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.
Average rainfall in winter with some cold days, followed by pleasant weather which allowed flowering to develop well in the spring. However, things started to deviate from the norm with the arrival of summer; July was unusually hot with some very dry days when temperatures exceeded 35°C, followed by a hotter than average August. Harvest started on the 6th September, one week earlier than usual. The crop was healthy and quality good but yields were down by 15%. The grapes were sweet but tannic with good acidity
In the winery, ambient yeasts do the work of fermentation. The bare minimum of sulphur is used and the Chateau Musar Red wines are neither fined nor filtered.
Fermentation progressed well - slowly with very little heat as it was naturally under control. Interestingly, the level of alcohol was higher than usual - almost the same as 1999. All in all, it was an easy harvest and an easy fermentation with hardly any problems and malolactic fermentation followed its normal course.
Reasonably mature. Brick red rim, autumnal faded red bowl. Mouth-watering acidity on the nose that can be smelt a foot away. Lovely aromas of damp autumn forests, decaying leaves and wood combine with a slightly chocolatey sweetness. A little spirit developed over the course of the evening: almost a Drambuie or Grand Marnier character. Slightly sweet on the palate with very long, classic autumnal Musar notes, soft, mature and Old World, braced by that lovely acidity. Still full flavoured and crisp on its long, lingering aftertaste, finishing with notes of liquorice and sherbet.