Armenia in the summertime is a truly magical place to be — especially at the start of June when the best and brightest wine producers flood Tumananian, Moskovian, and Saryan Street.
I went to the second day of Yerevan’s annual Wine Festival as a first-time participant to indulge in the very best wines, delicacies, and cocktails Armenia has to offer.
According to their website, this three-day event is the largest wine festival of the region, boasting over 700 wines from over 70 Armenian producers in addition to 30 food vendors, live music, master classes, gastro shows, and live cooking tutorials. This yearly extravaganza has been in the works since 2017.
Armenia’s wine industry has made headlines in recent years, but our history of wine dates back to 4,000 BC. In fact, the oldest wine cave was found in the Areni region in the same cave a 5,500-year-old leather shoe was found.
According to National Geographic, archaeologists Gregory Areshian and Boris Gasparyan spearheaded excavations of the prehistoric winery, discovering storage vessels, drinking cups, withered grape vines, skins, and seeds.
Evidently, Armenians have kept this rich tradition alive, linking our past to our present and promising future.
The goal of the festival is to develop Armenia’s economy through wine production and tourism, and after attending only a few hours of the festival, this ethos is palpable. Over 500,000 glasses of wine are enjoyed over the course of this event by more than 80,000 tourists.
Here’s everything I ate and drank at the walking charcuterie board, #YerevanWineDays
Takar Rosé hails from the Vayots Dzor region, with rich grapes from Areni that are harvested at the end of September into early October.
Their grapes are harvested by hand and are fermented for two weeks in stainless steel tanks, according to their website.
Although I’m biased because I’m a sucker for rosé in all its forms, this pour was definitely my favorite of all the wines I sipped.
This refreshing, slightly sweet rose has notes of berries, making it a great wine to pair with a fresh summer salad or chocolate-filled dessert in my humble opinion. Their experts, however, recommend pairing your glass with seafood, chicken dishes, or risotto.
Orran’s red, produced by Armenia Wine Factory, is composed of 80% Areni and 20% Malbec.
Derived from Aragatsotn — a region of the Armenian footlands infamous for winemaking — this rich red is 100% hand-harvested and estate bottled. This bottle was created by winemaker and consultant Jean-Baptiste Soula, who also holds the title of senior winemaker of Armenia Wine.
This highly-popular wine was dry, which I felt would pair well with a hearty pasta dish or steak dinner. Experts agree that malbec is best paired with dark meat, game meat, fattier fish, and anything slathered in rich, vibrant sauces. I instantly craved a charcuterie board.
My only regret is not trying the Orran Pomegranate wine, a semi sweet blend of red berries, pomegranates, and grapes.
I must confess — I have spent a majority of my life avoiding pork. Long story short, I visited a farm on an elementary school field trip, bonded with some pigs, and couldn’t stomach eating them ever since.
When I smelled these mouth-watering Arenk hot dogs at the Yerevan wine festival, however, I felt that I couldn’t resist, especially with my glass of red wine. I could blame the wine, but I’ll take full responsibility and credit the smoky scent wafting through the street for this blip in the road.
I had zero regrets after trying these succulent, pocket-sized sausages. Although they come in a host of flavors with cheese and spices, I stuck to the classic version. Clearly on a pork high, I sampled some of their delicious prosciutto.
These juicy, miniature hot dogs were the perfect grab-and-go snack to carry with me while walking and balancing several glasses of wine.
To cool down from the rich reds, I decided to switch to a white wine. That’s when I fatefully stumbled upon Hin Areni’s white wine, another refreshing glass made in Vayots Dzor.
According to their website, this wine is made with the “queen of Armenian grape varieties” — Voskehat, which translates to “Golden Seed.”
This grape is indigenous to the highly-elevated Voskehat, known for its rich volcanic soil and bold flavor.
There’s a wine rule of thumb that goes something like,”the lighter the food, the lighter the wine.” Although I wouldn’t consider this flavor “bold,” it was certainly fresh and I could certainly imagine this paired with lobster, oysters, or other forms of seasonal seafood.
Experts also recommend white wine paired with poultry, specifically turkey, and chilled with any kind of fish.
Celebrity Chef Risotto
Little did I know that there was an entire celebrity-chef gastro show at the end of Yerevan’s wine festival — and this was definitely one of the highlights of the event.
Amanda Freitag, renowned American chef, star of “Chopped,” and author of cookbook “EasyAF!” graced the gastro show with a live cooking tutorial of risotto. The New York chef lives and dies by simple recipes — and she convinced the audience this dish was easy AF.
I was not expecting to try this delicious rice dish — but waiters flooded the audience with plates of her risotto.
Freitag made this entree with scallions, although she mentioned she would have loved to use Armenian herbs instead. She even suggested adding khorovats to the plate.
By the end of the festival, I wondered if I would find any canned beverages. Good Mood answered my question with their Pomegranate sparkling wine, which was definitely a favorite of mine during this tour.
It’s manufactured by Sisavan, who also carry blackberry and cherry flavors. Their winery is located in the Ararat province, in the heart of the Ararat Valley — and according to their website, they have big things to come. They’re planting their own grape, apricot, and mulberry gardens.
Their bubbly pomegranate wine, made in the Meghri region of Syunik, definitely packs a punch with a bright, fruity flavor. I was thrilled to end my wine day with a pomegranate, the namesake Armenian symbol of life and abundance.