Three years after escaping the civil war in her country, a 26-year-old Syrian student Wednesday became the first refugee to be crowned “wine queen” in one of Germany’s wine-making regions.
Ninorta Banho was made an ambassador for four wineries on the Moselle river in front of hundreds of people who had gathered in Trier, an ancient town near the country’s western border with Luxembourg, to sample wines from the Olewig valley.
"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," Deutsche Welle quoted Banho as saying. "As a refugee, it's very difficult to integrate into a new place at the beginning." The Syrian Christian settled in Germany after fleeing the war in Syria 3 1/2 years ago.
Every September, a German "Wine Queen" is crowned from among the 13 regional winners in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse. This year, however, the contest has been moved to Mainz, marking the 200th anniversary of the Rhine-Hesse region.
For many years since the inception of the concept, wine queens symbolized beautiful, German girls in a dirndl, hailing from a family of wine-growers. However, in 1981, they were no longer required to wear a dirndl, following which, in 1999, the rules about family connections were relaxed, making room for those with personal experience with wines.
Deutsche Welle reported that Banho had taken a crash course on wine-making close to Trier. Her favorite variety is a sweet Riesling, common in the Moselle River region. As Banho has more contests to reach the final, she has decided not to take part and concentrate on her training for a job at an employment office instead.
Even as the contest remains invariably steeped in tradition despite the attempts at modernization, a refugee’s win is a notable feat.