Make wine not war; Lebanese vino

Posted 15 July 2015

This column was first published in Living magazine in The Herald on Sunday, Auckland, New Zealand, 12 July 2015.

If I hadn’t seen the bottle of Lebanese wine that Ralph Hochar poured into my glass, I’d have sworn we were drinking a very old, very good southern French red.
This third generation Lebanese wine bloke spent a week last month pouring wine for New Zealanders in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, perplexing many with the mere mention of Lebanese wine: the Lebanese make wine?
Well, yes. Very much so. In fact, they have been doing it for about 4000 years now. Like his winemaking family, Hochar knows that his country is better known today for war than for wine, so he is on a mission to change that perception. The family winery that he represents is Chateau Musar, founded in 1930 by Gaston Hochar, whose son, Serge, trained as a winemaker in Bordeaux, picking up a few rules and breaking them along the way; blending wines from unconventional ‘mixes’ of grapes; cinsault, carignan and cabernet sauvignon. The results are stunning; pre-aged wines which are now pale in colour, intensely earthy in flavour, rich with red fruity appeal. The 2008 Chateau Musar Hochar Red is about $45 and the even more impressive 2007 Chateau Musar Musar is $68 and seductively velvety. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have sworn they were old French reds.
The wines of Chateau Musar are available in very limited supply from Negociants NZ; www.negociantsnz.com

Journey into the divide… The makers of Main Divide wines spent six months of dedicated listening to make their third Main Divide CD, which features local musicians such as Mara TK. It was compiled as a thank you to cafes, bars and restaurants that stock their wines; music selections were by Ed Donaldson of Main Divide and production was by Loop recordings in Wellington. It is available now as a free download at www.loop.co.nz/releases/mdv003/