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Portrait - Gaston Hochar - Chateau Musar

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1. Tesi: Dear Gaston, you are member of the Hochar family who runs Chateau Musar in the north of Beirut. Can you tell me more about your daily business, the challenges to run the chateau and your wine?

Gaston: Chateau Musar is a company started in 1930 by Gaston Hochar, my grandfather. My father Serge joined in 1959 and my uncle Ronald in 1962. The company was prospering and sold all of its wines on the local market until 1975 when the war broke out. The company turned to export and showed its wines for the first time at the Bristol wine fair in 1979, where it was named 'the find of the fair' by some journalists. Exports developed and in 1984, Decanter magazine named Serge Hochar as its first 'Man of the Year'. In 1990, we exported 95% of our production. Peace came back to Lebanon and we sell today 80% export and 20% on the local market. I was the first of the 3rd generation to join the company, followed by my cousin Ralph at the beginning of the 2000's and my brother Marc at the end of the 2000's.
Our business is producing wines and arack with a certain philosophy : let the wines be true to their origin and to Nature with the least intervention possible. You have to be inventive, close to Nature and understand it, develop the busisness in an unstable environment which makes it quite challenging, where every step forward is well thought of and studied to take into consideration all the consequences and the impacts it may have with every development the country might face, positive or negative.

2. Tesi: A full bodied wine from the Lebanon. What are the conditions and how would you describe the soil that makes this wine?

Gaston: The Lebanese climate is perfect to grow grapes. It is probably the reason why the Romans, more than 2000 years ago, built the biggest temple dedicated to Bacchus, the God of Wine, in Baalbeck in the Bekaa valley. The Bekaa is protected by two mountain chains and this makes it a very good area to grow grapes. The terroir in gravely with a limestone base. Water is available due to the snow melting from the mountains so no irrigation is needed. There is plenty of sunshine and grapes are picked at perfect and full maturity without fear of rain.

3. Tesi: Thinking back there must be one moment in your history where you enjoyed an outstanding wine for the first time. Do you still remember this special moment and which wine did you enjoy?

Gaston: Chateau Musar is now famous for its red wines which have an outstanding ability to age. The first time I was impressed was probably when I tasted an older Chateau Musar white from the 1950's. Yes, our whites, produced from local varieties have also this ability, and this wine was impressive in its taste, character, length, ...

4. Tesi: Lebanon is....

Gaston: a crazy country full of contradictions.

5. Tesi: What was the best year for Chateau Musar and what made this year special?

Gaston: I do not think a best year really exists. Each vintage has peculiar characteristics and is enjoyed with its unique aroma and taste, its different complexity.

6. Tesi: What does good food and wine means to you?

Gaston: Good food and wine means discovering interesting flavours, elegance and finesse. The perfect matching of those 2 elements, food and wine, enhances the experience with a bigger intensity and complexity.

Thank you
Matthias Tesi Baur

Biography Gaston Hochar:

Born in Beirut in 1966 – studied in Beirut until 1983, passed the French Baccalaureat in Paris in 1984 – Graduated from Ecole Centrale de Lille in 1989 with a Masters degree in Engineering and a DEA in Finance from Lille University – Worked 5 years from 1990 to 1994 at Banque Paribas in Paris in the Computer department – Returned to Beirut end of 1994 to join the family company Chateau Musar.

Web: www.chateaumusar.com 

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