2001 was a most unusual year – although it began normally with some quite rainy and cold days, by mid February the climate changed to much warmer weather with almost no rain or snow at all. From March until August there was only 23mm of precipitation – therefore the total for the year was dramatically less than normal and the water table was significantly lowered. After a regular flowering in the spring, July and August were exceptionally hot. This was the fourth year in a row of very little rainfall causing the vines to tire.
Cinsault vines were the most affected, especially those grown on limestone soils. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan grapes, with their thicker, firmer skins were more protected from the sun and showed excellent concentration. The Cinsault was still fragrant and fruity but lost some of its colour; the Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan were, however, rich, powerful and fruity with smoky, leathery aromas and deep violet colour. The harvest began on the 3rd September – one of the earliest start dates on record. The overall crop was reduced by 15% but the grapes were healthy and ripe, not overly tannic or acidic. Fermentation progressed steadily and the malolactic followed easily and naturally as it did in 2000.
This vintage is marked by the domination of the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Carignan over the Cinsault. The wine was fermented in cement vats, aged in French Nevers oak barrels for one year and bottled in the summer of 2004. Scarlet in colour with terracotta tones at the rim, it has a complex nose of cigar box spice, warm leather, baked fruits, ripe morello cherries and blackcurrants. The palate has intense flavours of red cherries, dark chocolate, olives, figs and velvet smooth tannins on the very long finish.
In their youth, Chateau Musar Reds are dense and richly-textured, with intense ‘baked fruit’ characters: plums, damsons, cranberries, cherries, figs and dates. Bordeaux grape Cabernet Sauvignon lends black fruit flavors; Rhône grapes Cinsault and Carignan contribute fragrance (violets; pepper) and supple spiciness. Either set of qualities might dominate a particular vintage, but the style is always emphatically Lebanese: enticingly aromatic, with persistent fruit flavors.
Grapes and vines
Seven years in the making, Chateau Musar Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault from vineyards near the Bekaa Valley villages of Aana and Kefraya on gravelly soils over limestone. Planted from the 1930s onwards, yields are low from these mature bushvines (average age: 40 years): Between 15 to 35hl per hectare.
The varietal components in Chateau Musar Red undergo lengthy fermentations in cement vats at temperatures below 30°C. 6 months after the harvest they are transferred into French barrels (oak from the forest of Nevers) for one year. Blending The varietal components are brought together two years after the harvest; the resulting blend is then placed back in cement tanks before being bottled 12 months later. Each wine is blended to reflect the character of the vintage. After 4 years’ bottle maturation in the deep stone cellars of Chateau Musar, the finished wines are released a full seven years after the harvest.