At family gatherings back in Syria, Ninorta Bahno had always been a wine-drinker.
After arriving in Germany three-and-a-half years ago, she took a crash course under wine experts, and now she’s the first ever refugee wine queen in Germany after she was crowned Trier’s wine queen on Wednesday evening.
But there’s more to her title than a pretty crown, grapes and vines.
In the coming year Bahno is set to present at between 30 and 60 events in Trier, which is in Germany’s esteemed Mosel wine region, as well as at wine festivals extending all the way to Luxembourg.
“All the refugees I know are excited about my new position,” she said.
“It doesn’t mean she has to become a wine expert overnight,” said Peter Terges, chairman of the association responsible for electing the Trier wine queen.
The 26-year-old is an Aramaic Christian from the Syrian city of Al-Qamishli, and she escaped the Syrian civil war with her sister at the end of 2012, ultimately ending up in Trier.
“I never knew how hard it was to be a refugee until it became my reality,” she said.
“We had to give up everything and start again with absolutely nothing in a new country.”
Bahno admitted that it was very difficult trying to integrate into a new home as a refugee, but she feels accepted in Germany and wants to let people know how great it can be.
“I want to show people that Germany is a welcoming country, that Germans are very hospitable and that they support quick and successful integration,” she said.
“I want to become an ambassador for integration and coexistence in my new country,” she told DPA among the vines in a Trier vineyard.
Every September, Germany elects a national wine queen, but it is unlikely that Bahno will enter the running, according to Terges: She would have to pore over books about wine or she would have to study wine, he claims, which she doesn’t have time for.
Before the war Bahno studied law in Syria, and plans to continue her studies in Germany in September.
“I get people asking me why we didn’t crown a woman from Trier as our wine queen,” says Terges, who says he also heard the same questions years ago when a woman from Düsseldorf was elected.
He met Bahno last summer during a wine festival for refugees in Trier, where Bahno was interpreting.
“After the first conversation it was clear that she loved wine from Trier,” he explained.
“She is a good-looking woman who can do something for our culture, for her country and for integration.”