Our partner winegrowers carry on their shoulders a sometimes thousand-year-old heritage that they must pass on through their wines. It's not an easy thing and the connection with our winegrowers, as consumers, is sometimes tenuous. To honor them and show the weight of history but also of the terroir on the heritage of an estate, here is the revealed story of Château Musar, which produces its wine in the heart of the cradle of agriculture, viniculture and of the trade for a wine that is subtle and complex at the same time .
An estate with a thousand-year-old heritage
Château Musar wines are the fruit of an ancient tradition, rooted in a country with a millennia-old wine culture. For more than 6,000 years, the vines of the Bekaa Valley, perched in the heights of Lebanon, have been carefully cultivated to produce one-of-a-kind wines.
From the 5th millennium BC, the Phoenicians traded both their wines and their vines throughout the Mediterranean. Aboard their sturdy cedar ships, they travel to Cádiz, and perhaps even beyond. They went so far as to invent the very first alphabet, in order to keep records of their commercial transactions.
The ancient city of Baalbek, in the northern part of the Bekaa Valley, takes its name from the Phoenician fertility god, Baal. Later, the Roman god Bacchus would be worshiped there, and the temples erected in his honor would be among the best preserved in the world. The region's wines are mentioned numerous times in the Bible, and the first recorded evidence of wine transactions comes from Byblos, a historic fishing port located north of Beirut, whose name means "book" in Greek.
The Hochar family, originally from France, arrived on the Lebanese coast centuries later, in the 12th century to be more precise, in order to cultivate their vineyard in the cradle of wine. She has remained there ever since.
In the land of milk and honey
Lebanon, bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, is located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and is similar in size to Wales. The Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges run parallel and enclose the Bekaa Valley between them.
The country's favorable geographical and climatic conditions have always promised an abundance of wealth. Located within the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture developed 10,000 years ago, this region is one of the first to see the rise of vine cultivation.
Situated 34° north of the equator, the central Bekaa Valley is further south than any part of Spain or Italy and therefore receives its fair share of sunshine during the summer months. summer. The Musar vineyards are blessed in two ways: they are located at relatively high altitudes (around 1,000 meters above sea level) and have limestone, gravelly and stony soils that encourage the production of high quality grapes .
Vineyards at this altitude benefit from cool nighttime temperatures and contrasting seasonality (it often snows on the vines in winter and summer can be very hot), resulting in longer ripening periods. The vines thrive in a pure alpine environment and therefore need almost no human intervention to flourish.
Ancestral respect for the vine
The red vineyards of Château Musar are located towards the southern end of the Bekaa Valley, north of Lake Qaroun and approximately 30 km southeast of Beirut. They are located near the villages of Aana and Kefraya on gravelly and limestone soils, ideally suited to viticulture. The wide variety of soil types and aspects results in wines with distinctive character and blends of astonishing complexity.
The grape varieties used to make Château Musar Rouge are Cabernet Sauvignon and the southern Rhône Valley varieties Cinsault and Carignan, from established and mature vines, producing a maximum of 30 to 35 hectoliters per hectare.
The ancient indigenous white grape varieties of Obaideh and Merwah, which prefer slightly cooler conditions than the reds, are grown in vineyards at even higher altitudes on the mountain slopes, around 1,500 meters above from sea level.
All Musar wines are produced naturally, following a "non-interventionist" winemaking philosophy and the estate was the first in Lebanon to implement certified organic viticulture in 2006 for its Château Musar Rouge and Blanc grapes.
“As a winegrower, we have the blessing of working with a living being and it is unthinkable to sacrifice it”
Beyond the mountains
Many people wonder why the Château Musar winery is an hour's drive from the Bekaa Valley vineyards. When Gaston Hochar began producing wine in 1930, Lebanon's borders were undefined and he wanted to ensure that his facilities would be within the newly demarcated country. Thus, he chose to set up his cellar in the family castle dating from the 18th century, located overlooking the Mediterranean in Ghazir, a Maronite Christian enclave about 20 km north of Beirut. Its name in Arabic is M'zar , which means "place of extraordinary beauty" or "sanctuary to visit". This is where the name of the domain comes from.
As the business grew, new cellars were built into the nearby mountainside, providing perfect conditions for long-term storage of wine. The cellars are so secure that they were used as air raid shelters by the residents of Ghazir during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990).
At harvest time, the grapes are picked by hand by Bedouins in the cool of the morning to preserve their prime, then transported in large trucks to the Ghazir winery via the mountains.
Seven years of work
The grapes destined for Château Musar red are fermented separately in cement vats, racked around six months after harvest, then aged for twelve months in French oak barrels from Nevers - only a small part of which is renewed each year. The resulting Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan wines are blended to reflect the individual strengths and characteristics of the vintage and bottled unfiltered at the end of the third year following harvest. The blending process is an intrinsic part of the art of winemaking at Château Musar. Wines from different vineyards are constantly tasted to understand their personality and characteristics: it is winemaking by instinct. The final blend is aged for three to four more years in bottle before being released to market in its seventh year.
Château Musar Blanc is also fermented in Nevers oak barrels for 6 to 9 months, bottled and blended after its first year, then stored in the Musar cellars for a further six years before being released. The white, which has been compared to a “mature white Graves”, will keep, like the red, for many years.
“If you give my wines more time, they will give you more joy.”
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