Wine Filter: Lebanon

Hochar Pere et Fils, Chateau Musar 2011

In 2011, roughly six million bottles of Lebanese wine were produced from 5000 acres (2000ha) of vineyards concentrated mostly in the Bekaa Valley. The majority of the wine they produce is red, made from the classic wine grapes of southern France. The majority of Lebanese wine is exported to the UK, France and the USA, where the receptive consumer bases have encouraged healthy growth in Lebanon’s modern wine industry. Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley is the home of modern Lebanese wine and has evolved into a major wine-making region, with many wineries scattered along its wide, fertile expanses. It has been famous, over the centuries, for being the agricultural heart of the Middle East.

The wines of Chateau Musar are unique expressions from a country with an ancient wine-making culture. Chateau Musar was the first producer in Lebanon to achieve organic certification for its vineyards. Most of Chateau Musar’s vineyards are located in the Bekaa Valley, cradled between two mountain ranges running parallel to Lebanon’s Mediterranean coastline.

French in origin, the Hochar (pronounced ‘Hoshar’) family arrived in Lebanon in the 12th century, “Preux Chevaliers”, and have remained there ever since. The Hochar family’s philosophy of respect for the environment means that the 180 hectares of Musar vineyards are managed with minimal human interference and all the wines are made as naturally as possible. Thought of as the second wine of the famed Musar estate, Hochar comes from a separate vineyard site and is a lighter, more easy-going style. Partially aged in oak vats for 6-9 months, the wine undergoes a further 2 years of cellaring prior to bottling.

This wine is very much old world in style, with restrained flavours and a dignified dryness. It has an intense burgundy colour with a complex nose of black fruits backed up by figs, dates and spices. This Pere et Fils wine is a great example of the terroir from Musar, and fantastic value for money for those wishing to sample Musar before moving on to their premium red flagship wines. It’s really not too heavy, so it’s a perfect standalone wine or can be enjoyed with most meat dishes. We certainly love it!

Ixsir Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah 2010

This is a clever way of enjoying the winemaking expertise of Hubert de Boüard without spending £350 on his Chateau Angelus. It has similar depth, a silky texture and rich concentration. And the high altitude vineyards of Lebanon create a wonderful terroir. This is firmly Roast Lamb terrirtory.

Ixsir Altitudes Cabernet Sauvignon-Caladoc 2010

The name gives it away, but even so, it’s surprising to think of this wine grown a thousand metres up in the mountains. Here, the Mediterranean warmth becomes ski-resort cool at night giving this wine real verve and bright spice. It’s like a Bordeaux with Chateauneuf-du-Pape’s warm and earthy charm. And delicious.

Château Musar Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

It’s not the unique Cabernet Sauvignon blend that makes this special, or even coming from the Bekaa Valley. It’s Musar’s unique smokey, pungent twist on the cassis and currants of Cabernet; the added cigar box and prune aromas. One of the world’s great wines, thriving in a sometime war zone.