Close Menu

Lebanon loses winemaking legend

Serge Hochar, winemaker at Château Musar and a pioneering force for Lebanon’s wine industry, has died in a swimming accident on holiday in Mexico aged 75.

After studying under the famous oenologist Emile Peynaud in Bordeaux, Serge took over his father’s winery in 1959 and spent the next 18 years developing the highly distinctive, often divisive but certainly long-lived Musar wine style.

When Lebanon descended into Civil War between 1975 and 1990, Serge famously continued transporting his grapes through army checkpoints on the long drive from Musar’s vineyards in the Bekaa Valley to the family winery just north of Beirut.

As the ongoing conflict saw his domestic market dry up, Serge looked further afield. His big break came in 1979 at the UK’s Bristol Wine Fair, when wine writer Michael Broadbent declared Musar 1967 red his “find of the fair”. By the end of the war, the vast majority of Musar’s production was being exported across the UK, Europe and US.

Today Serge’s son Gaston Hochar looks after the day to day running of the family business, while his nephew Ralph Hochar is based at the company’s UK office.

Paying tribute to Serge, Bartholomew Broadbent, son of Michael and long-term US agent for Musar, said: “Words cannot express my sadness at the passing of Serge Hochar yesterday. He was like my second father. He was the greatest and most interesting person I have ever met. His wine, Chateau Musar, has always been my favorite wine, since I first tasted it in 1979. Serge was a mentor, the greatest philosopher, a warm, sincere, loving and caring gentleman. My heart goes out to his family. Rest in peace my dear friend. Your spirit will live on in all of us forever.”

Beyond his role at Musar and in promoting the wider Lebanese wine industry, Serge was a loyal supporter of Catholic humanitarian aid organisation the Order of Malta. His words also inspired a poetic tribute to Chateau Musar by China-based wine consultant Edward Ragg, which you can read here.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No