An emerging wine tourism destination, Armenia has a history of several thousands of years of winemaking, with its rises and falls throughout the country’s turbulent history. Located in the east of the Armenian Highland, Armenia is home to several dozen indigenous grape varieties cultivated and used by locals to make Armenian wine. Traditionally, viticulture and winemaking in Armenia is associated with Noah who planted the very first vines in the Ararat valley after the waters of the Great Flood receded. The fact that Armenians were producing and drinking wine since ancient times was documented as early as in the 5th century BCE by Greek historians who described wine stored in large clay vessels, called ‘karas’, buried in the ground. Wine storages with large karases dating back to the 9th century BCE were also discovered during archaeological excavations near Yerevan.
But despite Armenia’s old winemaking traditions, in the 20th century the country became famous for its brandies, in particular, the legendary “Ararat” brandy. After joining the Soviet Union, although wine production in Armenia increased several times, it was still falling behind brandy. For example, in the 1980s, the country supplied 25% of all the brandy produced and consumed in the entire Soviet Union.
The true rise of the Armenian wine began only some 14 years ago, when the village of Areni, located in the valley of Arpa river in the south of Armenia, hit the international headlines in 2007. A team of Armenian and Irish archaeologists announced the discovery of the world’s oldest winery in a nearby cave. Armenia, famous for its mesmerizing nature, stunning masterpieces of medieval architecture and rich culture, became known as the cradle of world’s winemaking, too.
Several important artifacts were unearthed in this 6100-year-old winery, including a wine press, clay jars and vessels, drinking cups, grape seeds, vines, remains of pressed grapes and other fruits, proving that winemaking was practiced in the area already in the 5th millennium BCE. Interestingly, winemaking remains popular in the Areni area until today, and the Vayots Dzor region of Armenia is sometimes referred to as the Napa valley of Armenia. The discovery of the Areni-1 winery and the consequent development of winemaking in Armenia marked a new era for the Armenian wine.
Traditionally, Armenian wine is made from indigenous grape varieties, such as Areni, Voskehat, Kharji, Lalvari, Kakhet and others, cultivated in 5 key viticultural regions of Armenia – Vayots Dzor, Ararat, Armavir, Aragatsotn and Tavush. Among these varieties, the Areni grape, also known as Areni Noir, is the most famous. This ancient grape variety originates from the same area in the Vayots Dzor region of Armenia where the ancient winery was discovered. Wine made from Areni grapes is notable for its rich color, fruity aromas and velvety texture. In 2012, “Zorah Karasi” wine made from Areni Noir was listed among the world’s 10 best wines by Bloomberg.
Another ancient Armenian grape variety is Voskehat, venerated as the queen of Armenian grapes. Widespread in the regions of Aragatsotn and Armavir, the cultivation of Voskehat grapes is traced back to the first millennium BCE. White wines from Voskehat grape acquire amazing golden colors and shades, with crips taste and aromas of fruits, flowers and citrus.
Wine Festivals in Armenia
Armenia’s cultural heritage and centuries-old traditions are widely celebrated through a number of popular festivals taking place in different parts of the country every year. Festival topics include arts and crafts, music, culinary, rural life and traditions, and of course, Armenian wine. At the moment, there are two annual wine festivals held in Armenia, Areni Wine Festival and Yerevan Wine Days. These festivals played a crucial role in the development of wine culture in Armenia in recent years, with wine bars and restaurants opening around the country, and Armenian wine gaining the recognition it deserves.
Areni Wine Festival
Areni Wine Fest is the largest and most famous Armenian wine festival. A splendid celebration of Armenia’s winemaking traditions, this festival takes place every year in October in the village of Areni. Winemakers from all over Armenia participate in the festival competing for the title of the year’s best Armenian wine. The festival is a great opportunity to get acquainted with Armenian wines, meet winemakers and learn about the wine production and aging processes, and, most importantly, taste a wide range of wines – all free of charge. With a history of over 10 years, Areni Wine Festival is loved by locals and foreign travelers alike, and is often included in wine tours and gastronomic tours in Armenia. Travel to Armenia in autumn if you want to visit this festival.
Yerevan Wine Days
Also known as YereWineDays, this 2-day event is another major wine festival in Armenia, which takes place every year in May on Saryan and adjacent streets in downtown Yerevan. First held in 2017, the event quickly gained huge popularity becoming one of the most anticipated annual events in Armenia. The festival’s main goal is the promotion of the Armenian wine and wine tourism in the country. Visitors can attend the festival free of charge, but unlike the Areni Wine Fest, here you will have to purchase a tasting package in order to taste wines presented by local winemakers.
Where to Buy Armenian Wine?
Nearly every shop and supermarket in Armenia has Armenian wine for sale, though the stores in Armenia’s capital and other larger cities typically have a wider range of wines to choose from. SAS supermarket chain in Yerevan is a good option to look for Armenian wine, several branches are located within the city center. The Saryan street in the center of Yerevan, known as the Wine Street, features a number of great wine bars and shops, such as In Vino, where you can try different Armenian wines from their menus, or buy a bottle. In Vayots Dzor region, visit the ArpaParnas wine tasting room and cellar (located near the Areni-1 cave), boasting a rich collection of Armenian wines. In addition to this, while traveling in Armenia, you can visit different wineries spread around the country, tours around the vineyards, visit wine tasting centers and buy your favorite Armenian wine.
Wine Shops In Yerevan:
- Vino & Vino wine and spirits shops
Address: 28/1 Paronyan Street, Yerevan
- Noyan Tapan wine shop
Address: 12 Amiryan Street, Yerevan
- Wine Time
8 Zakyan Street, Yerevan
Wineries To Visit in Armenia
- Armenia Wine Company
- VanArdi winery
- ArmAs winery
- Old Bridge winery
- Areni wine factory
- Voskeni winery
- Tushpa wine cellar
- Voskevaz winery
- Hin Areni winery
- Trinity Canyon vineyards
- Karas winery