D’Amato & Szabo: Wine Thieves – Ep 41: Armenia – Stepping Back Through Time

Armenia: Stepping Back Through Time
The world’s most ancient wine-producing region, with 6,000 years of history, is just beginning a modern winemaking renaissance. Why haven’t you heard about Armenian wine?  Unlike neighbouring Georgia, whose wine production has continued unbroken for millennia, Armenia’s ill-fated wine culture was drowned by successive waves of troubled historical events. But thanks to the country’s extreme climate, phylloxera-free volcanic soils, an abundance of highly promising, antediluvian grape varieties such as areni and voskehat – the ancestors of all wine grapes –  growing ambition, national pride and a commitment to help rebuild the country through resurrecting its wine industry, small but mighty Armenia is scratching out some territory on the Historic World wine map.

Mount Ararat’s eternally snow-covered peak looms large over most of the country. The stately, strato-volcanic peak is the country’s national symbol, a sacred mountain and a spiritual emblem.  Biblical historians believe it to be the place where  Noah first set his Ark upon solid ground after the floods, subsequently planted vineyards and made wine. But what’s certain is that Armenia is home to the oldest known winery in the world, uncovered recently in Vayots Dzor, a region in the Armenian highlands in the country’s southeast. The small village of Areni is where the stunning discovery of the winery was made in 2010. An American-Armenian team of researchers and archeologists excavated what has been dubbed the Areni-1 cave, where evidence was uncovered indicating that the site had been used for making wine as early as 6,100 years ago,  a thousand years earlier than proactive winemaking was thought to have started. Although older vessels containing traces of what is believed to be fermented grape juice have been unearthed in neighbouring Georgia and Iran, Areni-1 is so far the oldest site unearthed where wine was conclusively not only stored but also purposely produced (not accidentally fermented!).

We’ll take a deep dive into the history of the world’s cradle of wine, and explore what the future holds for this reawakened wine region. John and Sara welcome Zara Muradian and Hayarpi Shaninyan of the Armenian Vine & Wine Foundation, a fledgling organization created to re-establish Armenian wine on the national and international scene. 

armenia part 1 cover art