Where is Armenia?
Armenia is a former republic of the Soviet Union, sharing borders with Turkey, Georgia, and Iran in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia. Ancient Armenia was once one of the most significant countries in the Middle East and is considered one of the oldest countries in the world.
ARMENIA: AN ANCIENT CIVILIZATION
Armenia is an ancient civilization found on ancient Babylonian maps from the 5th century BC. Evidence found in Armenian caves leads scholars to believe Armenia was inhabited by humans as far back as 90,000 BC. The oldest leather shoe in the world was discovered in an Armenian cave; scientists believe it was left behind five and a half thousand years ago.
Many cultures and religions consider this ancient place the cradle of civilization and a Holy Land.
Many believe that Armenia’s Mount Ararat is the final resting place of Noah’s ark.
According to legend, Noah settled on the slopes of Mount Ararat after the biblical flood and planted the world’s first— and oldest—vineyard.
Is Armenia the Birthplace of Wine?
Legends suggest that the first post-flood vineyard was planted on the slopes of Mount Ararat. A Bible verse from the book of Genesis (9:20) tells of Noah cultivating the ground and planting a vineyard.
In 2011, a team of archaeologists uncovered evidence that the legends may be more than just a myth.
According to their findings, Armenia could be the birthplace of winemaking.
Near the village of Areni, in the same cave where the world’s oldest pair of shoes was discovered, archaeologists unearthed a wine press for stomping grapes, vessels for fermentation and storage, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds.
"This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production," said archaeologist Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
"For the first time, we have a complete archaeological picture of wine production dating back 6,100 years," he said.
Based on the evidence found, it appears that ancient Armenian winemakers pressed grapes with their feet, trampling the fruits in a specialized earthen vat and leaving the juices to ferment.
This ancient Armenian wine was stored in clay jars in the cool, dry caves: the world’s first wine cellars.
Archeologists suggest the ancient Armenian winery had a sophisticated winemaking process that resulted in a wine that could be compared to a contemporary red—and likely tasted similar to a Merlot.
ARMENIA: AN ANCIENT CIVILIZATION
The ancient Armenian wines once traded with the Babylonian Empire are making a comeback.
In the 1990s, Armenia regained its sovereignty after the Soviet Union dissolved, and the region looked to once again embrace the ancient winegrowing techniques and storied wine culture formally abolished under Soviet rule.
Because of the history and politics shaping the region, Armenian wine is simultaneously the oldest and the youngest wine region in the world, producing the newest wines using ancient varietals and production techniques since the 1990s.
Armenian winemakers are driving the region’s wine revival by combining modern technologies and ancient techniques, like aging wines in terracotta jars (called karasai) just like they did 6,000 years ago.
The result is modern wines featuring old-world grapes with distinctive characteristics picked up from the varying regions, villages, and hillsides.
- Grown at high elevations, Armenian wines receive direct concentrated sunlight.
- Armenian vineyard soil is predominantly volcanic, providing good drainage and encouraging deeply rooted vines.
- Many of today's modern grapes can be traced back to a grapevine native to Armenia known as the Vitis vinifera.
- Armenian grapes offer diverse but familiar flavor profiles. Their unique growing environment results in wines with vivid colors and vibrant flavors.