Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Grape Spotlight: Ancient Armenian Voskehat & Areni

Genesis 9.20:  Now Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard.

Archaeological evidence uncovered in 2010 shows that grape growing and wine-making in ancient Armenia pre-date the biblical flood and Noah's planting of grapes in the mountains of Ararat by 1,500 years. "... researchers with the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Armenian Institute of Archeology and Ethnography unearthed archeological evidence of the world's oldest known winery in the village of Areni in southeastern Armenia. Beneath a layer of sheep manure inside a cave, the remains of crushed grapes and vessels for collecting and fermenting grape juice dating to 6,100 years ago were recovered, proving that humans produced wine systematically one thousand years earlier than thought. Additionally, traces of a grape used in red wine production today were found on pot shards at the excavation site, forging a new link between ancient and modern wine production." -- Smithsonian Magazine

Present-day Armenia consists of several wine regions with the focus here on a trio: Aragatsotn, Armavir, and Vayots Dzor. Aragatsotn is a wine region that dates back to the time of Noah. located between 1000-1400 meters above sea level, the region lies near Yerevan -- the capital and largest city of Armenia and one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities. With Ararat visible in the distance, this region is the birthplace of the old Armenian grape type Voskehat, known as the “queen” of Armenian grapes, and was first cultivated 3500 years ago. 

Armavir is a province in the northwest of Armenia and is the largest region for quality wine production in the country as well as for brandy distilling. Most of the vineyards on the plain lie between 900 and 1,100 meters in altitude (2,950 to 3,600ft). Vineyards are mostly planted in volcanic soils.

Vayots Dzor is a mountainous province in southeastern Armenia. As described above, it is one of the oldest documented wine-producing regions in the world and is the birthplace of Areni, the country’s main indigenous red variety. The vineyards here lie mainly between 950 and 1,200 meters above sea level (3,100 to 3,950ft). 

Storica Wines is an Armenian wine import company providing access to several Armenian wineries to the American consumer.  Two of these are Keush and Zulal -- both started by Vahe Keushguerian and his family.  "Over the past decade or so, he has identified numerous ancient indigenous varieties and set up multiple nurseries to revive and propagate them throughout the country’s fledgling wine industry" -- Noah's ArtKeush is a label based on the family name and specializes in sparkling wine. The Zulal brand attempts to find the purest expression of the local environment by selecting combing rows of abandoned vineyards and after genetically identifying the grape variety, harvesting enough to fill a tank.  Obviously a painstaking endeavor. 

KEUSH Origins ($25.99) sparkling wine is a blend of the Armenian indigenous varieties Voskehat and Khatouni. In fact, this wine is the first traditional method sparkler crafted with Armenian indigenous grapes. Just imagine sparkling lemon and nut bread. These grapes were harvested from vineyards 1,750m above sea level planted in limestone soils on volcanic rock. The 6,000-year-old Armenian viticulture history comes alive with Origins. 

Zulal Voskehat 2018 ($19.99, 13%)
Voskehat translates to "goldenberry" and is a late-ripening thick-skinned ancient grape variety. It is widespread in Aragatsotn, Armavir, and Vayots Dzor. According to the winery, "Voskehat is known for its complex stone fruity aromas and has been used for a wide range of wine types including dry white, sparkling, as well as dessert, and fortified wines". The grapes for this wine were grown on volcanic soils at 1400 meters in Aghavnadzor village of Vayots Dzor region.  The wine starts with honeysuckle, then mostly pears with depth and slightly herbaceous. Full mouthfeel

Zulal Areni 2018 ($21.99, 13%)
The grapes for this wine were grown at 1400-1750 meter elevations in volcanic soil from the Aghavnadzor and Khachik villages of Vayots Dzor.  This wine has medium body and tannins, slight white pepper and mint, long sizzling acidity,

Zulal Areni Reserve 2018 ($32.99, 14%)
The grapes for this wine were grown on a single plot of volcanic soil situated at 1200 meters in the Arpa Valley, Vayots Dzor. As opposed to the wine above, the Reserve undergoes additional oak treatment which rounds out the flavor profile and adds a little spice. Expect velvety blueberries, slight, slight spice, great mouthfeel - long finish. 

Disclosure: We received samples from Storca in order to share our opinion about their products, but this isn’t a sponsored post.

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