Domaine de Bargylus, Syria, Latakia
Cited by Pliny the Elder, Mount Bargylus, known today as Jebel Al-Ansariyé, spreads from the Orontes Valley near the ancient city of Antioch to the Eleutherus Valley in the south of ancient Emesa. This land is a country of mystery and legends where wine and alphabet were revealed to man and where the ancients grew vines more than 3000 years ago. Located in the hinterland of the Hellenistic city of Laodicea –the modern Syrian city of Latakia- and the Canaanite metropolis of Ugarit, the slopes of Mount Bargylus were richly covered with vines during the Greco-roman era. The Bargylus wine estate is precisely located near Deir Touma, literally translated as the “convent of Thomas”, not far from the archeological vestiges of the crusading era and the famous Saladin.
The Johnny R. Saadé Family
Embedded within a strong eastern tradition, the Johnny R. Saadé family draws, from its Levantine roots, a passion for challenges among which the renaissance of the ancient vineyards of the Orient. The Saadé family, of Orthodox Christian origins, is a typical representative of Levantine syncretism with roots in the ancient coastal city of Laodicea (modern Lattakia) as well as Antioch, Alexandria, Tripoli (Lebanon) and Mount Lebanon. The Saadé family traces its mercantile roots to the 18th and 19th century with prominent representatives such as Gabriel Saadé (1854-1939) and Rodolphe Saadé (1900-1956).
With an initial involvement in commodities’ trading and various industries, the family developed maritime and land transport activities on the initiative of Johnny R. Saadé, Rodolphe’s son, in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and France. Diversification was quick to follow with new activities in the wine making, tourism, real estate and financial fields.
Now the family’s businesses are managed by Johnny’s sons, Karim and Sandro, and their adventure in the world of wine today represents the achievement of a long-standing family ambition. It is something that the family had been considering for years. Their father was always passionate about wine, say the brothers. “Bordeaux was his first favourite, and then later he fell in love with the Cotes du Rhone reds.” It was in 1998 that the brothers first began to consider the options. In the first instance, they looked towards Bordeaux – the “obvious choice” – then they had second thoughts.
The decision was taken: “We are going to do it right here in our own country.” Next came a long study to find the best land for their purposes. That would take four years for Syria and five years for Lebanon. This patient approach reflects the philosophy that has guided the family in this project. “Wine has everything to do with the land.” Terroir came first, and the terroirs they eventually chose were virgin land in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley and in Syria, one of the most ancient vinegrowing sites in the world. Alongside Karim and Sandro stood Stéphane Derenoncourt, the great Bordeaux wine consultant who works with passionate and committed winegrowers all around the world.
In the north-east of Syria, the valley of the Orontes forms the link between the grassland plains and the cultivated lands. This is the cradle of the Roman dynasty of Severan, and the rich land that is home to the Domaine de Bargylus. Antioch is not far distant, and the nearby village of Deir Touma, literally “Convent of Thomas”, stands close to relics of the crusading era and the famous Saladin. Cited by Pliny the Elder, Mount Bargylus, known today as Jebel Al-
Ansariyé, spreads from the Orontes Valley near the ancient city of Antioch to the Eleutherus Valley in the south of ancient Emesa.
This land is a country of mystery and legends where wine and alphabet were revealed to man and where the ancients grew vines more than 3000 years ago. Located in the hinterland of the Hellenistic city of Laodicea – the modern Syrian city of Lattakia – and the Canaanite metropolis of Ugarit, the slopes of Mount Bargylus were richly covered with vines during the Greco-roman era. The Bargylus wine estate is precisely located near Deir Touma, literally translated as the “convent of Thomas”, not far from the archeological vestiges of the crusading era and the famous Saladin.
Who could fail to be moved by the awesome wild nature of the Bargylus landscape with its imposing mountain background – especially when you feel the ancient history that resides in this place. The Bargylus vines are planted on small gentle slopes, today covering twenty hectares divided 75% red and 25% white. Stéphane Derenoncourt quickly recognised this as a “fabulous” terroir.
The vineyard is effectively located on a geological fault. On one side, the soils are limestone of an exceptional kind; on the other side, the limestone is mixed with flint that amplifies the mineral qualities in the wines. The clays are the link between these two soil profiles. Darker and more intense than the Bekaa clays, they are the element that forges the character and complexity of the reds.
The vineyard spreads across the hinterland of Lattaquie, at an altitude of 900 metres, with large variations in temperature from day to night that favour the development of aromas. The climate is quite unlike the climate at Château Marsyas – fresher and above all not so dry.
Here the maritime winds that blow from the Mediterranean favour rain (900mm per year, compared with 600mm at Marsyas). The summers are reasonably hot, enough for good and lengthy ripening of the grapes. Autumns are often premature, which favours slow phenolic ripening without sacrificing the acidity of the grapes or their aromatic freshness.
Varietals and Vineyard Husbandry
Over the years, this particular climate has altered the domaine’s approach to husbandry and the choice of grape variety. Some years, the Cabernet Sauvignon cannot be harvested before the beginning of November. And with some autumns, it doesn’t ripen at all. Syrah then becomes the natural choice.
This Rhône Valley varietal is perfectly adapted to clay limestone soils and its annual cycle of growth is shorter than the Cabernet Sauvignon’s. Syrah is used in combination with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Vine husbandry here reflects the Saadés’ personal convictions. The approach is more or less organic, using all means to conserve the personality of the soil and the individual character of this exceptional terroir.
Grape Variety: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
Retail Price: S$67.00
About the Wine: Fading yellow with light green reflections. The noses expresses exotic fruit aromas of papaya and lemon with a touch of saltiness as well. On the pallet the wine is very elegant, round, keeping a lot of freshness due to a good acidity.
Grape Variety: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Retail Price: S$83.00
About the Wine: Deep purple hue, the nose is complex with notes of spices & truffles. There is precision in the mouth with excellent balance between the integrated tannins, the elegant fruit and mineral freshness. The finish is powerful and sustained.