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 2013 harvest at Chateau Musar could be summarised in one word – elegance. Rain and snowfall during the winter of 2012/13 was higher than in previous years, a welcome change after many years of poor rainfall. April was cooler than usual and in May, the vineyards were exceptionally green due to the combination of the winter and spring weather. Flowering was successful and yields were healthy but we experienced a week of intense heat in late August which resulted in high sugar contents of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan – the only red variety that did not react to the climatic changes was the Cinsault which was harvested last on the 27th September.
The red fermentation process was unbelievably slow this year, something never seen before. Fermentation temperatures did not exceed 29°C and some vats needed no temperature control. On the other hand, malolactic fermentation was completed surprisingly quickly, the two fermentations seemingly working in opposite directions. Aged in French Nevers oak barrels for one year, blended in the spring of 2016, the 2013 vintage was bottled during the summer of 2016. Vintage release – 2020.
Marvellously warm Mediterranean fruits on the nose, would be autumnal but for their vigorous presence, as rich and robust as expected on the palate, almost the essence of Lebanon in the glass with rich spice and cooling breezes, the dry herby fruit flows with energy over the palate before giving way to a finish that confirms the structure, fruit and tannins blending in exuberantly with intriguing hints of much more to come in the next decade.