Legendary Lebanese Winemaker Serge Hochar

by Jeff Harding
Shannon Sturgis Jeff Harding
March 2012

Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar
Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar

Most people don’t think of Lebanon, when contemplating the history of wine. But the melting pot of Lebanon has been at the root of winemaking in the Western world, and Chateau Musar has been making world-class wines since its inception in 1930. After World War I, Lebanon was controlled by France until 1943, and that Franco influence is still evident. Many Lebanese speak both Arabic and French, and wine cultivation is closely linked to French viticulture. Part of the legend of Chateau Musar is its ability to produce wine despite tension in the Middle East; production has been missed in only two vintages, 1976 and 1984. The other half of its legendary status is due to the constant research, innovation, and quality production of cult-status wines by Serge Hochar.   

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the jolly philosopher-winemaker of Chateau Musar in Lebanon, at the Ace Hotel. We discussed his school of thought on winemaking (inconsistency is good!), the unique blend of grapes he uses, communicating with wine, and why he refused to answer the questions I asked. On the subject of his positive outlook, he explained his secret: be happy, positive, and funny. To keep up the spirits, he suggested thinking of his wine Hochar Père et Fils, whose initials are the same as happy, positive, and funny.