Determined Syrian winery launches in HK

After conquering London’s top wine lists, Syria’s lone commercial winery Bargylus and Lebanon’s Marsyas have arrived in Hong Kong

The red clay vineyards of Domaine de Bargylus

The red clay vineyards of Domaine de Bargylus

The wineries of Syria’s Domaine de Bargylus’ and Lebanon’s Chateau Marsyas really do have a story to tell. Aside from Domaine de Bargylus unceasing determination operating as Syria’s solitary vineyard amid the ongoing war, both vineyards founded by Johnny R Saade were built from scratch from “no man’s lands.”

Established in 2003, Domaine de Bargylus is located in Jebel el-Ansariyeh, an area of coastal mountain ranges that was once known by the Ancient Greeks as Mount Bargylus and consists of a 12 hectare site planted with mainly Bordeaux grapes as well as Syrah for the reds, and Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay for the whites.

Founded in 2005 and over the border in the Bekaa Valley, the vineyard Chateau Marsyas, is significantly larger at 65 hectares with the same grape plantings as Bargylus but with the addition of Petit Verdot and Mourvedre.

At a recent launch event in Hong Kong – the first country in Asia to experience Bargylus and Marsyas – Johnny’s son, Sandro who now heads up the operation recalled the effort it took to get the two wineries started and the effect of Syria’s war.

Sandro on the left with his brother, Karim

Sandro on the right with his brother, Karim

“What started as a venture turned into a challenge”, he said. “We were motivated to start from scratch in both sites because we were amazed at the clay and limestone terroirs and their potential.

“However, it is with sadness that I say the war has impacted everything for us in Domaine de Bargylus. Human resources has been the main struggle. But we have 35 people working for us in the vineyard and winery and we are continuing positively with a united front.”

Baryglus is not full caught up in the war but has seen a skirmish between the military and rebel groups within 100 metres of its parameters.

“We’ve had bullets through our cellar walls and two bombs dropped on our Chardonnay plants last August and destroyed 15 of them but we count ourselves lucky,” Sandro continued.

An aspect that Sandro is most grateful for is the technical help the wineries receive from Stephane Derencourt, the French winemaker and consultant who has worked with the Saade brothers since the beginning.

Chateau Marsyas: The former "no man's land" in the Bekaa Valley

Chateau Marsyas: The former “no man’s land” in the Bekaa Valley

On average, Derencourt visits Marsyas five times a year where he also advises on when to pick at Bargylus by tasting grapes brought in refrigerated nylon bags by taxi – “a good eight hour round trip!” said Sandro. “But we are so lucky to have Stephane with us and his untiring determination to make our fine wines with such balance.”

Bargylus and Marsyas have already enjoyed an increasingly large presence in France, Dubai, Switzerland, Belgium and Istanbul, but have also reached the UK where they have graced some of the wine lists in London’s fine dining restaurants such as Pied à Terre and The Goring.

Though the wines have to take a convoluted route out of Syria, via Egypt and Lebanon before resting in the cellars in Antwerp, Sandro has big ambitions for the Asia market.

“We launched in the UK because people have open minds for unusual wines and especially in London, we have the restaurants and the sommeliers who can carry our labels and believe in the brands. Now, I believe Asia is showing the same attitude. Hong Kong’s economy is doing well and I think our wines can hold their own among the international competition.”

2 Responses to “Determined Syrian winery launches in HK”

  1. Edmund Mac Hugh says:

    Can you advise who currently stocks it in HK ?

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