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Lebanon – And The Wine World – Loses Winemaking Legend

on 02/01/15 at 10:02 am

Booze News

imagesOn the last day of December, 2014, the wine world lost a legend, twenty years too soon.

Serge Hochar, the second generation owner and winemaker of Lebanon’s Chateau Musar Winery died at the age of 74 while on holiday in Mexico, according to news reports that are beginning to emerge. No official statements have been released, but according to Jancis Robinson, who received a phone cal from his friend and commercial representative Michael Broadbent, Hochar died in a swimming accident.

Hochar was quite simply one of the world’s greatest winemakers. And not entirely because of the quality of his wines, which were fantastic. The man all but vibrated with vitality. Describing someone, especially someone older in years, as having a twinkle in their eye has become more than a cliché, but in Hochar’s case, it was literally true. The man brought a childlike joy to every interaction, even as he offered the wisdom of his remarkable life to anyone willing to listen.

Anyone on the journey to loving wine eventually runs across the stereotype of the philosopher-winemaker, the man with a lined face and dirty hands who works his vineyards and wines as a profound expression of belief in their power as a force of life and beauty.

There exist wineries whose marketing departments fabricate such identities. There are winemakers who attempt to style themselves as such. And there are those who are the real deal.

Rather than abandon his winery as bombs fell in Beruit, Hochar chose to remain, drinking a bottle of wine quietly by himself as his neighborhood was leveled. Throughout the country’s civil war from 1975 to 1990, he only missed a single vintage (1976) despite the hardships and horrors that the country endured.

Hochar was one of the most deeply philosophical winemakers with whom I have ever had the pleasure of speaking. But more than any other winemaker I’ve spent time with, Hochar was more apt to speak about things other than wine. To be sure, he was deeply attached to wine, but he was as deeply attached to life itself.