Ghazir, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
The legacy of a pioneering icon
In 1930 a young and entrepreneurial Gaston Hochar founded Chateau Musar, pioneering organic viticulture and fine winemaking in Lebanon. A deep passion for his home country’s historical wine tradition and for Bordeaux and Rhone varieties were the foundations of what would become one of the world’s most iconic estates.
After spending time in France, where he grew fascinated with Bordeaux Chateaux and Rhone grape varieties, Gaston Hochar returned to Lebanon determined to start a project that would combine French winemaking skill with the long viticultural history of his home country. Chateau Musar was born of this passion and has been producing world-renowned wines since 1930. The story of Hochar’s family commitment is one of resilience and dedication – not many can claim to have weathered world and civil wars without halting production.
Chateau Musar’s red vineyards – where Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan are grown – are situated at the southern end of the Bekaa Valley, about 30 km south-east of Beirut. They lie near the villages of Aana and Kefraya, at an altitude of about 1000m, on gravelly soils over limestone. The complexity of the soil profile and the vineyards’ different exposures directly contribute to the character and complexity of the wines. The white varieties, the two indigenous Lebanese grapes Obaideh and Merwah, are grown at higher altitudes of up to 1500 metres, thus benefiting from cooler conditions and higher light exposure.
Many are puzzled about why Musar’s winery is a winding and rocky one-hour drive from the vineyards in the Bekaa valley. When Gaston Hochar started his winemaking adventure, the boundaries of Lebanon had not been set, and he wanted to ensure that his premises would be inside the newly demarcated country. He thus chose to install his winery in the family’s 18th century castle overlooking the Mediterranean at Ghazir, a Maronite Christian enclave about 20 km north of Beirut. During harvest, the grapes are hand-picked at dawn by Bedouins to preserve freshness, and driven across the mountains to the winery in Ghazir.
Certified organic since 2006, Chateau Musar were true pioneers of organic viticulture, having following sustainability principles since the estate’s inception. Their work in the vineyard, the nature of the Bekaa Valley landscape and the unique ageing & blending processes in the cellar, all contribute to the outstanding complexity and longevity of their wines.
Much coveted by sommeliers and collectors alike, Chateau Musar’s wines are made to be enjoyed at length giving them the same time in the glass that the Hochar’s give them in the winery. All of the estate’s wines are never released before being aged in barrel for three years and another four in bottle. As Serge Hochar, Gaston’s eldest son and Musar’s winemaker from 1959 to his death in 2014, would say:
“If you give my wines more time, they will give you more joy”.
Location: Ghazir, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Working with us since: 2020
Viticultural Standards: Certified Organic
Interesting fact: The Arabic name for Ghazir, where the Hochar family has its castle and Gaston built his winery, is ‘M’zar’. The word means ‘place of extraordinary beauty/shrine to be visited’ and Gaston adapted this name for his wine venture.