The legend of Musar has been told many times, but it never ceases to amaze. Inspired by Lebanon's 6000 year winemaking history, which began with the Phoenicians, and by his travels in Bordeaux, 20 year old Gaston Hochar founded Chateau Musar in 1930. The vineyards are strangely located two hours away from the winery, but there is a reason for this. When Gaston Hochar began making wine in 1930, the boundaries of Lebanon had not been set, and he wanted to ensure that his premises would be inside the newly demarcated country!
The Hochars cultivate indigenous and international varietals – Cinsault, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Grenache as well as Obaideh (a native of Chardonnay), Merwah (a native variant of Semillon), Chardonnay, Viognier and Vermentino. The vineyards are planted on a limestone bed with gravelly top soils and are certified organic by the Mediterranean Institute of Certification (IMC). The white vines are 100–150 years old and planted at 4,000 feet, the reds at 3,280 feet. The altitude and the Mediterranean climate serve to lengthen the ripening process which helps produce fruit of superior quality.
Only hand-picked estate fruit is used and the wines are minimally handled – natural fermentation very little sulphur and the wines aren’t fined or filtered. Chateau Musar is the family’s flagship and is thematically styled after the Grand Vins of Bordeaux. Each varietal is fermented and aged separately; the components are then blended and aged for a minimum of four years in bottle before release.
In spite of the civil war that tore the country apart from 1975-1990, the Hochars have consistently produced exceptional wines, bar the 1976 and 1984 vintages when no wine was made. Serge, Gaston’s eldest son has been the winemaker at Musar since 1959 and was as “Man of the Year” in 1984 by recognized by Decanter Magazine. Serge’s brother Ronald manages the business side of the winery along with Serge’s sons Gaston and Marc. Ronald’s son Ralph works with in Chateau Musar’s UK office. The Musar wines are unique, long-lived reflections of terroir that often reveal their best, 20-30 years after bottling.
The Hochar bottling is sometimes referred to as the second wine of Chateau Musar, as it is bottled a little younger with less time in oak, making it a little more approachable out of the gate.