Armenia may not be a prominent player in the global wine market today, but its wines have played a significant role in the history of world winemaking. It boasts a rich winemaking heritage that dates back millennia. The fertile valleys of this region are, according to many archaeologists, the place where the world’s first cultivated grapevine was born over 6,000 years ago.
In the Areni-1 cave complex, located in the Areni region, the world’s oldest known wine production facility has been found. Archaeologists discovered a shallow basin used for pressing grapes, storage vats, fermentation vessels and even remnants of pressed grapes and dried vines. These artifacts date back to around 4000 BC, predating the oldest comparable wine remnants found in Egyptian tombs by almost a millennium.
Modern Armenian winemakers often use oak barrels for wine aging, much like in Europe or elsewhere. However, many local producers, especially in villages, still use traditional “karases” – clay vessels. These karases give the wine a natural vanilla, chocolate and dried fruit flavor.
Famous Armenian wine varieties
Armenia is home to several indigenous grape varieties not found elsewhere. The most significant include:
- Areni: This red variety is known for its resilience and ability to thrive in Armenian high-altitude vineyards. It produces red wines with a rich fruity taste, such as cherries and blackberries, often with hints of spices and earthy tones.
- Voskehat: White wines from the Voskehat variety can range from light and floral to more complex and robust, often with citrus and stone fruit tones. Often referred to as the “queen of Armenian grapes”.
- Khatouni: Wines from this white variety are floral and fragrant, often used in blends to add complexity to the wine.
- Sireni: This red variety produces rich and full-bodied wines, with dark fruit flavors and sometimes chocolate or tobacco notes.
- Kangun: Wines from this white variety are typically light, with pronounced acidity and flavors of green apples and pears. Used for both still and sparkling wines.
Red Blend from Karas Winery 2020
Karas Winery is a large winery in the Armenian region of Armavir. They farm vineyards covering 400 hectares. Equipped with modern facilities, it is located directly next to its vineyards, offering a magnificent view of Mount Ararat. Founded by Eduardo Eurnekian and Juliana del Aguila Eurnekian (uncle and niece), they made wine for over ten years in Argentine Patagonia before establishing the Armenian Karas. Among the cultivated varieties are Kangun, Rkatsiteli, Areni, Khndoghni, Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Petit Verdot and many others. They produce a complete spectrum of wines. Juliana’s mentor was Michel Rolland, one of the world’s greatest winemakers. The winery is known for its innovative approach and environmental responsibility. The Armenian word “karas” refers to the clay vessel used for wine production, which has been in use in Armenia for over 6,000 years. The price per bottle was 3,500 AMD, approx. 8 EUR. Vivino rating: 4.1/5.
Areni from Noa Winery 2017
Noa Winery, also known as Noah of Areni (NOA), is a prominent Armenian winery located in the Areni region, in the Vayots Dzor province. The winery was founded by Jakob Schuler from the Swiss winery Schuler. Part of their vineyards is considered among the best in all of Armenia. The winery employs experienced oenologists, including the famous Armenian Arman Manukyan. The winery is committed to natural wine production and does not accelerate any processes, letting nature take its course. Noa specializes in wines from the Areni and Voskehat varieties. Their portfolio includes red, white, rosé, and dessert wines. The price per bottle was 9,000 AMD, approx. 21.20 EUR. Vivino rating: 4.1/5.
Takar Areni & Saperavi Reserve from Armenia Wine 2020
Armenia Wine is a family business that began planting vineyards only in 2006 and two years later, in 2008, the winery was built. Today, they are among the renowned representatives of modern Armenian winemaking. They are equipped with the latest means, allowing for quality production of both still and sparkling wines. This bottle is a blend of the native Armenian variety Areni and the native Georgian variety Saperavi in a 50:50 ratio. The wine aged in oak barrels, has a deep purple hue and offers a complex bouquet of fruity aromas (cherries, grapes, plums) intertwined with floral notes and spicy accents like vanilla, licorice and gingerbread. A robust taste experience. The price per bottle was 4,250 AMD, approx. 10 EUR. Vivino rating: 4.1/5.
Enjoy Armenian wine and drink responsibly!