Armenia is a country with one of the deepest wine histories in the entire world. Many historians refer to Armenia as the birthplace of modern wine, and remains of the world’s oldest winery have been recovered in the ancient Armenian village of Areni.
Today, there are three regions where the majority of the wines of Armenia are produced, and the country is home to many unique grape varietals found nowhere else in the world.
While Brandy remains the most important Armenian beverage, quality wine production is increasing year over year, making the future of Armenian wine look very bright.
Exploring the Wines of Armenia
Armenian Wine History
The country of Armenia is home to the oldest known winery on earth, which was discovered in the village of Areni. The winery was named Areni-1, and is thought to be at least six thousand years old.
Writings from 400 BC indicate that Greek armies were served both wine and beer when passing through the region of Armenia, and it is thought that winemaking continued uninterrupted from around 4000 BC until today.
Armenia was under Soviet rule for about 70 years beginning in 1921, and during that time wine production in Armenia increased dramatically. It is reported that Armenian sparkling wine production increased tenfold during the period of Soviet occupation.
Wine and Brandy production continued in Armenia after the soviet era, and the country transitioned into an emerging young wine-producing region and a fairly important exporter of Brandy.
While Armenia is often thought of as the “birthplace of winemaking,” it is by no means a major player in the world of wine today.
The vast majority of Armenian wine is produced using the local Areni Noir grape, and there are very few plantings of other grapes in the country.
Wine Regions of Armenia
While there have been a number of different regions that have been known for wine production over the past 6000 years in Armenia, today there are three primary areas that are responsible for the majority of modern Armenian wine.
Aragatsotn is a wine region in northern Armenia that has a long history of wine cultivation. The majority of wines produced in Aragatsotn are blends of local grape varietals, with red wine blends and white wine blends both dominating the region’s production.
Armenia Wine Company Tariri Dry Red Wine is one of the most popular bottles of red wine from the Aragatsotn region of Armenia.
It has been awarded a gold medal by Mundus Vini, a German wine academy that is responsible for a number of international wine competitions.
Voskevaz Winery is the oldest and most historic winery in the Aragatsotn region and has been in operation since 1932.
After being managed by the state for decades during Soviet rule, it became privately run in the early 2000s, leading to a significant increase in wine quality.
Voskevaz Karasi Collection Vieilles Vignes Areni Noir is produced in the famous village of Voskevaz and is one of the finest representations of single varietal Areni Noir wines in all of Armenia. At just under $60 per bottle, it is one of the pricier bottles of Armenian wine.
The Armavir region is located in the northern portion of Armenia and is a powerhouse within the country in terms of both wine and Brandy production.
Along with the iconic Areni Noir grape, other lesser-known Armenian wine grape varietals are grown here, including Haghtanak.
The majority of wines available on the international market from the Armavir region are blends, both red and white. Traditionally, only indigenous grape varietals were grown in Armenia, but recent years have seen a rise of French plantings in the region, such as Muscat and Syrah.
Agriculture is the driving force of the Armavir region’s economy, with wine and Brandy grapes being the leading crops.
While Brandy production remains the most important in terms of output and yields, an increasing amount of dedicated wine grapes are planted here each year.
Karas Classic is easily the most recognizable and most popular bottle of wine from the Armavir region of Armenia.
It is made up of a classic blend of local indigenous grape varietals and offers fantastic value at just under $15 per bottle.
Karas Sparkling Extra Brut is the Armavir region’s most popular sparkling wine, and it is made using a delicately balanced blend of indigenous Armenian white wine grapes.
This sparkling wine is widely distributed and available for purchase in many countries, including the US.
There are more wineries in the Vayots Dzor region than anywhere else in the country of Armenia.
This is the area where the famous Areni-1 ancient winery was discovered, along with an elaborate network of caves surrounding the winery.
While there are a large number of small to medium-sized individual wineries in the Vayots Dzor region, there is significantly less wine produced here compared to the powerhouse producer region of Armavir.
Much of the region’s farmland is dedicated to other crops such as fruit, nuts, and livestock. This is one of the most rural and least populated regions in all of Armenia, and it is widely believed that there is a great amount of untapped potential here in terms of wine production.
Zorah Voski is a blend of some of Armenia’s most popular white wine grapes that are consistently awarded scores in the 90s by different wine critics and publications. It is one of the more expensive bottles of Armenian white wine at just under $40 per bottle.
Zorah Yeraz is one of the most highly prized and sought-after bottles of wine produced anywhere in Armenia. It is a single varietal bottle of wine made exclusively with the Areni Noir grape that can cost up to $150 per bottle depending on location.
The Armenian Brandy Industry
The majority of Armenian wine grapes being grown today are used in the production of Brandy, which is liquor made by distilling wine.
Distilling these wines makes them more concentrated and stronger, and Armenian Brandy is world renowned today for its high quality.
Armenian Brandy is made using a handful of local wine grapes that are rarely found anywhere else in the world.
Voskehat, Garan Dmak, Mskhali, Kangun, and Rkatsiteli are the five allowable grapes for Armenian Brandy production, none of which are typically used for regular wine.
Brandy is extremely age-worthy, as it is known to develop more complex and deep layers of flavor in the bottle as time goes on. There are many bottles of Armenian Brandy on the market today that are upwards of 30 years old, which can draw large price tags.
Ararat Erebuni 30-Year-Old Brandy is one of the most famous and expensive bottles of Brandy from the entire country of Armenia.
A single bottle can cost between $700 and $1000, and the producer has no problem with sales, as this is one of the most popular bottles in the region.
Areni Noir is the single most important grape when it comes to the production of non Brandy wine in Armenia.
This thick-skinned red wine grape is grown exclusively in Armenia, and it produces high-quality still red wines that are well regarded internationally.
This wine grape originated in the village of Areni, which is home to the oldest known winery in the entire world. Remains of the ancient winery were discovered in 2011, and all indications suggest that Areni Noir was the wine grape being used over six thousand years ago.
The thick skin of Areni Noir makes it extremely resilient to both extreme climate and fungal diseases, making it perfectly suited for the unforgiving climates and temperature swings of the wine-growing regions in Armenia.
Areni Noir is hands down the most important wine grape in Armenia, and it dominates both plantings and wine production in the country.
The grape is sometimes used in Armenian red wine blends, though most often it is used to produce single varietal bottles of wine.
Zorah Karasi is one of the most highly searched for and most sought-after bottles of single varietal wine in the entire country of Armenia.
It is a regular competitor in international wine competitions, often receiving high marks and awards.
Wines of Armenia – Conclusion
While the vast majority of farmland and resources are dedicated to the production of Brandy today, Armenia is a country with a deep and rich history when it comes to the production of high-quality wine.
There are a number of indigenous wine grapes grown in Armenia, and the majority of wine production today takes place in three primary regions. An increasing number of quality wine grapes are being planted each year in Armenia, making the future look bright for this historic wine country.
Be sure to leave a comment below if you have been fortunate to try the unique wines of Armenia, and let other wine enthusiasts know your thoughts and tasting notes!