father set the vineyard up.
I apologised for any offence I had given to his family and quickly made my excuses to leave.
The 2004 doesn't have this problem at all. The nose is full of sawn wood, fig and dried apricots. The cassis starts to come out too. The flavour is very much smoked wood, cherries, Cinnamon and liquorice. The wine has smacks of roast beef from a good butcher.
It is worth noting that the vintages are only released, when the previous one has been sold. The wine seems to be aged in barrel, for longer.
I still have 1998 ,2000, 2001, 2003 in the cellar. 1996 has just been finished and I think it was getting very tired towards the end of the case. 2004 is worth a punt and I look forward very much to 2005.