For approximately 6000 years, Lebanon has cultivated grapes to be used for wine making and exports of wine date back to the Phoenicians 4,500 years ago. The grapes used for the wines of Chateau Musar are grown in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Roman temple of Bacchus in Baalbek.
The Hochar family who own and run Chateau Musar also has a long history in the region, arriving in the 12th century from France. Gaston Hochar established the winery in the 1930s, when the borders of Lebanon had not been fully determined. He selected an 18th century castle overlooking the Mediterranean at Ghazir, an hour away from the vineyards but guaranteed to be within Lebanon. Its name in Arabic was M’zar, pronounced Musar by the French Legionaries who enjoyed the wine produced there.
The vineyards in Bekaa benefit from the 1000 m altitude, modifying the hot Mediterranean climate and allowing the cultivation of high quality grapes with the necessary levels of acidity and sugar to produce great wine. There are 300 days of sunshine each year, allowing the grapes to ripen reliably. At harvest time, they are hand-picked in the cool early morning and immediately transported over the mountains to the winery for pressing and fermentation.
Musar makes a range of white, rose and red wines to suit every palate and to pair with Lebanese cuisine. The vineyards were certified organic in 2006, the first Lebanese producer to adopt this philosophy. The red wines are neither fined nor filtered, meaning they are suitable for vegans. The wines available are Musar Jeune, Hochar Père et Fils and Chateau Musar. Musar Jeune was first produced in 2007 to provide youthful, fruity wines suitable for early drinking.
Musar Jeune White is an unoaked blend of Viognier, Vermentino and Chardonnay from vines around 20 years old, released one year after the harvest. Flavours of passion fruit, apples and elderflower, dry and refreshing. Best served chilled (around 12°) and pairs well with grilled fish, chicken, seafood and spicy dishes
Musar Jeune Rosé. A light, dry Rosé, with flavours of raspberry, almond and red appleskin. Best enjoyed with food including salmon, shellfish, roast pork or tomato based pasta dishes. Made by the ‘saignée method’ (‘bleeding’ some colour from the grapes by limited exposure of the juice to the skins) from ‘Rhône’ grapes Cinsault (85%) and Mourvedre (15%) planted in 2000 in the Bekaa Valley. Released unoaked one year after harvest.
Musar Jeune Red is an unoaked blend of Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from vines planted in 2000 in the Bekaa Valley. Meant for drinking within a few years of harvest it has flavours of blackcurrent, raspberry and cherry jam with a warm spicy finish. Bottled one year after harvest and released after one year in the bottle. Pairs well with grills, roasts, casseroles, delicatessen meats and mature cheeses. Suitable for vegans.
Hochar Père et Fils
Four years in the making, this red wine is a blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon from a single vineyard in the Bekaa Valley near Aana. The mature vines (over 30 years old) give a relatively low yield of excellent quality grapes. The three varietals are fermented separately and then aged for six to nine months in French oak barrels before blending and bottling. After a further three years in bottle the wines are released – four years after harvest. As the wines are neither filtered nor fined (vegan friendly), they will throw sediment in the bottle and decanting is recommended, if possible one hour before serving at a temperature of 16-18°C. This wine pairs well with casseroles, roasted meats, tuna steaks and Mediterranean dishes
Chateau Musar White. Seven years in the making, Chateau Musar White is a blend of two ancient grape varieties, Obaideh and Merwah, indigenous to the mountains of Lebanon. The vineyards are in the foothills of Mount Lebanon and yields are low. The wine is fermented in French oak barriques for nine months, blended and bottled at the end of the first year and released seven years after harvest. These wines show at their best after several hours ‘breathing time’ in a decanter, served cellar cool (around 15°C). In relative youth the wine is yellow-gold with subtle oak influence; dry, intensely citrusy with honeyed nuances. The wine develops tawny hues and mellow spicy characters with age. Bottles from the 1950s are still drinkable.
Chateau Musar Rosé. A softly oaked ‘still’ tribute to the blended rosés of Champagne. Not produced every year as specific qualities are needed in the grapes selected. Salmon pink in youth with aromas of peaches, pears, oranges, grapefruit, almonds, wild herbs and citrus leaves. They develop mellow, spicy notes and tawny hues with age. The main components are the indigenous grapes Merwah and Obaideh. The wine is blended with around 5% of Cinsault to give the subtle colour. Fermented and aged for six to nine months in French oak, the wines are bottled one year after harvest and released for sale two years later. Best decanted for several hours before serving at cellar cool temperature (around 15°C). These wines pair well with canapés, olives, nuts, seafood and Provencal dishes.
Chateau Musar Red. Seven years in the making, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Cinsault from low yielding, old vines (average age 40 years) in the Bekaa Valley near Aana and Kefraya. The varietals are fermented separately and transferred to French oak barrels six months after the harvest for one year. The wines are blended and returned to storage for a further year before bottling. The bottles are then cellared before being released for sale seven years after the harvest. In their youth the wines are dense and richly textured, with intense baked fruit characters; plums, damsons, cranberries, cherries, figs and dates. Over the decades, the wines acquire tawny hues and mellow notes. Bottled unfined and unfiltered they ‘throw a crust’. They are best served decanted and allowed to breathe for several hours before serving at a temperature of around 18°C. These wines pair well with roasts, grills (particularly lamb), casseroles, game and mature cheeses.