Chateau Musar


      For 6,000 years, vines have been grown in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Chateau Musar's history is more recent, but their wines seem to be from another time - old-school, long-lived, made slowly and naturally. Using a combination of superb fruit from high altitude, organically-farmed old vines, minimal intervention in the winery and extended ageing for even the humblest cuvées, the Hochar family have over four or five generations established Chateau Musar as a legend of the eastern Mediterranean, and a source of world-class wines with a unique Lebanese signature.

      When you are a winemaker you have the luck to work with something that is alive. You should never kill it. Serge Hochar

      Chateau Musar began in 1930, when a 20 year old Gaston Hochar, inspired by the ancient history of winemaking in Lebanon and his travels in Bordeaux, set it up in his family's 18th century castle in Ghazir, overlooking the Mediterranean. Over the subsequent decades the Hochar family, in particular Gaston's son Serge, defined Musar's distinctive style and made its worldwide reputation as truly great Mediterranean wine. Even during the long civil war (1975-1990) when the vineyards were frequently in the firing line and the mountainside cellars used as air raid shelters, Musar survived heroically, missing only two vintages. Today the latest generation of the Hochar family make the wines the same way, with the same spirit and the same skill.

      The Bekaa Valley sits between the mountain ranges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon and sees both extremes of the weather, with snow in winter and baking hot summers. At the southern end of the valley, near the villages of Aana and Kefraya and 30km south-east of Beirut, are Musar's vineyards. The red varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan) are at around 1,000m above sea level, and the whites (Obaideh and Merwah - ancient native vines) at around 1,500m. The vines are long-established, yielding around 30-35 hectolitres per hectare, and have been always been farmed organically (being certified as such in 2006). They are all hand-harvested in the early morning by local Bedouins.

      Just as the vineyards have been organic since long before certification existed, the winemaking at Chateau Musar was 'natural' long before that became a buzzword. Fermentation uses ambient yeasts, very little sulphur is added, and the wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. The keys are minimal intervention, and time. The winemaking and subsequent maturation is long and slow. The top red is first released after about seven years, and 'current releases' can be up to twenty years old. Musar also keep and release very old wines, going back to the 1950s. Even the lowest priced wines are capable of ageing well beyond expectations.

      Chateau Musar Red label
      Producer Chateau Musar
      Country Lebanon
      Region Bekaa Valley
      Key appellations N/A
      Founded 1930
      Vineyard area 180 hectares
      Annual Production 700,000 bottles
      Farming Organic
      Wine Style Notes
      Musar Jeune White White Made from young Viognier, Vermentino, Chardonnay vines and designed to be drunk on release.
      Chateau Musar White White A blend of ancient Lebanese varieties Obaideh and Merwah this wine is released after six years and can be cellared as long as the red.
      Musar Jeune Rosé Rosé Mostly Mourvèdre with some Cinsault, like the rest of the Jeune range this is from young vines and designed to be ready to drink immediately.
      Chateau Musar Rosé Rosé Made only in years where the harvest suits the style, Musar's rosé is a blend of Obaideh and Merwah with some Cinsault for colour. Aged three years before relase.
      Musar Jeune Red Red Made from Musar's youngest vines (but some are nearly twenty years old) and designed for early drinking.
      Hochar Père et Fils Red Red Not the second wine but a red from a single vineyards of old vines. Cinsault with some Grenache and some Cabernet Sauvignon, it is excellent value.
      Chateau Musar Red Red The classic red from Chateau Musar is a variable blend of Cabernet, Carignan and Cinsault from old vines. It goes through a seven year ageing process before first release, and can be kept for decades.