Bottles of "Aryats" wine by Gevorkian Winery, Armenia / Photo: Arty Om
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Now already an internationally known fact, Armenia is one of the, if not the oldest cradles of viticulture. In 2007, a 6100-year-old ancient winery was discovered in the Areni-1 cave in Vayots Dzor province of Armenia, a territory that now again, after the Soviet reformation into a brandy-producing country, is in full swing making wine true to its historic practices. Over the past decade or so, local enthusiasts and repatriates, rediscovering the unique terroir of the country along with its ancient viticulture, have been turning their enthusiasm into boutique and larger-scale wineries spreading all over the country, studying indigenous grapes and exploring new winemaking horizons they open up.
Whether you are a professional winemaker, a connoisseur or an enthusiast, Armenia is most definitely the next pin on your wine world map. I have made a list of 4 wine tourism experiences you would not want to miss out on while in Armenia.
1. VISIT THE OLDEST WINEMAKING FACILITY IN ARMENIA
The Areni-1 cave complex is located in Vayots Dzor province of Armenia, a region that is now once again one of the biggest producers of modern Armenian wine. About 2 hours’ drive from Yerevan, the cave complex is open for visits daily. Archeologists found an elaborately designed (for the time) winemaking facility with fermentation vats, jars, press, grapes seeds, and traces of ritual practices in the cave.
Apparently, the love for the heavenly potion has been in the Armenian DNA for many millennia. And until there is a new discovery proving the fact obsolete, Armenia has the oldest winery and you are welcome to come check it out.
2. ATTEND THE ARENI WINE FESTIVAL
Maran Winery presents its wines at Areni Wine Fest 2016 / Photo: Arty Om
Now, if you happen to be in Armenia in autumn, you’re in luck for you’ll get to take part in the Areni Wine Festival. Spanning a few days in the first week of October, travelers, locals, international wine experts and connoisseurs gather in the province of Vayots Dzor of Armenia to celebrate Armenians’ ancient friendship with wine.
Taking place in Rind village, Areni village and Yeghegnadzor, the festivities include wine tastings, performances and demos of winemaking practices. Here you can meet fellow wine enthusiasts, taste locally produced and homemade wines and experience the kind-spirited inebriation and the unity of nature and man.
(The Areni Wine Festival 2017 will take place in the village of Areni on October 7, from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM.)
3. TAKE A WINERY TOUR
The vineyards of ArmAs Winery / Photo: Courtesy of ArmAs Winery
Being one of the top 15 wine tour destinations in the world according to , Armenia offers most diverse tours to best local wineries complete with production facility visits and tastings. Check out the following winery tours:
Founded in 2007 and situated in Nor Yedesia, Aragatsotn province about 40km north-west of Yerevan, ArmAs winery is also considered one of the best in the country. Flexible packages are offered for tours, starting at 12,000 AMD up to 20,000 with options to add premium wines to the tasting. Featured wines — Kangun White Dry, Rose Dry, Karmrahyut Red Dry, Kangun Semi-Sweet White and others. Call for reservations.
Address: Nor Yedesia, Aragatsotn | Phone: +37496 009 267 | Website
Located in the Sasunik village of Aragtsotn province (30 minutes from Yerevan), this is one of the larger-scale wineries in Armenia. During the tour, the history of winemaking will be revealed, you will get to see the aging wine cellars, the sparkling wine production process, and taste the locally produced wines, such as Armenia White Dry, Red Dry, Pomegranate Semi-Sweet, Takar Extra Brut Sparkling and others. Tour prices range from 3,000 to 6,000 AMD.
Address: Sasunik village, Aragatsotn | Phone: +374 60 467 707; +374 60 467 717 | Website
The Hin Areni winery is located in the village of Areni in Vayots Dzor province, about 2 hours’ drive from Yerevan. The winery offers production facility tours and tastings all year round. Taste Dry Red, Rose and White, while the story of Areni unfolds for you. The tickets are only 1,000 AMD. You can comfortably combine this tour with the visit to Areni-1 cave, which is only 3 minutes’ drive from the winery.
Address: Areni village, Vayots Dzor | Phone: +37491 407 033 | Website
Situated in another Armenian region famous for winemaking — Armavir, Karas launched commercial production in 2010 and gained quick popularity. Making their wines from both indigenous and international varieties, vineyards feature Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Kangun, Voskehat for whites and Malbec, Tannat, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for reds. Tours cost around 15,000 AMD and include a tasting of 3 wines. Held every Saturday.
Address: Arevadasht, Armavir region | Phone: +37455 870 309 | Website
Short drive from Yerevan (about half an hour) and you will find yourself in Van Ardi Winery Estate. Van Ardi Areni Reserve, Syrah Reserve, Kangun, Rose wine tasting coupled with excellent food pairing, music and relaxed atmosphere. Ticket price - 5,000 AMD.
Address: Sasunik village, Aragatsotn | Phone: +37494 535 050 | Website
Another winery located in Armavir province is Voskeni. Established in 2008, the winery produces White Dry, Red Dry from grape varieties, such as Voskehat, Garan dmak, Khatun, Qrditchakat, Areni, Khndoghni, Kakhet and others. Tours vary from wine tasting to picnic lunch and cost 7,500-19,500 AMD per person.
Address: Araks village, Armavir | Phone: +37493 123 640 | Website
Located in the village of Voskevaz in Aragatsotn province of Armenia, again just half an hour drive from Yerevan, Voskevaz winery is open for travelers year-round. Tour packages range from 3,500 AMD to 7,000 AMD and include a winery tour, wine tasting and snacks.
Address: Voskevaz village, Aragatsotn | Phone: +37410 202 006 | Facebook page
(Looking for a package tour? Check out the "Wine & Cuisine" 7-day tour by Selftravelguide.
Need a 1-day wine tour? Book the "Cradle of World's Winemaking" tour by Selftravelguide.)
4. HANG OUT AT A WINE BAR
In Vino wine bar / Photo: Viktorya Mirzoyan
With the revival of the wine culture, wine bars keep popping up in Yerevan. Highly educated staff, professional service and the most appropriate ambiance for a bottle of wine paired with good music and food. Here are our best options:
Hands down one of the best places to wine and dine in Yerevan with famous mussels, mouthwatering dishes seasoned with highly professional service and shelves of wine that will get you all excited for the evening. Local reds and whites of Karas, ArmAs, Zorah and such, as well as international favorites like Albert Bichot Chablis, Miguel Torres Penedes Milmanda, Domaine de Paris Rose and many others available for your pleasurable evening at Wine Republic. The crowd is also probably the best you can ask for. It is a quite popular non-smoking venue, so be sure to reserve.
Address: 2 Tamanyan St. | Phone: +37455 001 100 | Facebook page
A selection of over 800 names of wines from Vina Alzara, Pares Balta, Cape Mentelle to Ariats, Aparteny, Hin Areni and 6100 Areni Noir, the wine card will get you coming back to In Vino for a new experience. Frequent new wine presentations and awesome atmosphere. Be sure to reserve.
Address: 6 Saryan St. | Phone: +37410 521 931 | Facebook page
Voskevaz Wine Time
Focusing on Voskevaz products, the venue has a wide selection of wines to choose from. Founded by famous Armenian comedian and actor Hovhannes Azoyan, the venue is a popular hangout place among contemporary Armenian actors, artists, singers and TV celebrities spending their evenings in a relaxing atmosphere. Moreover, this venue can boast one of the coolest interior designs in town.
Address: 8 Saryan St. | Phone: +37460 706 262 | Facebook page
One of the most favored spots of wine connoisseurs and amateurs, locals and visitors of the city alike. Aperitivo offers a wide selection of wines you can combine with the diverse food menu. The staff is knowledgeable and will guide you through the best choice.
Address: 1/17 Tamanyan St. | Phone: +37498 586 584 | Facebook page
Enoteca is a wine bar, distillery and shop offering a wide variety of wines produced in Armenia and around the world. Fridays and Saturdays, they have live performances by renowned Armenian jazz musicians. The patio section creates a marvelous atmosphere for tasting fine wine, listening to music and enjoying the summer evening breeze.
Address: 6 Sayat Nova St. | Phone: +37491 549 471 | Facebook page
From higher end Dona Paula Malbec Syrah and Joseph Droufin Pinot Noir to local production Trinity Eh and Highland Cellars Koor Reserve, Tapastan offers a nice wine card and mouthwatering dishes to go with it. Relaxing atmosphere and attractive design.
Address: 6 Saryan St. | Phone: +37410 521 932 | Facebook page
This selection is far from being complete. With the revival of wine culture in Armenia I hope to see opportunities seized for this unique type of tourism in Armenia and more and more people recognize the country for its historic value and potential. I hope you enjoy your visit!