Wine Region: A Guide to Armenia, One of the World’s Oldest Wine Regions
Armenia, an ancient land nestled in Caucasus region encompasses of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of Iran, Russia, and Turkey. This region is considered to be the birthplace of wine as traditional winemaking dates back to 8000 B.C. and 4100 B.C.
Despite its relatively small size, Armenia boasts a diverse range of terroirs and grape varieties that contribute to the production of exceptional wines. In this article, we will delve into the captivating world of Armenian wines, exploring the unique terroir of the region and shedding light on the remarkable grape varieties that thrive in this historical land.
Here are some facts about Armenia:
TOTAL COUNTRY SIZE: 11,484 km square (Singapore is 720km square, about 40 times bigger), landlocked by Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran & Turkey. Divided into 10 provinces, plus the capital city Yerevan.
POPULATION: 3 million (.04% of the world’s population)
RELIGION: First country to adopt Christianity in 301 AD
FOOD: Ghapama (pumpkin dish), flatbread, yoghurt, dolmas, lamb
Terroir: Unraveling Armenia’s Wine Landscape
1.1 Geographic Characteristics:
Armenia’s diverse terroir is shaped by its geographical location and dramatic landscape. From the fertile plains of Ararat to the high-altitude vineyards of Vayots Dzor, each region offers distinct soil compositions, sun exposure, and microclimates that influence the character and quality of the wines.
The continental climate of Armenia, characterized by hot summers and cold winters, plays a crucial role in the cultivation of grapes. Explore how the diurnal temperature variation, ample sunshine, and the influence of nearby mountains contribute to the development of vibrant flavors and balanced acidity in Armenian wines.
Armenia’s diverse terroir various soil types, each contributing unique attributes to the grapevines and ultimately the wines, including volcanic, limestone, and alluvial soils.
Volcanic soils are rich in minerals and nutrients, providing an ideal foundation for grapevine growth. Volcanic soils tend to retain heat, which can be beneficial for vine development, especially in the cool evenings of the Armenian highlands.
Limestone are known for their excellent drainage capabilities, forcing grapevine roots to dig deep in search of water and nutrients. The stress on the vines often results in smaller yields but more concentrated flavors in the grapes. Wines from vineyards with limestone and marl soils tend to have a pronounced structure, fine tannins, and a complex flavour profile.
Alluvial soils are typically a mixture of sand, silt, and clay, creating well-draining and fertile conditions for vine cultivation. The wines produced from these soils often display a balanced character, with a good combination of fruitiness, acidity, and soft tannins.
90% of the country is higher than 1,000 meters above sea level due to the Caucasus Mountain range. To put into perspective, Singapore’s highest point, Bukit Timah Hill, is 165 meters high.
Vayots Dzor, the main wine region of Armenia
Vayots Dzor is a prominent wine region located in Armenia, a country with a rich winemaking heritage that dates back thousands of years. Located in the southeastern part of Armenia, 10% of the area is used for vineyard plantings due to the mountainous terrior. The region benefits from a continental climate characterized by hot summers and cold winters. The significant diurnal temperature variation in Vayots Dzor helps grapes to retain acidity and develop complex flavours.
Vayots Dzor is particularly renowned for its indigenous grape variety called Areni “are-AY-nee” Noir. This ancient grape has a long history in the region and is celebrated for producing high-quality red wines. Areni Noir wines are often characterized by their elegant structure, vibrant acidity, and flavors of red berries, pomegranate, and spices. In addition to Areni Noir, other grape varieties cultivated in Vayots Dzor include Khndoghni, Voskehat, and Kangun.
Paul Hobbs, regarded as an international visionary for his accomplishments in the vineyard and winery, Paul has combined his childhood roots on the family farm with an innovative scientific approach to refine the art of winemaking. He is recognized across the globe for breaking with tradition and forging new paths in the pursuit of excellence; both in stewardship of the land, and the crafting of wines that represent the purist concept of place. Here, in Armenia, Paul has experienced a kind of ‘homecoming’ to a land unmarred by modern farming and industrial practices.
Paul Hobbs and The Yacoubian Family
Knowing vaguely of the region’s winemaking history, and characteristically curious, Paul traveled with the Yacoubians in 2005, visiting six of the ten provinces, and experiencing first-hand the sheer potential of Armenia’s winegrowing regions.
Since the official establishment of the partnership in 2008, Paul travels with the Yacoubians several times annually to the Vayots Dzor to oversee the farming and winemaking employed to produce the Yacoubian-Hobbs wines. Together with their local team, they are introducing practices in the vineyard and winery to not only produce the highest quality wines, but to elevate the region as a whole. Honoring the history and potential of Armenian wine is a cornerstone of the collaboration.
Their newly planted vineyards in 2014, is a stone’s throw away from the Areni-1 cave, the oldest known winery dating from over 6,000 years ago. With their local team, Paul and the Yacoubians are growing and crafting wines that confirm Armenia’s part not only in the ancient history of winemaking, but in its very relevant present and future among the great wine regions of the world.
Indigenous White Varieties
Voskehat (“golden berry”) “vos-KAY-hot”
Considered the emblematic white variety of Armenia, Voskehat thrives in high-altitude, rocky soils and is known for its longevity with vines living well past 100 years. Thick-skinned berries yield complex and expressive aromatics including the fresh scent of the Armenian Snowdrop flower.
Medium sized, thick-skinned berries give a notable crispness and unique floral expression to the wine.
Thin-skinned berries express delicate fruit aromas and give a harmonious, round finish to the final blend.
A late-ripening white variety often used in blends, bringing great freshness.
Garan Demak (“sheep’s tail”) “Gah-RAN TEH-mock”
This variety prefers rocky, semi-desert soils; its delicate fruit rounds out the final wine.
Yacoubian-Hobbs Dry White Blend
Vineyard Source: Aghavnadzor, Vayots Dzor
• 90% Voskehat – or “golden berry” is considered the emblematic white variety of Armenia. It thrives in high-altitude, rocky soils, and is known for its longevity, with vines living well past 100 years. Its thick-skinned berries yield complex and expressive aromatics, including the fresh scent of the Armenian Snowdrop flower.
• 5% Khatuni – an indigenous variety with thick-skinned berries, it gives a notable crispness and unique floral expression to the wine.
• 3% Qrdi – a late-ripening variety, brings a beautiful freshness to the blend.
• 2% Garan Demak – or “sheep’s tail” prefers rocky, semi-desert soils; its delicate fruit rounds out the final wine.
Wine Profile: Refreshing aromas of honeysuckle, melon, and crisp green apple give way to notes of toasted almond, key lime, and a hint of beeswax, with a flinty minerality and a lingering finish.
Elevation: over 1,200 meters above sea level
Winemaking: Fermented and aged 26 months in stainless steel tanks
Indigenous Red Varietal
An ancient variety indigenous to Armenia, Areni has adapted perfectly to the high altitude, mountainous region of Vayots Dzor, where the vines thrive on the rocky, mineral-rich, volcanic soils. This late-ripening grape makes fresh, elegant, structured wines with bright red fruit flavors, and a characteristic black pepper spice.
Vineyard Source: Rind, Vayots Dzor
• 95% Areni – an ancient variety indigenous to Armenia, Areni has adapted perfectly to the high altitude, mountainous region of Vayots Dzor, where the vines thrive on the rocky, mineral-rich, volcanic soils. This late-ripening grape makes fresh, elegant, structured wines with bright red fruit flavors, and a characteristic black pepper spice.
• 5% Tozot – a rare indigenous Armenian variety with dense, conical bunches, medium-sized berries, and medium skin thickness. Its name translates to “dusty,” and is derived from the berries being covered in heavy bloom. It contributes crispness to the finished wine.
Wine Profile: Elegant aromas of morello cherry and strawberry mingle with baking spices and clove in this lighter bodied red wine. On the palate, bright notes of pomegranate, and white pepper are balanced by refreshing acidity, and a clean finish.
Elevation: over 1,200 meters above sea level
Winemaking: Fermented and aged 20 months in stainless steel tanks
Yacoubian-Hobbs ‘Sarpina’ Areni
Selected as the finest Areni from the high elevation vineyards of Rind, Vayots Dzor, this wine exemplifies the future of Yacoubian-Hobbs wines.
Aged in French oak, and produced in small quantity, the ‘Sarpina’ “sar-PEE-na” is named for the posts used to train vines as is recorded in Armenian agricultural history books. With the name ‘Sarpina’ we honor Armenia’s rich, ancient wine history.
Vineyard Source: Rind, Vayots Dzor
100% Areni: an ancient variety indigenous to Armenia, Areni has adapted perfectly to the high altitude, mountainous region of Vayots Dzor, where the vines thrive on the rocky, mineral-rich, volcanic soils. This late ripening grape makes fresh, elegant, structured wines with bright red fruit flavors, and a characteristic black pepper spice.
Wine Profile: Complex aromas of blackcurrant, spiced plum, and cacao nib entice in this barrel-aged Areni. Layered notes of spiced fig, forest floor, and black pepper are balanced by dusty tannins and a lingering finish.
Elevation: over 1,300 meters
Winemaking: Fermentation in stainless steel; aged 36 months in neutral French oak barrels
Armenia’s wine region is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Its unique terroir, indigenous grape varieties, and passionate winemakers create an extraordinary tapestry of flavors and aromas. By exploring the captivating world of Armenian wines, we have unveiled the essence of this ancient land, inviting wine lovers to embark on a memorable journey through history, culture, and the delights of the vine.