If you don’t have a clue to the rich winemaking of Armenia, no worries, we were in the dark too—until we were invited to a delicious Armenian wine tasting one afternoon at NYC’s Lower East Side, Somm Time Wine Bar (@ somm_time). The tasting was hosted by Blaine Ashley (aka Champagne Blaine) of The FIZZ is Female and New York Champagne Week, a woman who brings to light fizzy brands from around the world. At this insightful event we were introduced to Keush, the first traditional method sparkling wine crafted from only Armenian indigenous varieties. Keush’s grapes are sourced from vineyards 1750 meters (nearly 6,000 feet) above sea level and grown in volcanic soil. They are some of the highest vineyards in Armenia, and in the world, that practice the Méthode Traditionnelle.
Fun fact, Armenia calls itself the “birthplace of wine.” According to an article in Decanter, the world’s oldest winery dating back 6,100 years, was discovered in the Areni Complex in Armenia. Archaeologists believe wine produced in this cave winery was used for ceremonial purposes.
At the tasting, there were three Keush sparkling wines. Keush Origins is a blend of Voskehat, Khatouni and Areni, the Keush Rosé Cuvée Couchanne 2018 and Ultra Blanc de Noirs 2017, are each made of 100% Areni grapes. If we had to single out our favorite of the three it would be Keush Rosé Cuvée Couchanne 2018 with its zesty and strong mineral notes and red fruits finish. It is perfect for day time or as an aperitif.
In addition, two other wineries were represented. We got to sample Zulal Voskehat, a dry white wine of a distinct character. Tasting Notes: a dry, medium-to-full bodied wine with aromas of ripe apple, pear and honeysuckle balanced by a crisp, savory herbal backbone. Pale golden yellow in color, it has a long finish and a pleasing minerality. In the red category, Van Ardi Areni Reserve 2018, was very rich and complex with notes of cherries and plums with a long finish. Ideal to pair with a heavier meal.
We met Mr. Kevork DerKevorkian (seen in the photo above), co-founder of Storica Wines, an Armenian wine import company in the U.S.
We were curious why he thinks Armenian wines are special and why should we explore them more?
He emphasized that the grapes used are indigenous grapes that only grow in Armenia. Wines are made with some of the oldest grapes known to man, perhaps six, even seven thousand, years ago.
What are some of the specific grapes we can only find in Armenia?
The most well known red grape varietal is Areni, which is also the name of the oldest wine making facility ever discovered, The Areni Wine Cave, also the name of the region.
Among the white grape varieties is the Voskehat, which translates to golden berry. Kevork DerKevorkian explains: “It comes in this beautiful, thick, round golden cluster similar to a chardonnay, with completely different DNA. It has that smooth, buttery taste, but again, completely indigenous to Armenia—it doesn’t grow anywhere else. And yeah, like I said, these grapes, they’re ancient grapes, this region where Armenia and Georgia is, this is where winemaking started. So it’s really interesting to be, you know, to be drinking wines that you know, they’ve been drinking the same grapes for thousands of years.”
When asked if he has a personal favorite, Kevork DerKevorkian said his personal favorite is the grape called Sireni that only grows in the South.
This wine tasting certainly sparked our interest and we hope to get to try more of delicious Armenian wines or even visit the region. If you would like to try some of these wines you can purchase them on Storica Wines website.