Syriac Wine

Those who know me will not be overly surprised that I came across a local wine tradition while visiting Mardin and the Tur Abdin region in east Turkey the other week.

The bleak limestone plateau of Tur Abdin is of great importance to Syriac Orthodox Christians, for whom the region used to be a monastic and cultural heartland. 

As far back as 586 B.C., the old testament prophet Ezekiel mentions “casks of wine from Uzal they exchanged for your wares” which is on the southern edge of the plateau of Tur Abdin. So it seems, unsurprisingly, that wine goes as far back as the people of the area do.

Obviously …. I needed to find out more ….

The bleak limestone soils of the plateau are probably a pretty good terroir to grow good grapes on, similar to many areas in France today. In my investigations I did notice one or two bottles of what can only be described as “well labeled home-brew”, but the only apparent professional winemaker, whose products are universally offered in the area, belongs to one player – Shiluh Winery. They assert that it is made using traditional methods of production albeit with modern techniques and methods.

There is very little information on the internet regarding them as advertising alcohol is illegal in Turkey, so you can only really telephone them and arrange a visit in person. I would expect that you can find out all about them that way. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to do this this time around.

The area around Midyat cultivates a lot of grapes but it’s hard to assess how much actually goes to wine making, but winemaking is certainly a core part of the Syriac history and religious traditions.

I purchased two of their wines in Mardin, and tried one of their products in one of the “not exactly numerous” a wine bars there.

Here’s one below, a 2016 Shiluh|turabdin

Shiluh|turabdin 2016 Dry Red Wine 12.5% Abv

There’s obviously no Appellation Controllee/VQA etc control and not even any info on the grape on the bottle. The labelling is, however, super professional and fits very well with the character of the area. The label is even in braille for some reason, although the English on the back label could use a little proof reading! The bottle was well presented and when poured had a deep red colour. It has a very fruity nose, a little chewy and drinks like a Shiraz/Syrah – very fruity. Tannins and dryness were a lot less than expected (and less than the one I had tried previously) and it was not half bad to be perfectly honest. Opened up nicely in the glass after a few minutes and very nice with a hearty meat dish I had for dinner.

All I can say is that this is definitely worth “further investigation” and one to add to the “Exotic” wine collection.

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