It was in 1930 that Gaston Hochar, of Lebanon's Chateau Musar, planted his first vineyards, after returning from Bordeaux. Major Ronald Barton (of Chateau 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's 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.
A fairly normal winter followed by a fresh spring with no hail or frost. Summer was mild with a very cloudy and fresh August and sunny September. These perfect conditions allowed the grapes to mature slowly at a pace rarely achieved. The harvest started on 15th September and ended on 11th October for the reds, stopping for four days from the 30th September due to rain. When picking resumed on 3rd October, it was almost like harvesting in a different vintage.
An equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan.
Each varietal was fermented with natural yeasts in concrete vats, then aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. The wine was blended in January 2018 and bottled in July/August of that year.
A rich, warm colour, now paling towards the rim, with a smoky nose full of spices and fruits. On the palate there are mixed berry fruits – cherries, redcurrants, pomegranates and Christmas spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Good acidity with good tannin levels results in a wine of classic structure with long ageing potential.
First tasted with Serge Hochar in the Chateau Musar cellars, December 1999. The wine was still in individual vats: Cinsault from the garrigues of Kefraya in the Bekaa Valley: crisp, fragrant; attractive, some elegance. Carignan from Aana, a little further north: more flesh, nice fruit, very tannic. Cabernet Sauvignon was an incredibly deep colour: green, stalky nose; austere, astringent. It would be another year before blending. Most recently, seemed fully developed, good flavour, lovely aftertaste. Last tasted May
2002 – Michael Broadbent, Vintage Wine
Redcurrant scents, and a clean, fresh, intense flavour, more drily curranty than is usual for Musar
– Andrew Jefford, Decanter Magazine, January 2004
The Chateau Musar 1997 will be familiar to all devotees of that deep, dark, rich, fleshy, fruity and – aptly – cedary wine and it's scrumptious.
– Simon Hoggart, The Spectator, 28th February 2004