16 Jan The Legend: Serge Hochar and Chateau Musar
I am sure that when you think of historical wine regions, Champagne, Burgundy, the Rheingau and Oporto are among the ones that come to mind. But, with over 7000 years of wine making history, the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon belongs in that list.
From the Bekka Valley comes the infamous Chateau Musar, established in 1930 by Gaston Hochar and run by his son Serge Hochar since 1959. Despite the war in Lebanon, Chateau Musar has withstood the test of time. For over 80 years, Chateau Musar has been producing extraordinary wines every single vintage except for two, 1976 and 1984.
“Wine means happiness and I like to joke” are two of the first things Serge Hochar, 72 years young, explained when he visited Los Angeles a few months ago to host seminars and tastings. Serge is a charming man whose passion for his wines will transform you as he describes Chateau Musar. We were transfixed by everything he said, and rightfully so. Serge is a man full of wisdom, humor and passion and listening to him describe wine was mesmerizing.
“Wine is a companion that will never betray you, ” Serge Hochar explained. He continued to say that he believed that his companion (the wines) needed to be aged at least 15 years before drinking (it is released into the market after 7 years) in order to reach its full potential. “Wine taught me how to age in harmony with the environment and with my body. I used to say that I would taste my wines when they aged but now I don’t have that luxury as my wines will age 100 years, but I won’t.” On this occasion, we had the privilege to taste Chateau Musar wines dating back to 1975 and saw first hand how beautifully his wines have aged.
“Great wine is made on circumstance and Chateau Musar is a soulful wine,” explained Serge. Chateau Musar are extraordinary wines and they are alive. He suggested that by pouring it into your glass and letting it sit for a few hours, it will continue to come alive.
Chateau Musar Rouge is a blend which may include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache and Mourvedre. The wine is fermented in concrete, spends one year in vat, followed by a year in French oak, and then returns to vat for several years.
Chateau Musar Rouge 2004 – Despite being the youngest wine tasted, the wine is leathery, musky and spicy.
Chateau Musar Rouge 2003 – Although not intensely dark, the nose shows sweet fruit and cloves, with a dried and spicy character.
Chateau Musar Rouge 1991 – Vegetal and mineral notes, the 1991 was brighter and more focused.
Chateau Musar Rouge 1990 – Mineral and iron notes and a long finish, 1990 was more evolved than the younger vintages.
Chateau Musar Rouge 1983 – This 30 year old wine had notes of sweet fruit and spice, as well as notes of tea that burned off a bit over time.
Chateau Musar Rouge 1975 – Brick red color, this almost 40 year old wine had a savory, almost medicinal nose.
Chateau Musar Blanc is made from native varieties which include Merwah and Obaideh. Unlike the red varietals that have been grafted on American rootstock, the white grapes are not grafted and are on 50-180 year old vines. Picked in October, after the red varietals are picked, these white wines have the ability to age. With a slightly oxidized style, Chateau Musar white wines are unique.
Chateau Musar Blanc 2005 – A golden color with a nutty, toasted coconut and honeyed nose, the wine has great acidity.
Chateau Musar Blanc 1998 – Completely different from the 2005, the 1989 has notes of stonefruit and the taste of apricot on the finish.
Chateau Musar Blanc 1989 – The lightest in color, the wine had a nose of lemon meringue.
Chateau Musar Blanc 1975 – Golden amber color, the wine had a caramelized nose and a sherry finish.