It was the first morning of Ramadan in Damascus and Abu Mousa was making wine. Sitting alone in the kitchen, vigorously kneading a bowl full of grapes like a big ball of dough, he explained in one word, as I walked in to make my morning cup of coffee: wine -- nibeez.
While a good many of some 90 percent of the city’s inhabitants began the first of 29 days of fasting, Christians were apparently contemplating wine. Abu Mousa’s been making it this time of year since his formative years in the village, where all the Christian families produce their own wine every autumn. “There are many grapes in the village. Many.” Abu Mousa said, stressing, kiseer, many.
He described the process: First he sets out the grapes to soften in the sun for five days until they sour slightly, then he presses them by hand, removing the stems but not the seeds. The grapes are a mix, but mostly green since those are the most common, although he prefers “black” grapes -- what we would call red grapes. He then pours the pulp, skins and seeds into a large plastic jug, and covers it for 25 to 30 days. Then, he has wine. He started the first batch eight days ago. It will be my first Syrian wine.