Image Courtesy of Voskeni Wines
While Armenia might be considered a young wine region, the country has some of the oldest winemaking traditions.
Findings in the Areni Cave, located in southwestern Armenia, suggest that the country’s winemaking industry may be more than 6,000 years old. Excavations in Karmir Blur, also known as Red Hill, in the capital of Yerevan reveal carbonized grape seeds and vessels for storing wine called pithoi-karases that date back to 7th century B.C.E. Today, the Erebuni Historical and Archaeological Museum continues to excavate and shed light on Armenia’s winemaking past.
But the Armenian genocide of 1915 and the formation of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia in 1922 interrupted the culture’s longstanding winemaking tradition. During the 70 years under Soviet rule, 95% of grapes grown in Armenia were used for fortified wines and brandy, according to Viticulture and Winemaking in Armenia by Avag Harutyunyan.
When the Soviet Union collapsed and Armenia gained its independence in 1991, many of the country’s winemakers started to look for their roots and take steps toward reestablishing the country’s wine industry. Here’s a look at three wineries that are pioneering a new history of Armenian winemaking both at home and abroad.
Vayots Dzor, Armenia
According to the family, Maran Winery started in 1828 with the repatriation of founders, Sargis and Maran Harutyunyan, to Armenia from Persia—where their ancestors were forcefully relocated by the order of King Shah Abbas in the 1600s.
They planted a vineyard in Artabuynq, a village hidden in the mountains of Vayots Dzor province in southern Armenia. Later, in 1860 their son Harutyun established the first semi-industrial wine press in the country and expanded what his parents started into a full-fledged winery, naming it Maran as a tribute to his mother.
But in the 1920s as part of the USSR collectivization, Maran became part of the state. The family stopped all operations.