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Syrian refugee crowned wine queen in Germany

August 3, 2016

She doesn't fulfill the stereotype of the blond German wine-grower in a dirndl - but she knows a lot about wine. Syrian refugee Ninorta Bahno is the first asylum-seeker to be crowned a wine queen in Germany.

Trier's 2016 wine queen, Ninorta Bahno, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Tittel
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Tittel

When Ninorta Bahno, 26, fled Syria three-and-a-half years ago, she probably couldn't have imagined that she would become a German wine queen.

On Wednesday, Bahno will be crowned regional wine queen in Trier, a picturesque western German city known for its Roman ruins - making her the first refugee in Germany to receive the honor.

The Aramaic Christian says she is pleased with the title and hopes to use it to promote not only integration in Germany, but also Syrian wine.

"All the refugees that I know are very happy about my new title," she said. "They give me information about wine-making in Syria."

Bahno has also taken a crash course about wine-making near Trier and says her favorite variety is a sweet Riesling, which is common in the Moselle River region.

"I want to show that Germany is a welcoming country and that the Germans are very hospitable and work towards integrating refugees quickly and successfully," added Bahno. "As a refugee, it's very difficult to integrate into a new place at the beginning."

An old-fashioned tradition of wine queens

The tradition of wine queens in Germany dates back to the 1930s, though it was institutionalized in the 1950s.

Both local and regional wine queens throughout Germany's southwestern wine-growing region are named in late summer and the winners are expected to represent the industry over the following year.

Each year in September, a German Wine Queen is crowned from among the 13 regional winners.

For many years, wine queens were seen as the epitome of the beautiful, traditional, well-behaved German girl in a dirndl. Early on, the selection process for German Wine Queens resembled that of a beauty pageant. It called for dancing the waltz, and participants had to come from a family of wine-growers.

In 1981, however, the German Wine Queens were no longer required to wear a dirndl, and in 1999, the rules about family vintner connections were relaxed - personal experience with wine-making sufficed.

German Wine Queen named in September

While the contest has been somewhat modernized over the decades, it remains steeped in tradition - making Bahno's win at the local level a notable exception.

This year, the 2016 German Wine Queen will be crowned in a televised ceremony on September 30 in Mainz. While the event traditionally takes place in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse - on the German Wine Route in the Palatinate region - it has been moved to Mainz this year to mark the 200th anniversary of the Rhine-Hesse region.

kbm/eg (with dpa)