Note: Create joy, one sip at a time.
Featured Wine: Pere et Fils (Father & Son) Hochar
Grape Variety: 50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Production Zone: Bekaa Valley, Lebanon
Vinification: Handpicked grapes on cool mornings, minimum intervention, minimum sulphur, no fining or filtering. The three varietals ferment seperately in cement vats for 15 days.
Aging: Six months in Nevers French Oak before blending and bottling. This batch was blended and bottled in 2020.
Color: Deep Dark Garnet
Price: Around $30
I like my wine like I like my men…no, not really; but I do find myself being attracted to very intense people, but then become overwhelmed with said intensity. Hochar wine is just like that, very intense and overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I am always happy that I spent time with an intense person, just like I am happy I tried Hochar; if you are a regular wine drinker, this is not one of those wines that you decide to grab and sip at the end of your day. This is a specific wine, to be enjoyed with a specific meal in mind.
And I have to be fair, I am unfamiliar with Lebanese wine, so this could merely be my lack of experience. A new experience for my palate.
As I began to delve into this wine and as I read about it, I discovered it has so much that I desire in a wine. The wine is grown in the Southern Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, where there are 6000 years of winemaking history. This valley is almost completely disease and frost free, meaning fewer pesticides, which is always a good thing. The winery was started in 1930, when Gaston Hochar was only 20 years old. Today it still remains in the same family, with the founder’s grandchildren now running the show. There is history too, as in 1989, the winery and home of Hochar were directly hit with shelling and they used their wine cellars as bomb shelters for locals. Finally, their winemaking process is no joke, they take time producing this unique wine, and that is something to be respected.
Don’t just jump in to this wine; it definitely needs to decant, and discarding the sediment isn’t a bad idea either. The winery suggests an hour to decant, but I say, hey, why not make it two hours? This wine is powerful and an hour wasn’t enough for me. They also recommend serving this wine at 60 degrees, but I say 50 degrees is better. It eases some of the powerful earthiness and mustiness, which does linger.
Even after time, the nose wasn’t totally drawing me in; it is very much musty earth, very ripe plum and a tartness. The acidity jumped out at me. The palate is better but still a lot of heady earth, super ripe plum, a touch of oak and an acidity that keeps it from being sweet. You are gifted with a very long finish that leaves the tongue baffled. Was that sweetness or was that acidity? It was both, but sort of dancing around. The texture is thick, most likely because this wine is not fined or filtered and again, this texture is new to me and I feel like I just need some time to adjust to it. Kind of like when you go to Europe and beer isn’t served ice cold. At first all I crave is ice cold beer and then it just becomes my new normal.
Middle Eastern food really does pair best with this wine. Stuffed grape leaves, a light salad, plates of pickled vegetables and cheese, hummus, pita bread and kabobs of grilled meats and savory vegetables; what a match! I especially enjoyed the hummus with the wine. The flavors really played well off of each other leaving me quite content. This wine also made me reminisce about an old friend from Pittsburgh who moved from Lebanon at a young age. When a summer storm was brewing, (oh how I loved those storms), he would mix up burgers. He called them “Man Burgers,” with lots of herbs, (if asked what herbs he used, he would just say they were Lebanese herbs) and onions, those burgers were soooo good. We would stuff our faces, drink wine and wait for the rain to start and the air to cool down. That too would be a great pairing.
Hochar is great for a Sunday dinner, vases of herbs with a daisy or two on the table, a spread of food and good company, and windows open to let in the breeze. For music, why not the Allman Brothers? I am a sucker for Southern Rock when the weather starts to warm up, but another great warmer weather style of music is Ska/Reggae; either way, you cannot go wrong.
Hochar is special, interesting and it is definitely worth trying. You may not love it, but I believe you will like it. Drinking wine made with care and filled with history is always a pleasure.