Words, wise or otherwise, about wine

Chateau Musar Blanc

One of the benefits (and believe me there aren’t as many as most people think!) of flying for a living is being able to pick up a bottle or 2 at airport duty free shops. Most of the wines on offer are usually generic, mass produced stuff that hold little interest. There are of course the ultra high end shops that cater for the super rich that think nothing of dropping the odd £10,000 on a bottle of wine – see this article at decanter.com for a remarkable story about the client who spent US $107,000 on 8 bottles of wine at Dubai duty free. Not quite being in such an affluent mood at the weekend, I had to make do with a bottle of Chateau Musar Blanc 2003 for £8.50 that I happened to see amongst the mass produced, over priced offerings coming through Dubai’s Terminal 2.

Now Chateau Musar is well known for it’s red wine, often polarising opinion between those who love it’s unusual, but unique, character and those who really cannot stand it, claiming that it is full of volatile acidity (think nail varnish remover). A Marmite wine if ever there was one!  It is of course Lebanon’s most famous wine due to its history, longevity, triumph over adversity and the indefatigable Serge Hochar. This is all well documented elsewhere and doesn’t need another re-hash here. However, the white Musar is much less well known but apparently also has the capacity to divide opinion.

Musar Blanc is made from a blend of 2 grape varieties that you have never heard of,  Obaideh and Merwah, which are indigenous to the mountains of Lebanon. Chateau Musar alleges that they are related to Chardonnay and Semillon. Planted between 1920 and 1947 the Obaideh is on stony, chalky soils, while the Merwah vines are on calcareous gravels. Untrained bush vines and yields of about 25hl, the vines are planted on their own roots rather than grafted.

Fermented in oak for 9 months, and after bottling and blending, the wine is not released for seven years. That’s a phenomenal amount of time to keep a wine maturing in the cellar without seeing any return on your investment. Lots more information can be found on the official Chateau Musar website.

Chateau Musar Blanc 2003, Burj Khalifa in the background

Having a night off in Dubai, it was of course churlish not to take the opportunity to open the bottle with a few fellow pilots and see what it was like. I was fully expecting it to be ‘different’ and knew that it might be a bit of a shock to some of my colleagues but the joy of wine is not just in casual consumption but also encouraging something new, broadening horizons and maybe even stimulating a bit of discussion.

Opening the bottle before they arrived, I penned a quick note:-

Wild nose, rich and nutty but with a definite oxidative note. There’s some marzipan and butter that hints at an oily and full bodied wine. I’m expecting to be assaulted when I taste the wine but it’s actually rather gentle. 

Apricots are the dominant fruit but there’s lots of tropical stuff going on with passionfruit, custard apple and even some citrus elements but never moving very far from the oxidative reminder.

The finish is obviously very long and brings a bitter edge to the wine that isn’t altogether unpleasant. I’m enjoying this wine at the moment and will see how it progresses later.

Unfortunately, once the hordes arrived the bottle was empty before I had the chance to hide a bit away for later. And as for their opinions? Most definitely divided!


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