Meet Lebanon’s most famous winery

The 2007 Chateau Musar costs about $68 and is available in very limited supplies from Negotiants New Zealand… It is pale ruby in colour but the intense flavours of spice, red fruit and a seductive earthiness all make up for that.

If I didn’t know better… five words I almost had to eat this week when Ralph Hochar poured the unconventional wines from Lebanon’s most famous winery; Chateau Musar, which he has spent the past week tasting with New Zealanders in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Ralph is one of the third generation of Hochars to run their family winery and I invited him to visit a wine class I was teaching at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine for Celia Hay (school founder) where a handful of students and I were privileged to taste the current release of the winery’s top red wine, ‘Musar’ – from Chateau Musar in Lebanon; one of the world’s oldest wine producing countries, despite its under the radar wine profile.
The winery was founded in 1930 by Gaston Hochar in Ghazir, Lebanon, and today it is run by third generation members of the Hochar family, but its reputation for top reds was forged by the late Serge Hochar. A winemaker trained in Bordeaux, Serge learnt about wine from Jean Gayon Riberau and Emile Peynaud; two highly respected (to make an understatement) wine men, whose influence has far reaching effects into many unexpected corners of the wine world. The great ‘Super Tuscans’ (blends of French grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with classic Italian Sangiovese) came about as a result of Emile Peynaud’s influence on a young Italian winemaker; Giacomo Tachis, who brought Italy back onto the world’s wine stage, post World War II. Far from being a digression, this point illustrates how great the influence of Peynaud has impacted on the wine world.
The impact that Peynaud (inadvertently perhaps) had on Lebanese impact is somewhat less known, but the Hochar family members are working to change that. And the quality of their wines support the prices. If anything, these outstanding reds are under-priced in a world that is so deeply divided by bargain bin, low priced bottles and the high priced wines on the market today.
As I say, if I didn’t know better, I’d have thought that the 2007 Chateau Musar red was from Piemonte; Italy’s great north west and home to some of the world’s most silky, elegant wines.