I distinctly remember ordering my first bottle of Chateau Musar in Horndon on the Hill in the UK circa 2017. My first introduction to Lebanon’s smoky, savoury and almost chewy style of Cabernets opened my eyes up to the Middle East and challenged my perceptions of a region I assumed was just an arid desert climate.

I was always open to the idea of exploring the region more, but there weren’t many examples I could find in Australia until I began researching for Aalia’s wine list. There was a little digging required to find suppliers importing good-quality Middle Eastern wines into Sydney.

The wines of the Middle East, particularly the indigenous grape varieties, tend to be more savoury and textural than what the Australian palate is accustomed to. Despite this, most lists that feature Middle Eastern wines often do so in a food and wine pairing capacity, but I believe these wines really shine when not enjoyed alongside food.

While many may consider skin contact and minimal intervention to be the latest trend, it’s a ‘return to roots’ concept that has continued to be practised in the Middle East. Some of the first mentions of wine can be traced back to Georgia in 6000BC and Iran in 5000BC.

The amazing benefit of the often-mountainous wine-growing regions of the Middle East is that despite the proximity to the ocean, the climates are continental and are characterised by hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. The aspect, terroir and altitude of vineyards and the warm breezes that sweep the continents also contribute to relatively low disease pressure. From a grower’s perspective, viticulturalists can readily practise organic vineyard techniques.

I recommend guests at Aalia taste some of the incredible Middle Eastern wines we have to offer. Whether they are looking for something more classic (Alain Graillot ‘Syrocco’ Syrah, Morocco); light and perfumed (Doluca ‘Tugra’ Kalecik Karasi, Turkey) or a little left of field (Mersel ‘Leb Nat’ Pét-Nat, Lebanon), there is something to start you on your Middle Eastern journey.