Syrian wine: From war zone to Europe's top restaurants

2015-08-03 19:29


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Beirut - Despite a civil war that has so far lasted more than four years, Syria is supplying high-quality wine to luxury restaurants in Paris and London.

Chateaux Bargylus comes from Syrian vineyards close to the north-western province of Idlib, which is mostly ruled by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

The brand is served in Heston Blumenthal's Dinner in London, at Gordon Ramsay's restaurants and at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris.   

"It is certainly a challenge for us. We are working under difficult circumstances, but we will keep it up," Syrian-Lebanese winemaker Sandro Saade said.

Sandro, 38, and his brother Karim, 41, run their vineyards in north-western Syria from neighbouring Lebanon where they live.

For the two brothers, the process takes double the normal effort because of the war, which has prevented them from going to the 12ha holding located in the coastal Latakia province.

Latakia is a stronghold of the Syrian regime's loyalists and the hometown of President Bashar Assad. The province has been relatively calm since the 2011 uprising erupted in Syria.

However, rebels have in recent months repeatedly warned that they will overrun the province. They have already fired shells at Latakia. The Saades' vineyards did not escape unscathed.

"Luckily, the damage was not much and we managed to continue the work with our well-trained 45-member Syrian team," Sandro told dpa.

He added that they were pressing on hard with the business, which they started in 2003.

Every three days during harvest time, a car leaves Latakia on a 200km journey, carrying the grapes carefully covered with ice to be delivered to the Saade brothers in Beirut.


In the Lebanese capital, the grapes are tasted by the Saades and their French wine consultant, Stephane Derenoncourt, only to be sent back to Syria for the wine-making process.

"Sometimes if the border is closed or there are delays, we have to throw away the cargo and ask for a new shipment," Sandro said.

Once the wine is ready, it is packed and shipped from Latakia to their warehouse in Belgium.

"The 45-day voyage goes through Egypt's Port Said before the shipment reaches Antwerp," he added.

"There is no other Syrian wine that has made international fame. Previously wine produced in Syria was confined to Christian monasteries."

Sandro said that their red wine is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot grapes, while the white is a mixture of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

They produce 45 000 bottles of Bargylus a year. The brand sells for $39.50 for a bottle of red wine and $28 per bottle of white.

The Saades' wine has also made it to Dubai, Hong Kong and Japan.

"So far, we have not had a bad year," Sandro said.

"We will continue to produce our wine no matter what the difficulties are."

Read more on:    syria

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