A gateway to Lebanese wine: Hochar Père et Fils 2015
There are random appearances of Château Musar’s “Grand Vin” at a wine and liquor shop in the Duty Free of Stansted Airport which seem to be dictated by the laws of chaos. The temptation has always been ripe to pick one up as the price is generally quite good, but I never have for two reasons. The first and most typical is that I’m running to catch a flight given that every expensive second of my time in London is squeezed to the maximum. But the second and probably more reasonable hesitation is that Musar’s main wine needs many years of aging and when I see something like a 2005 sitting there, upright on the shelf, I have to think, “Where has that been sitting for the last decade plus?”
This is why their Hochar Père et Fils red offers up a lovely alternative. While some may (erroneously) dismiss it as their “second wine”, it’s ready to drink much earlier and it’s everything that’s great about Musar but with less chance of it sitting in some clearinghouse, cooking away.
I realize that it’s possible people aren’t aware that wine is produced in Lebanon, but it is and now with a very keen eye to making expressive, elegant wines. Musar was started in 1930 by Gaston Hochar who’s son, Serge Hochar took over in 1959 and ran it until his death in 2014. Serge had a long and storied career running the winery, traveling the world and showing people what was possible in Lebanon.
This wine would have been the first produced without Serge and it was a difficult vintage viticulturally with a great deal of fruit loss. In many ways this has added an extra layer of intensity to the wine making it lovely to drink right now at four years old.
Don’t be scared by the bit of Cabernet Sauvignon in the wine, thinking this will be like some IGT oddball from the Languedoc. The Cab is just 15% and used for a touch of structure upon which the Cinsaut and Grenache wrap around like wild ivy on an oak tree. It’s most definitely a Mediterranean wine and goes a long way to show that these two grapes, Grenache and Cinsaut, would be much more at home in my native California than those planting with the insistence on cultivating moderate and cool-climate grapes in a hot climate.
Musar isn’t alone in the woods these days however as there are some 50 wineries producing quality wine in the region with the valley at the 800m in altitude they sit at. If curious as to what they’re doing, I highly recommend finding this wine in your local market and give it a try as it offers up a savory introduction to what’s great in Bekaa.
Château Musar - Hochar Père et Fils Red 2015
Red cherry, young plum, cured strawberry, tiny fleck of red bell pepper, good volatility, herbal rosemary notes, tea leaves, old wood, as well as a light streak of vanilla. Quite aromatically complex. Red fruit dominant on the palate, high acidity, touch sweet on the mid palate but with good length and controlled wildness.
50% Cinsaut, 35% Grenache, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon · 13.5% · 18EUR