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Chateau Musar

The Hochar family originated from France. They were knights coming over to the Middle East in the 12th century, and never returned to their homeland. Château Musar is located in Ghazir, 20 kilometres north of Beirut, capital of the Lebanon, in an 18th century castle whose name in Arabic -“M'zar” - means “place of extraordinary beauty”. Gaston adapted this name for his wine enterprise, founding Château Musar in 1930 at the age of just 20, having been inspired by his travels to Bordeaux. Gaston’s eldest son Serge completed his winemaking studies at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux in the late 1950’s, and took over as the winemaker at Musar in 1959. The Musar style is therefore very French Top of Form, and has a strong Bordeaux influence. This was strengthened too by Gaston’s friendship with Major Ronald Barton of Château Langoa-Barton, who was stationed in the Lebanon during World War 2, and the two men became firm friends. The Lebanese Civil war lasted 15 years, from 1975 to 1990 and during this time, despite tensions, wine was made every year with the exception the 1976 vintage, because the shelling was just too intense. The 1984 vintage was made, but none ever released as the grapes were unable to go by road to the winery because of the conflict, so had to travel by sea and began fermenting on route. Château Musar have 220 hectares under vine in the high altitude Bekaa Valley, planted at around 1,000 metres above sea level with a range of both red and white grape varieties on gravelly soils over limestone. Their vineyards are organically certified. In 2006 they were actually the first producer in the Lebanon to achieve organic certification. All their grapes are hand-picked by local Bedouins at harvest time and for fermentation they use ambient or wild yeasts. Their top of the range flagship wine is seven years in the making. It is not blended until it has aged for three years in French oak barrels, and then benefits from a further four years maturation in bottle before release. Known as “The Lafite of the Lebanon”, these are multi-layered complex wines, each vintage unique; there is nothing quite like them and they have a cult following. They have a second wine, Hochar Père et Fils, and an intriguing Musar white, made from the ancient Obeideh and Merwah grape varieties. There is also a range of fruity and vibrant wines, intended to be drunk young, featuring a white, rosé and red called Musar Jeune. The business continues to be family owned, run today by Serge's sons Gaston and Marc, and his nephew Ralph, all continuing the legend that is Château Musar.