A tale of family and tradition

Passing on Chateau Musar’s wine-making history through the generations

Greg Demarque | Executive

Chateau Musar celebrated its 85th anniversary in October 2015 in style with a grand party. Despite the festivities, however, the winery has suffered a solemn year, with the death of winemaker and co-owner Serge Hochar, one of the sons of Chateau Musar’s founder Gaston Hochar, on the last day of 2014.

Ronald Hochar, Serge’s brother and co-owner of Chateau Musar who is in charge of the winery’s marketing, reveals the main reasons he decided to throw a lavish celebration at the Palais du Msar, their wine estate in Ghazir, Mount Lebanon.

First, he wanted to celebrate the fact that the winery has been in the same family for 85 years with no dispute or division. “They say brothers usually meet for Christmas, Easter and court, so I wanted to celebrate a company staying in the same family and so agreeably for so long with the third generation still working in it,” says Hochar, proudly outlining that Serge’s son Gaston has been training as a winemaker for 20 years and is now Chateau Musar’s winemaker, while his son and nephew are in London and Paris, respectively, in charge of operations there.

Continuing the legacy

The second cause for celebration was closely related to the first, according to Hochar: the idea of continuity. “I am reassuring everyone that I am here to ensure the continuity of Chateau Musar through preparing the third generation to take over despite the pain I am feeling,” he says.

Eighty-five years of winemaking has allowed Chateau Musar to reach several milestones, the most significant of which was arguably its decision to establish a logistics and distribution company, which Hochar calls “the operations hub”, in England in 1979, which has since led to Chateau Musar having 80 percent of its distribution and business abroad.

This move came after a rapidly growing interest in Musar, following its “discovery” at the Bristol Wine Fair in 1978 by international clients who wanted to try the “high quality wine produced under the terrible conditions of a civil war,” Hochar recounts, recalling how surprised people were at the fact that wine could be produced under such conditions.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, especially since we were one of the key wineries locally, but had we stayed here we would have had to adapt to the chaotic situation, sacrificing the reputation of the wine, and we weren’t prepared to do that. It’s true, however, that we lost our local market share to the other wineries,” recalls Hochar, explaining that they chose to establish a company, with his son in charge, rather than go with an international distributor because it’s a more personal approach than simply selling wines.

Aside from ensuring the transmission of Chateau Musar’s philosophy of excellence in winemaking to his nephews and son, Hochar says that investing in owning more vineyards for the Chateau’s wine is foremost among his future priorities. Currently, Chateau Musar uses its own grapes in production but also buys grapes grown by farmers under controlled conditions. “When you control the fruit itself and know what goes in the soil then it’s different and you can secure the quality and autonomy of your wine,” explains Hochar.

Nabila Rahhal

Nabila is Executive's hospitality, tourism and retail editor. She also covers other topics she's interested in such as education and mental health. Prior to joining Executive, she worked as a teacher for eight years in Beirut. Nabila holds a Masters in Educational Psychology from the American University of Beirut.