While Armenian wine has been around for a millennia, it wasn’t until recently that it started to garner the attention of wine connoisseurs around the globe. And for good reason.
Home to the oldest known winery in the world at Areni-1 Cave, a site only discovered in the last 15 years dating back to 5000-4000 BC, Armenia is also home to over 100 indigenous grape varietals, including the important Areni Noir grape. The Areni Noir grape is believed to be one of the first grapes used to make wine, and is often credited with helping Armenia, along with the Republic of Georgia, become the true birthplace of viticulture.
So why is it that Armenian wine is just now starting to turn heads? There is a myriad of ways to answer this, but the short answer boils down to the up-and-coming boutique wineries that are pushing the limits of what wine means to a country like Armenia. Through the eyes and hearts of these winemakers, new light is being shown on the indigenous grape varieties in the country, and their significance to the history of winemaking.
A country well-known for its hospitality, oenophiles from around the world have – and still are – relocating to Armenia to do just that, make wine and continue developing a new sector of hospitality in the region that started it thousands of years ago.
It’s these five boutique wineries that are worth paying attention to, not only for their unique and delicious single-origin and blended wines, but for their fermentation and aging techniques and their ability to tell the history of winemaking in just one sip. Read their stories below and hear how their wines and production take a small piece of Armenia’s ancient wine history and infuse it with a modern approach. Then, do yourself a favor and get to Armenia to pay each of them a visit and try their wines in person.
Galar Vines began in 2019 when founders Gohar and Hagop found themselves in an accelerated winemaking program at EVN Wine Academy in Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan. Fascinated by growing techniques and the stories of leading industry experts, the pair decided to establish a vineyard on their family-owned land in the Armavir region, bringing new life to the then-abandoned estate. Too eager to wait for their vineyard to bear fruit, the co-founders begin sourcing grapes from local viticulturists to not waste any time. Turning to Haghtanak grapes, a grape known for its strong characteristics, the team started using these grapes as the base for their signature reds, and Voskehat grapes, an endemic but scarce grape, as the base for their signature whites. Through experimenting and using different techniques, Gohar and Hagop eventually uncovered the Haghtanak grape’s undiscovered potential and today they are known for their 100% Haghtanak wine.
To arrange a tasting or join the annual harvest, contact Galar Wines on their Facebook page.
Under the direction of Dmitry Egorov, a cultural anthropologist turned travel manager from Moscow, Khme Wine is a small boutique winery in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that’s been making the news for other reasons. Disputes aside, alongside his partner, David Astsatryan, a professional winemaker from Stepanakert, Egorov’s wine is one of the most talked about, exciting new wines in the country right now. Especially when it comes to the development of skin-contact wines in Armenia.
Khme, which means drink up in the Artsakhtsi dialect, has people from around the world doing just that. Most of their harvest comes from non-irrigated vineyards, something rare for Armenia but quite common in Karabakh, before making it to karases (clay amphoras). Using this traditional method of winemaking, they’ve begun experimenting with native Armenian white grape varieties, such as Voskehat, Khatun Kharji, Chillar, Banants, and Kangun, all from different regions in an old meets new way of winemaking.
While the vineyard is in Nagorno-Karabakh, interested wine enthusiasts can taste Khme Wines at one of the tastings they offer in Yerevan. To see their tasting schedule, follow them on their Facebook page.
Dzon Wine’s founder Gomidas Merjanian was born in Aleppo, Syria and traveled to Armenia for the first time in 2007 before eventually calling the country home in 2012. Upon moving to Armenia, he worked as a bartender at In Vino, a popular wine bar in Yerevan often credited with reviving wine culture in the country. With a newfound love for wine, he entered into the EVN Wine Academy, later taking on a winemaker fellowship with Trinity Canyon Vineyards. Eventually purchasing an old vineyard in Aghavnadzor, which is most notably home to the Areni Noir grape, his innovation continues to grow within the local wine scene. His love for old wine from a single vineyard makes Dzon Wine a standout in Armenia’s burgeoning wine scene. The name Dzon means tribute in Armenian, and his wine is a tribute to Armenia’s past, art, wars, creations, innovations, and it’s very promising future.
To arrange a tasting or see where you can sample a bottle in Yerevan, contact Dzon Wine on their Facebook page.
Krya Wines is a young, boutique winery in Armenia that is owned and operated by Tatevik Gabrielyan and Jean Paul Berger, an Armenian-German couple who met in 2012 while studying winemaking in Switzerland. After years of working for wineries in Germany, Russia, and Switzerland, they repatriated to Armenia in 2017 and became the owners of an abandoned vineyard in Vayots Dzor’s Vernashen village. Tatevik and Jean Paul only work with grapes they grow on site, and they’ve transformed the Soviet-era vineyard into an amalgamation of European pruning techniques paired with undervalued, ancient Armenian grape varietals. Their vision is to create a pathway between the ancient and the modern. Wine aficionados can taste this journey in each bottle regardless of whether they are drinking a Sev Areni 2019 or a Indigenous Blend White Dry 2021.
To arrange a tasting or learn more, contact Krya Wines on their Facebook page.
Recruitment professional turned winemaker Lobhana Ahale spent her childhood in India before relocating to the UAE for work. When the pandemic hit and she was forced to work remotely, she used this as an opportunity to dive into the world of Armenian wine and founded Yog Wines. Ahale believes that every bottle has a personality, and it expresses the transformation of the vines each year, therefore giving each glass a part of that subtle wisdom from nature’s spiritual journey. The female-owned winery’s labels are a reflection of this as the symbols on them represent spiritual transformation, whether it be from the vine to the wine or as humans experience throughout their lives. Yog Wines is not looking to mass produce, but rather explore and introduce the uniqueness of Armenian varietals. Ahale’s vineyard and 40-year-old vines are in the Vayots Dzor region, and she is expanding to grow biodynamic indigenous red Armenian grape varietals on a small plot of land in the Ararat region next. One sip of her Areni 2021 is all it takes to taste the personality of Ahale’s vines for yourself.
To arrange a tasting or an exclusive visit to the Yog Wines terroirs, contact them on their Facebook page.