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.
One of the most challenging vintages in a generation.
A good start to the year with plenty of rain and snow, then temperatures rising toward the end of March, however between 10th and 18th April, night-time temperatures fell to between -8°C and -12°C which destroyed buds that had started to open.
By early May, we were looking out on hectares of blackened vines and the situation looked catastrophic but, gradually, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, green shoots emerged from the stems of the vines.
A humid June and mild July were followed by rising temperatures throughout August and a heatwave into September which resulted in further losses in the vineyards by the time it came to harvest. Cabernet Sauvignon was picked on 3rd September with 65% losses to the crop; Cinsault started on the 8th of September with losses of 70% in the vineyards of Aana and 40% in the vineyards of Kefraya. Finally, Carignan picked on 11th September which was 50% down.
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.
Deep ruby colour and an aroma of fresh hedgerow berries - bramble, blackcurrant and cherry, also more complexity coming through later with leather and delicate, peppery-spice notes. The flavours are similar, with some soft vanilla, warming spice and a cocoa note.
Fresh acidity and supple tannins make the wine a perfect accompaniment to richer, fattier meats like duck or a ribeye steak.
It’s a beauty of course, a blend as of yore of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault. It was fiendishly tricky vintage with a frost in April and a heat wave in September, threatening local disaster. Indeed some 65% of Cab. Sauv. was lost. What little wine that was made though, is glorious.
– Jonathan Ray, The Spectator, July 2021