I first tasted Chateau Musar in the mid 1990s. And loved it. Recently, I went to a tasting organised by Great Domaines, where amongst many vinous delights, Chateau Musar was on offer. A wine can only become truly legendary if what’s inside the bottle matches the story behind it. Lebanon’s Château Musar emphatically ticks both boxes. In an industry so often laboured with the ebb and flow of trends, there exists an 89-year-old Lebanese wine estate that has built up a cult following. When Château Musar’s Serge Hochar died unexpectedly in December 2014, he was mourned in almost every internationally recognised wine publication.
From Lebanon’s high altitude Bekaa Valley 15 kilometres north of Beirut, Château Musar initially burst onto the international scene in 1979, when it amazed those in attendance at the Bristol Wine Fair. A British favourite thereafter, it didn’t gain acclaim in the United States until around 2000, when sommeliers and wine lovers alike began clamouring for the non-interventionist, natural bottles of red, white, and rosé. For Musar’s first 40 years, the wine was largely consumed in its home country, but the 1972 onset of civil war almost eliminated that market. Serge, who continued to produce wine throughout the 20-year war, with tanks in his vineyards, made a strong push for Château Musar in international markets.
But what exactly was it about the wine that got wine professionals across the globe frothing over Chateau Musar? Paradoxically, it was all the things that generally don’t appeal to the wine masses, but rather to the geeky minority. The wines are often rustic – even quite feral and herbaceous – and require time in bottle to fully hit their straps and then often mimic cru classé Bordeaux in structure and style.
The success of Château Musar is attributed to the wine’s uniqueness and the estate’s incredible story – one inexorably linked to the Lebanese civil war and the Hochar family’s perseverance throughout the 20-year conflict.
The red Hochar Père et Fils is predominantly based on a single-vineyard in Aâna, mostly Cinsault but with a little Carignan and Cabernet, where the vines are all over 50 years old and yields are quite low. In general, all the Musar wines are made from very low-yielding vines. The 2015 Hochar is a blend of 50% Cinsault, 35% Grenache and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2011 Red is made up of equal parts Cinsault, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chateau Musar Wines are available from Great Domaines – CLICK HERE
Read more about Chateau Musar – CLICK HERE
Based on information from Great Domaines