About Chateau Musar
Housed in an 18th century castle in Ghazir, about 25 km north of Beirut, Chateau Musar was founded in 1930 by Gaston Hochar, inspired by Lebanon’s 6,000-year winemaking tradition and his friendship with Ronald Barton of Chateau Leoville-Barton in Saint Julien. The estate’s name in Arabic is ‘M’zar,’ meaning “place of extraordinary beauty/shrine to be visited,” an ideal name for this fascinating estate.
The vines for the estate’s unique wines are located in the famed Bekaa Valley, an area celebrated for its viticulture since Biblical times. At the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, Lebanon’s favorable geographical and climatic conditions have always held abundant promise for the cultivation of grapes. The Bekaa Valley is positioned particularly well, nestled between the ‘Lebanon’ and ‘Anti-Lebanon’ mountain ranges at 34° N of the equator.
The vineyards of Musar are planted at altitudes ranging from 1,000 – 1,500 meters (3,280 – 4,921 ft) above sea level. The vines benefit from cool nights and seasonal temperatures (snow in winter and hot summers), resulting in long ripening periods. The vineyard soils are predominantly calcareous/limestone with gravel and stone, resulting in wines of distinctive character and blends of appealing complexity.
The vineyards’ remote location coupled with the Hochar family’s respect for the environment has resulted in ‘organic’ vineyards by default since the 1950s, even long before the term was coined. The estate obtained organic certification for its vineyards in 2005, the first producer in Lebanon to do so. All the grapes are hand-harvested by local Bedouins in the cool of the morning in order to preserve freshness, the harvest usually taking place between August and October.
The Chateau Musar winery is located in Ghazir about two and a half hour’s drive from the Bekaa Valley. The cellars are dug into the mountainside providing perfect condition for long term wine storage. The wines of Chateau Musar are produced with a ‘non-interventionist’ winemaking philosophy; fermentation starts naturally with ambient yeasts, the bare minimum of sulfur is used and the Chateau Musar wines are neither fined nor filtered. Individual varieties from different vineyards are kept separately up to two years, and constantly tasted to understand their unique personalities and characteristics. The final blending process is an intrinsic part of the winemaking art at Chateau Musar — winemaking by instinct.
The estate produces three lines: the flagship range includes Chateau Musar Red, Chateau Musar White and Chateau Musar Rosé; Hochar Père et Fils Red – a more accessible red, produced from a single vineyard and ready to drink upon release at year five (as opposed to Chateau Musar Red which the family recommends to drink starting from year 15); and Musar Jeune — unoaked vibrant wines intended for immediate drinking. The Chateau Musar Red and White wines undergo lengthy bottle ageing in the estate cellars and are released only after a minimum of seven years.
Chateau Musar first achieved international recognition during the Bristol Wine Fair in England in 1979, where the wine press and prominent critics including Michael Broadbent declared it “the discovery of the fair”. In 1984, Decanter wine magazine named Serge Hochar their first ever “Man of the Year” for his extraordinary achievements, determination and dedication to producing outstanding wines during the difficult years of the Lebanese civil war.
Today, Chateau Musar wines are known worldwide for their finesse, elegance and extraordinary ability to age, and the estate still offers mesmerizing wines dating back to the 1950’s.
Speaking about the wines of Chateau Musar, the late Serge Hochar said “the harmony of nature is better than anything we could ever create. I believe it should be a priority to seek to drink what is ‘true’ rather than what is ‘good’ “. When speaking about quality in wine he added “I once produced a wine that was technically perfect but it lacked the charms of imperfection”.
With its captivating history and the incredible passion and dedication of the Hochar family, Chateau Musar has achieved a sort of cult-like status and is one of the most written-about and discussed wines in the world today.