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Monthly Archives: October 2017

  • A History of Lebanese Wines

    Lebanese wines have been produced in the Bekaa Valley for 6,000 years and Lebanon has evolved into a significant wine-making region in modern days! Despite ongoing conflicts in the region, Lebanon produces of about 600,000 cases of wine annually.

    Wines of ancient and modern times

    Evidence from Rome shows that 2,000 years before Alexander the Great, the Phoenicians, the ancestors of the Lebanese, cultivated and domesticated the vine and produced wine. Wines from Lebanon were exported to Egypt around 2,500 BC and also introduced to Greece and Italy.

    From intact cargoes of wine discovered on sunken Phoenician ships, the wines appears to have been protected from oxidation by a layer of olive oil, followed by a seal of pinewood and resin.Wine played an important part in many of the religions of the day, including the Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Jewish and Christian religions.

    The Christian Bible makes mention of wines from the region, and Cana, where Christ attended a wedding and turned water into wine, is near the southern Lebanese port of Tyre. Baalbek was originally devoted to the Phoenician fertility god Baal but is also home to the remains of a temple dedicated to the Roman god of wine, Bacchus.

    A photo of the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek in Lebanon

    Lebanese wine production declined in modern times after Lebanon became part of the Caliphate, however due to community laws it was allowed among Christians for religious reasons. The Christians also developed an aniseed flavoured spirit reminiscent of Ouzo, called Arack.

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  • Haute Cabriere Launches New Summer Menus

    Haute Cabriere, an iconic Franschhoek wine farm and a favourite stop on many of our clients' visits to South Africa, has released their 2017 summer menus. To complement the new menus and the beautiful setting of their location, Haute Cabriere will be extending their Tasting Room and Restaurant opening hours from 1 November.

    “With summer approaching it only makes sense to make this beautiful setting available for longer, and extend our food and wine offering,” comments Marketing Manager Lientjie McLachlan.

    New tasting room tapas and oyster menu for summer

    The Tasting Room will extend its hours 1 November 2017, and will be open from Mondays to Saturdays and Public Holidays from 10am to 6pm and Sundays from 11am to 4pm.

    A tapas-style, small plates menu has been introduced at the Tasting Room as a perfect accompaniment to the range of Haute Cabriere wines and Méthode Cap Classiques. 

    Various plates of tapas style food from Haute Cabriere's Tasting Room summer menus with Haute Cabriere's Pierre Jourdan Brut and other wines

    The small plates menu will be served on the terrace from 11am to 6pm Monday to Saturday during the South African summer season to allow guests to linger a little longer while taking in views of the valley.

    Restaurant dining now open seven days a week

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  • Chateau Musar: Wines with History Part 2

    Our post last week focussed on Chateau Musar's signature wines, Chateau Musar Red, White and Rosé. This week, we will learn more about their other ranges: Hochar Père et Fils Red and Musar Jeune Red, White and Rosé.

    Hochar Père et Fils Red

    Hochar Père et Fils Red is made over four years from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Grenache harvested from a single vineyard. Like Chateau Musar Red, the blend reflects the character of the specific vintage. With rich red berry flavours and dark fruits, Hochar Père et Fils Red is very much an old world style wine with restrained flavours and a dignified dryness.

    Hochar Père et Fils Reds are not fined or filtered. The wines are suitable for vegans as they have not come into contact with any animal proteins, often used in the fining process. Their rich texture means they are likely to produce deposits in bottle which requires that the wine be decanted, at least one hour before drinking.

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  • Chateau Musar: Wines with History Part 1

    In a previous post, we followed Chateau Musar's history and took a look at their vineyards and winery. In this post, we take a look at the range of wines created originally in 1930, the Chateau Musar Red, White and Rosé.

    Chateau Musar - the top of the range

    Chateau Musar Red

    Chateau Musar Red 2009

    Released seven years after harvest, Chateau Musar Reds are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan. They are always aromatic with persistent fruit flavours, presenting plums, damsons, cranberries, cherries, figs and dates. Each vintage will differ depending on the qualities of the dominant varietal, but will remain unmistakably Chateau Musar.

    As the wines age over decades, they acquire tawny hues and mellow notes. The cellars still hold bottles from the 1950s.

    Chateau Musar Reds are neither fined nor filtered and are richly-textured. In vintages over a decade old, they are likely to ‘throw a crust’, or develop sediment and will require careful decanting.

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  • Chateau Musar: A Family Firm

    A true family business

    The story of Chateau Musar begins in 1930 when 20-year-old Gaston Hochar founded this Lebanese winery. His inspiration was the 6,000 years of winemaking tradition in Lebanon, enhanced by his travels in Bordeaux. Strong links with Bordeaux remain to this day through Gaston's relationship with French senior officers stationed in Lebanon during World War II.

    Gaston had two sons, Serge and Ronald.

    After studying civil engineering, Serge Hochar, Gaston’s eldest son decided to study oenology and he became a student of Emile Peynaud at the University of Oenology in Bordeaux.

    Gaston stepped aside in 1959 and Serge took the reigns as winemaker at Chateau Musar. Serge was chosen as Decanter Magazine’s first ‘Man of the Year’ in 1984. His dedication to producing exceptional quality wines during Lebanon’s Civil War gained him this accolade. In 2010, Serge received the “lifetime achievement award” from German magazine Der FeinSchmeker.

    Serge has two sons, Gaston and Marc. Gaston now manages the day-to-day running of the winery and Marc looks after the winery's commercial details.

    Unlike many other Lebanese wineries that closed due to the war, Chateau Musar continued to operate, often driving lorry loads of grapes through complex detours over the mountains to avoid battles. In only two years, 1976 and 1984 was Chateau Musar unable to produce any wine. This persistent continuity of operation was thanks to Gaston's son, Ronald.

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