Only experienced oenologists and Middle East experts know this. Vine has been cultivated in Syria for more than two thousand years, and Syrian wine is mentioned several times by Pliny the Elder in his writings. In Maaloula, the feast of the Cross is over, it is the beginning of the harvest!
The volunteers of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient are missioned to participate in the process of making Maaloulian wine, starting from the beginning: the harvest. Zoom on their progress.
Imagine yourself in the heart of a very dry landscape, with an arid climate, still bathed by a burning sun in mid-September. Vegetation is rare, a few shrubs at most, but as we come closer to the village, the fruit trees appears on the side of the road.
In the middle of the harsh Syrian desert, the village of Maaloula and its surroundings benefit from the presence of several sources of fresh water. They include a famous miracle water source near the grotto where Sainte Thecle found refuge in the 1st century, pursued by her executioners.
Continue your journey northwards via its famous canyon surrounded by multi-millenary troglodyte houses and head west. You will then discover the vineyards of the monastery of Saint Serge & Saint Bacchus, whose steep walls overlook the city.
Your shoes step on a hard and warm floor. You approach the vines. They are not high but you can see the grapes. Some bees and wasps are surrounding you. The grains, also hot, are rather small and stick to the fingers.
You start to fill your bag. Along the way, you can't help tasting one, or two, maybe even three. A sweet juice reaches your palate and fills your mouth, then slides down your throat. The fruity scents tickle your nostrils.
It is in this atmosphere that we worked for the monastery, in music and songs because "life is funnier when singing". Our buckets are well filled and we drop them off at the monastery farm, managed by the faithful Abu Hamer.
Then, according to the local tradition, the grapes will be place under the sun for a week, in order to quickly dry the bunches and allow the grapes to soak up sugar. Eager to bottle our prestigious cuvée, we are tasting a vintage from last year, kept until then in the monastery's museum. The wine is lulled by floral and sweet aromas. An aperitif wine. Close to a port or a walnut wine.
It is a great opportunity for volunteers to participate in the harvest in the purest Syrian tradition. In this village where the work of the land allows many families to feed themselves and live, SOS Chrétiens d'Orient financed the planting of 5000 m2 of vines and sumac after the war to help the winegrowers to restart their activity.
But this beautiful project, that should end by 2021, is not fully funded yet. We have to gather 120.000 € for the ploughing, watering,...