Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Two old favourites (and classics of their kind) - Musar and Thalabert

Much as I love them, even I don't want to drink Languedoc and Roussillon wines all of the time. So, for the last evening or two, it was time to revisit a couple of wines that really fired my imagination and got me totally (and irrevocably) hooked on good wine.........

Chateau Musar 2001 (Bekaa Valley, Lebanon) is light in colour, with a semi-transluscent blood red core leading to a wide tawny rim - as always, very evolved for a relatively young wine. The nose is very typical, on opening - screaming volatile acidity, oodles of forest fruits and myriad secondary aromas of spices, herbs, polished wood and rotting leaves. The palate is juicy and rich, yet wonderfully light on its feet. Genuinely sweet fruit flavours combine with that glorious volatile acidity, silky tannins and all of those woody, leafy, spicy flavours, in a wine that (for me) has it all. Everything about it is evolved, to the extent that a stranger to such a wine would think it fully mature and in desperate need of drinking. But it is just a baby, with years (perhaps even decades) ahead of it. Indeed, as I write this note, it is now almost 48 hours since opening, and the last few drops are even better than the first - a sure sign of a wine built to last. I guess the purists and the Claret police would argue that this wine is full of faults. But that is why I (and most other people who "get" Musar) love it so much. It is an almost unique wine style - and any so-called wine expert who couldn't nail it in a blind tasting is no expert! A classic wine - and a classic vintage. This 2001 vintage is the current release, and is widely available at around £16. The prices of recent vintages have crept up over recent years, but Musar is a truly world class wine, and still one of the great bargains. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan, by the way.

Paul Jaboulet Ainé Domaine de Thalabert 1997 Crozes Hermitage, on the other hand, is pure Northern Rhone Syrah. 1997 is by no means a classic vintage, and this was the last bottle from a case that I picked up for a song at auction, a couple of years ago - certainly way under a tenner a bottle. Results have been a little mixed, with one being totally oxidised and a couple being "marginal" for enjoyable drinking, though the rest have provided much pleasure. And this one (isn't it often the case?) is a cracker. Fully mature, in both appearance and on the nose, this is again a trademark example of its kind. The nose is all about secondary aromas - decaying red and black fruits, forest floor, hints of exotic spices, leather, lilies of the valley, black olives and a strong whiff of meat. The palate is meaty, too, but still with enough in the way of fruit to make this a real pleasure to drink - and a perfect partner for last night's rump steak. A lovely wine.

Now I'm off to see Neil Young at the Nottingham Arena. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow...........

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