In a recent post, this blog ran an interview with the founder of Zorah, a new winery that's trying to revive Armenia's ancient (as in millennia) wine industry and reintroduce the use of certain native grape varieties.
Turns out Zorah is not the only winery trying to take Armenian winemaking back to its roots. In a very informative article in Palate Press, an online wine magazine, Becky Sue Epstein, the website's international editor, reports on a recent visit to Armenia, where she was able to visit some of the country's established wine and brandy makers who are working to update their offerings as well as a handful of other new wineries with lofty ambitions. From her report:
Going out from Yerevan in the opposite direction (west), I also took a day trip to the Armavir area, specifically to Armavir Vineyards, which has an international group of winemakers working at its 400-hectare site. Originally, most of the grapes planted here were “cognac varieties” that were sold for industrial production. This is gradually evolving to wine grapes that are vinified in modern production methods on the property. Grapes are hand-harvested here, because of tradition, available manpower and, I suspect, lack of machinery. This winery is owned by an Argentinean-Armenian industrialist, and his winemakers also treated us to a lovely traditional Armenian lunch with fresh salads, meat and cheese dishes breads and herbs. (Though I later noticed the young workers who came into the dining room had a range of dry cereals for their snacks, just like young people in the West.)
As a contrast, the Vedi-Alco company tugged at my heart with its brave bootstrapping of an old Soviet wine factory, bit by bit. We tasted around a kitchen table set in the barebones laboratory—also set with a small offering of cheeses and breads for a snack. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, they didn’t know how to sell their brandy, so they made cheap vodka for a while. Now they make brandy mainly for the Russian market, and fruit vodkas. With their new line of wines, everything from last September’s harvest was already gone, so it looks like if they can improve production numbers and methods, they may finally be on an upswing.