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.
2010 was a year to remember in Lebanese wine-making history. Even from January it was obvious that this year would be lacking in water as snow fell only once on the 17th January (it was the shortest ski season ever!) and rainfall stopped on the 23rd February. March was so hot that the vines began to blossom in early April and in May and June the vines were so vigorous and green following successful flowering, that we thought we would have the biggest harvest ever. However in mid-July things began to change and the temperature rose dramatically. A heat-wave hit Lebanon which lasted for about 23 days with an average daily temperature of 40°C and the highest ever temperature in the Bekaa Valley was recorded at 48.5°C. The grapes didn’t mature, they dried, as water disappeared from the grapes causing high sugar concentration. Cinsault and Carignan were less affected by this heat-wave than the Cabernet Sauvignon which suffered the most – dried grapes with high sugar content, high acidity and unfortunately we lost approximately 45% of our Cabernet this year.
Fermentation began normally but we took the decision for the first time to ferment between 26°C and 28°C to give the natural yeasts the ability to finish fermentation because of the high sugar content but mainly to preserve the fruity aromas that we were worried the wines may lack, due to the heat wave affecting the grape skins where the esters responsible for aromas exist. All in all, the extreme prolonged heat-wave resulted in a significant loss of grapes significantly reducing production. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan were blended in 2012 after having spent a year in untoasted French Nevers barrels and this vintage was bottled in the summer of 2013.
Bright ruby. Heady, rich and gamey on the nose. Very hedonistic and accessible with real density and lifted slight gaminess. An attractive singed character on top of very ripe fruit. Great balance and freshness (but not excessive acidity) on the finish. Very neat on the end. Something rather wild and Romany about this. Already accessible even if I’m sure it will develop even more complex tertiary aromas.