Even under ideal circumstances, the journey a wine takes from vineyard to glass is a long one. But when one's wine comes from the Middle East, that journey can be an incredible one.

The genetic roots of many grapes grown today can be traced to where the Phoenicians (from the modern coastline of Lebanon), in their seafaring travels, took and left vines.

The late Serge Hochar, of Lebanese vineyard Chateau Musar, was Decanter magazine's first 'man of the year', in 1984. I met him a number of times.

He recalled how he used to smuggle himself out of Lebanon - a perilous endeavour during the years of the country's civil war (1975-1990) - with only the clothes on his back to champion his wines around the world. When he was finished, he would have to smuggle himself back to his vineyards.

Hochar also reminisced about harvesting his grapes in the middle of a war zone, with bullets whizzing around him.

In August, I tasted the produce of another Middle Eastern winery, in Syria. The wines of Domaine de Bargylus, made by the family of Johnny Saadé, who founded the winery, reminded me that the region has a distinct terroir - a warm, slightly exotic, funky and earthy aroma - which is also reflected in the wines of Chateau Musar.

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The de Bargylus family is of Christian Orthodox origins and has a long history in Syria. Saadé's son, Karim, who had made the journey from Beirut, where he lives, to Hong Kong, described the challenges of making his wines, including the logistics of getting empty bottles to the winery, and the feat of then getting the wines out of Syria.

He assured me that northwest Syria, where his family's vineyards are located, was a relatively safe and quiet area, and that the country had not been completely overrun by Islamic State.

Still, he is taking great risks: should IS invade the northwest port of Latakia, anyone who has anything to do with a vineyard in the area could face severe punishment.

Nellie Ming Lee

Nellie Ming Lee is a food stylist and part-time sommelier studying with the Court of Master Sommeliers.