Monday, 20 January 2014

Chateau Musar 1981

Another quick write-up of a Christmas wine now. One that I shared with some friends, and went down a treat. I speak of a 1981 Chateau Musar. I bought this in an auction lot of 3 old Musars, one each from '79, '81 and '83. I had the '79 a year or so ago, an it was okay, but a bit passed-it! I had the '83 for my 30th Birthday last year, as part of a family meal. It was good, better than the '79, but not as good as I'd hoped for.  It also didn't help that we had several, very nice wines with that meal, and the '83 Musar was outshone by other stars.

The '81 however, on this occasion, was different. 'Third time lucky' and 'saving the best 'til last' definitely apply here. I decanted it about 3 hours before we wanted it (it grew with time, otherwise I would have served it sooner!). There wasn't that much sediment, but what there was, was very fine. I was taken-aback at the colour in the decanter. It had so much depth and intensity to it for an aged Musar. Still a lot of Ruby red, with only brick and garnet creeping in around the rim. Again we had this wine with a meal, following several other great wines (amongst other things, a great Soave from Waitrose!). We matched the Musar to our main, roast beef hash. For those who may not know, this dish is a slow-cooked 'stew' of, mainly, leftover roast beef and potatoes. Shredding the beef and slow cooking it, means it's really succulent and deeply flavoured.

In the glass then, the Chateau Musar again showed an excellent colour of deep ruby, however, now the garnet signs of age were more prominent, and the wine seemed more transparent and thin. I didn't note the alcohol content, but viscous legs suggests reasonably high. On the nose, as one may expect from a Musar, I got leather and spices up front. Something I really like. In with that was a little bit of something musty and animal, fairly typical for Musar and probably attributable to a bit of brett (wild Bretanomyces yeast in the winery). Oaky cedar, tobacco and cinnamon, were the main players, but with a hint of cloves and pepper also. The spices were followed by some nice fruit, which were surprisingly fresh and sweet. Blackcurrent and cherry from the Cabernet, along with some lighter red fruits and currents.

On the palate, I first noticed how smooth and light the wine felt; medium bodied with an excellent mouthfeel. A lot of Chateau Musars show a high VA level, this one had no such aceticity. The overall acidity was medium to high, but was balanced really well by the alcohol level, and tannins. The tannins were definitely still there, maybe a touch drying, but they had a beautiful, soft, smooth texture. The fruits, as for the nose, were on the sweet side, and came through well for an old wine. Black and red currents for the majority. The finish was long, only a bit alcoholic, with hints of black pepper and quiet savoury.

Chateau Musar's have a reputation for aging very well. I suppose you have to pick the good vintages for them to reach 30+ years of age, and still be fantastic. I'm willing to accept a rate of one in every three, as the '81 really was good and made up for the other 2 in my auction lot being under-par. I have a reasonable, vertical Musar collection and I shall be saving at least one from each vintage for many years. The 1999's may get there, the 2003's also, I haven't tried my 2004's yet, but I'd definitely like to see the 2001's and 2005's living into their thirties. We're in it for the long haul!

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