Wednesday, September 12, 2007

WBW #37 -- Go Native

What: WBW is the international Internet wine tasting event held monthly. Lenn is the mastermind. Details and past postings are here.

Host/Hostess: This month's event is hosted by Dr. Vino.

Theme: "Go Native" with indigenous wines.

The Wine: 1998 Chateau Musar Blanc

Sometimes the journey is more enlightening than the final destiny. Due to the summer heat I considered Albarino from Spain or Torrontes from Argentina (and was going to defend the choice as it only grows in Argentina with a dash used in Chile’s cheap plonk), but then I stumbled onto my final choice, a wine I have loved for years, which has its devotees and detractors. One critic trashed it, and then went on to say he loved drinking it and will keep buying it. Go figure!

It doesn’t get much more indigenous than this. Although vitis vinefera did not originate in Lebanon, as they probably arrived from the South Caucasus via Mesopotamia, wines have been made there since at least 2,500 BC, more than 4,000 years ago!

I have raved before about this wine as one of my favorite white wines, but be sure to decant for at least 8 hours and serve slightly chilled (50 to 55 degrees). Each glass will open over time and improve with stunning complexity.

Château Musar was founded by Gaston Hochar in 1930 in Ghazir, 15 miles north of the capital Beirut. The current proprietor is Gaston's son, Serge. Musar grapes grow in the Bekaa Valley, a fertile sunny valley situated 25 miles east of Beirut. Despite war in Lebanon, wine was produced at the Château every year, even when tanks invaded the vineyard.

The vineyards of Château Musar are located at an altitude of over 3,000 feet (1,000 meters) in the Bekaa Valley where the vines are sheltered by the surrounding mountains running parallel to the Mediterranean coast. They cover 180 hectares and produce a limited yield of about 35 hl/ha. The Bekaa Valley is almost frost and disease free, with long mild summers, rainy winters with an annual rainfall of 20 inches, and an average temperature of 75 degrees.

The white wines are made from a blend of Obeideh and Merwah, which are native to the Bekaa Valley and Mount Lebanon. According to the legend, Obeideh and Merwah were taken back to Europe with the Crusaders and are the likely ancestors of Chardonnay and Semillon respectively.

Both varieties are partly fermented in oak "barriques" where they mature for a further 9 months. They are then blended, bottled and aged for a further 4 years before release.