Armenians love to party. They find any excuse to revel in the streets with some sizzling barbequed kebabs in hand and plenty of lavash bread to go around.
And often, alcohol is the star. In October, scores of people from around the world flocked to the village of Areni, where the earliest known winery was discovered in a cave dating back to 4,100 BC.
Winemakers from all over the country, including local independents working out of their garages, gathered in the village in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor province to offer their finest vintages at the annual Areni Wine Festival.
For millennia wine in Armenia was produced using the same painstaking methods, and stored in the traditional karas—a ceramic vessel that is still employed to this day. Wine was used for divination in ancient shrines about 3,300 years ago.
Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus documented the transportation of wine from Armenia down the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in the 5th century BC. Armenian winemaking culture has endured the test of time, surviving regional wars and conquests repeatedly. The intensely rich volcanic soil is an enduring symbol of eternity for Armenians, and wine exemplifies longevity.
The main focus of Armenian wine has traditionally been Areni, which is the name of an ancient ovular-shaped red varietal. The problem with Areni is that it has been over propagated to meet the high demand, mostly from Russia.