It was in 1930 that Gaston Hochar, of Lebanon's Chateau Musar, planted his first vineyards, after returning from Bordeaux. Major Ronald Barton (of Cháteau Langoa-Barton), who was stationed in Lebanon during World War II, befriended Gaston Hochar, strengthening links with Bordeaux and influencing the Musar style.
Gaston's first son, Serge, became Chateau Musars winemaker in 1959, while completing his winemaking studies at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux, under the tutorage of Jean Riberau and Emile Peynaud. 3 years later, Ronald Hochar (Gaston's second son) takes over the financial and marketing aspects of the winery.
It wasn't until 1977 that Serge Hochar finalised the formula for Chateau Musar Reds. 2 years later, Michael Broadbent discovers' Chateau Musar at the Bristol Wine Fair, hailing the 1967 vintage as the “Find of the Fair". Chateau Musar opens its UK Company to develop its sales into the UK market and thereafter into Europe.
In 1984, Decanter magazine nominates Serge Hochar as their first Man of the Year', recognising his dedication to producing superb wines throughout Lebanon's Civil War (1975-1990).
The family tradition continued in 1994 when Gaston Hochar, Serge's son joins the winery, to later become its managing director and again in 2003 when Ralph Hochar, Ronald's son joins the UK office in charge of sales in the on-trade.
2006 saw Chateau Musar obtains its first official, Organic certification for some of its vineyards.
Most recently in 2010, Serge Hochar receives the lifetime achievement award from the German magazine Der FeinSchmeker. Also Marc Hochar, Serge's second son, joins his brother Gaston to help run and expand the winery's activities.
The Chateau Musar' range of wines are this houses most famous range of wines. These are their Grands Vins', each with their unique signature and imprint in the world of wine. Since 1930, every aspect of production, grape sourcing, fermentation, oak-ageing and bottle maturation, has been trialled to achieve the ultimate expression of Musar's specific terroirs' (site-specific interactions of soil, vine, climate and time).
Organic from the outside, Chateau Musar’s red vineyards are siruated towards the Southern end of the Bekka Valley, North of Lake Qaroun and about 30km South-East of Beirut. They lie near the villages of Aana and Kefraya on a range of gravelly soils over limestone – ideally suited to viticulture. The wide range of soil types and aspects results in wines of distinctive character and blends of appealing complexity.
The winter preceding the 1998 harvest was a normal Lebanese winter – a mixture of cold, rainy and snowy weather with several weeks of sunshine. This was followed by a cold, wet spring which lasted until June. Summer followed its normal pattern, although from June until October there was no rain at all. The harvest started on the 9th September with mixed maturity levels: some grapes were already quite mature, whilst we delayed harvesting others for up to two more weeks. There was no obvious reason for this diversity, but this is “les caprices de la nature”. The crop was good in terms of both quality and quantity – the grapes were healthy and very good to eat.
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault & Carignan.
Fermentation progressed smoothly, although slightly quicker than usual, maceration was up to four weeks. The wines were racked into French Nevers oak casks in August 1999 and aged for twelve months, then blended in September 2000 and bottled in August 2001.
Tarek said: ‘Let’s bottle at the end of the second year. Let’s try!’ We did 20,000 bottles like this, then the rest a year later, as usual. We tasted the wines four years later. Something was missing in the earlier-bottled wines. They had an obvious Chateau Musar character but were not necessarily better. Identity is permanently important. We went back to the original formula’ - Serge Hochar.
The cooler 1998 has an elegant Cinsault dominance; the colour is lighter and more delicately perfumed than a typical vintage. Despite this initial impression, the wine is deceptively powerful with a vibrant acidity and fresh, soft red fruit flavours and a very long, spicy finish.
The ideal partner to mushroom and game dishes.
Pale, jewel-bright garnet. Light, spicy, particularly well-integrated nose, already well developed. A sweet start on the palate; the opposite of heavy; a really lovely wine: fresh, sweet, with some very slight mintiness and a dry finish. Very long, and nicely mature: seems just right now. It will go beautifully with food. One of my favourite wines in this collection. Is it the Cinsault I like so much? - Jancis Robinson, March 2018