TRIER, Germany (Reuters) - A Syrian refugee has been crowned "wine queen" in Germany, winning a traditional annual honor that used to go to local young women from wine-growing families.
Winemakers in the Mosel region selected the 26-year-old Ninorta Bahno to counter growing resentment in Germany against refugees after some 1 million arrived last year.
Many wine-producing regions in Germany pick a wine queen each year, a practice that dates back to the early 20th century when they would wear folksy dirndl dresses and embody the traditional image of German womanhood.
Taking to the podium at a wine festival in Trier in a sleeveless peach-color dress and her long black hair topped by a tiara, Bahno, who fled the Syrian war three years ago with her sister, cut a very different figure.
Addressing wine fans in the western Germany city, she thanked them "for taking me in" and said she hoped her coronation would enhearten other refugees who are finding it hard to adjust to life in Germany.
"I know that as a refugee it is very difficult at first to integrate in a new country. First you have to understand the laws and traditions here, and then you have to practice them," she said.
"Therefore I want to be an 'ambassador' so that I can put this into practice and integrate here in Germany, and for the other refugees."
As wine queen, Bahno, who is training for a job at an employment office, will help publicize wine from four Mosel vineyards.
As a Christian, rather than a Muslim like the majority of Syrians, she has not had to overcome a taboo on drinking alcohol, an activity most Germans see as important to their culture.
"You have to have a bit of courage to ask one of the refugees. I wanted to send a message by doing that," Peter Terg, chairman of the Trier-Olewig wine-growers association, said.
"Lots of people say 'we cannot manage it'. I say we, Germany, can manage it and she has managed to become an excellent wine ambassador."
(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Joseph Nasr and Katie Stephens; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)