Secondary links

Five Minutes with…Serge Hochar

Serge Hochar is one of the wine world’s great, true legends. For over 50 years he has tirelessly built Château Musar from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley into one of the world's iconic wine labels. While most vintners only cope with stubborn vines, Hochar has had to survive both civil war and invasion, dodging shells and roadside execution squads in his quest to fulfil his passion for wine-making. Over a bottle of his delicious cheer at the Wine Way, he waxes poetically about his very singular career.

Where does your passion for wine-making come from?

Wine has given meaning to my life. When I first started making wine in 1959, on the first day of the harvest I came to see the grapes being cut from the vine. When I returned two days later I could see bubbles forming in the juice. I discovered that it was the role of the yeast to give life to the wine. This is what made me understand that wine was a living thing. For most wine in the world today, it has unfortunately become a technological process. With my wine I have a living relationship.

Your vintages are both adored and criticised for being notoriously inconsistent. Does this reflect on your wine-making philosophy?

From the consequence that wine must live, my duty is to make wine that will last as long as possible. Life is not given to wine by me, but by the yeast. My only consideration is to prolong this life. Geography and nature shapes my wine-making philosophy. I let nature take its course. No more, no less.

What is it that makes Château Musar so unique?

Since I started making wine my goal has been the same. The fact I am in a part of the world that, in antiquity, was the cradle of civilisation, the cradle of wine making – and that we had lost that – for me was very good motivation to show what was done 6,000 years ago could be done today in the same way. This is something uncommon anywhere else in the world. Also, up until 1975 we did not need to sell outside of Lebanon. When the civil war started the market dried up overnight. In 1979, we showed our wine at the Bristol Wine Fair in the UK and it was named the ‘Find of the Fair’. Suddenly we found another country which wanted our wine. I was also very lucky to be named Decanter’s Man of the Year in 1984. For the magazine to find someone who was an engineer by trade, not an oenologist, who was able to produce such a wine from Lebanon in the middle of a war, was an eye opener.

At any point during the civil war, the Israeli invasion or even after the winery received direct shell fire, did you ever contemplate giving up?

Give up? No, never. But I did consider starting somewhere else. I went to France and I was going to buy property in Burgundy, then later I had a proposal to buy a ranch in California. The day I was going to close the deal, something minor came up, but I took it as a message from God. I am a believer in fate. I thought, ‘Why should I go and give my knowledge, my know-how, to a country which is not mine?' It is better to die for my country in my country, so I decided to stay.

What attracts you to the Chinese market?

It’s a policy in my life to go to markets that require me. Five years ago I had a friend who introduced me to Summergate. I met them in London a few years ago and they began to ship our wines to China – the country of tomorrow. I am a priest of wine and will go anywhere I can bring my knowledge of wine. I am here to share my message.



Recent comments

Talk Partners

Talk Insider - Register now and win!

Upcoming Events