The History of Armenian Wine

Armenia is known as the world’s oldest winery, dating back to 4100BC. Armenia’s wine history is ancient; archaeologists discovered evidence of large-scale wine production in the Areni-1 cave complex. The discovery is dated back to 6100BC, making it the oldest known wine production region. Other researchers have claimed their wine history goes even further back.[1]

Ancient accounts recognize Armenia as the earliest wine-producing region, referring to it as “the land of the vineyards.”[2] Ancient kings marveled at the large quantities of grapes and vineyards in Armenia, and some bible enthusiasts believe Noah planted the first vineyard in the mount’s valley.

The world’s first wine has been produced in Armenia over 6,000 years ago.

Wineries & Wines

Armenia’s grapes are of the finest quality for wine production. The country is located at the intersection of the Arabian and European tectonic plates. Its mountainous topography offers spectacular views of its wineries and fertile valleys where vineyards are cultivated. The country is blessed with fertile soils that boost vineyard cultivation, especially for endemic grapes. These grapes are used to produce some of the wine only available within the country.

Armenia Wine Production Under the Soviet Union

Armenia is a country rich in history. The country has been conquered by various kingdoms throughout history. Its wine history has evolved in these times, including during the occupation of the Soviet Union, when wine production increased tremendously. Armenia came into the Soviet Union after the Soviets conquered the weakening Ottoman empire. Wine production fared well under the Soviet Union, with its production increasing nine times between 1940 and 1985. Other drinks such as brandy and sparkling wines also increased their production.

As part of the Soviet Union, Armenia became the biggest wine exporter, with Russia as its major importer. In the 1980s, Armenia would process up to 210 tons of grapes, of which they got 14-15 decalitres of wine. Two million decalitres were used to make brandy, while the rest was used for winemaking. Due to increased production, Armenia supplied up to 25% of Soviet Union wine. Today, most wineries employ the same methods used in 1980s wine production.

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This Day in Wine History

November 29th, 1920 – The Soviet Union invaded Armenia as part of the Sovietization of the First Republic of Armenia. The invasion was carried out by the 11th division of the red army from Soviet Russia. On this day, the politics of the First Republic of Armenia changed. The Soviet socialist republic was installed, which led to the changes in wine production in Armenia.

Under the Soviets, wine production evolved from privatization to central planning. Wineries and vineyards were collectivized, basic institutional infrastructure was established, wine regions were created, and a sourcing system was developed.

May 6th, 1930 – Authorities decided to establish Armenian National Agrarian University (ANAU) to serve agricultural purposes. The university offered winemaking and fermentation technologies to boost wine production in Armenia. The university has continued to provide this technology and research to better winemaking procedures.

Its research and development sector “is engaged in studying gene pools of grape cultivars, gathering grape varieties, winemaking, fruit growing and brandy production technology development, new grape varieties description, etc.”[3] The university is engaged in the development of new Agri-technologies for winemaking.

September 21st, 1991 – The Republic of Armenia gained independence from the Soviet Union. Armenians revived the wine industry introducing a new era to Armenian wine. Armenian wine has since enjoyed recognition and success in Russia, Canada, China, and France. United States of America, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy.

However, Russia continues to be the leading importer of Armenian wine. Armenian wine continues to persevere in modern markets due to its unique and endemic grapes. Its grapes are also resistant to pests and diseases, preserving their ancient roots.

Reference

[1] Lauren Mowery, “A Guide to Armenia, One of the World’s Oldest Wine Regions,” Wine Enthusiast, July 19, 2021, https://www.winemag.com/2021/07/19/armenia-wine-guide-grapes-regions/.

[2] Patrick E Mcgovern, Ancient Wine (Princeton University Press, 2019).

[3] Galstyan Martin et al., “CAPSTONE the Development of Armenian Wine Cluster,” 2018, https://cbe.aua.am/files/2018/01/Wine-Cluster.pdf.

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