Growing vines in France to revive Iran’s wine culture

Wednesday June 02 2021 by Vitisphere

 After establishing a Persian-inspired winery in France, Masrour Makaremi's goal is to plant a vineyard in Iran. After establishing a Persian-inspired winery in France, Masrour Makaremi's goal is to plant a vineyard in Iran. - Photo credit : Masrour Makaremi

Archaeological excavations and historical research provide evidence of the existence of vines and wine more than 7,000 years ago in ancient Persia. Extolled in literature and depicted in works of art, wine is an integral part of the region’s culture. Or at least it was, until the Islamic revolution occurred in 1979 in Iran. “The intention is to suppress wine from the country's culture. It is a very strong symbol of refusing to toe the line”, explains Masrour Makaremi, an orthodontist who arrived in France at the age of 10 and has become a staunch advocate of his native country's heritage. “Officially, there is no production, consumption or import of wine in Iran. There was even an amendment to ban wine in literature”.

His indignation has sparked a fierce determination to revive Iran’s wine culture, but also to instil hope and optimism. Five years ago, in conjunction with winegrower Gregory Dubard of the namesake wine company, he decided to replant ‘Shiraz’ vines as a homage to his native city of Chiraz, the capital of wine under the Persian Empire. There are many more symbols in this project: the wine has been called ‘Cyrhus’, a nod to the king of the Persians, Cyrus the Great, author of the ‘Cyrus Cylinder’, which is considered to be the basis of the first declaration of human rights. Matured in amphorae, it will be produced as a limited edition wine: the 559 numbered bottles allude to Cyrus the Great’s date of birth, in 559 BC. And one of the amphorae is symbolically pre-Islamic, dating from the 2nd century.

The first bottles of this single varietal Syrah, or Shiraz, will be available in June, but they are just the first step in this “militant act” and cultural exchange project. “The culture of wine is still uppermost in the minds of Iranians”, says Makaremi. “The spirit of the project is to bring it back to life, but also to demonstrate that wine stems from myriad cultural interactions, like in the Gallo-Roman era, or when the English settled in the Bordeaux and Bergerac regions”.

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