I found myself driving through Areni, a village in Armenia’s wine region – on our way to visit Armenia’s many monasteries (such as Noravank above, my favorite monastery in Armenia).
Not a lot of people are aware of the fact that Areni is the world’s oldest wine producing region. Traces of the oldest winery in the world have been discovered near the village, proofs that Armenians have been making wine (and also apparently leather shoes – read the article) for 6 milenniums.
Wine making is still a big part of life here in Areni. A lot the wine you see on the roadside was still made through the old stomp-your-feet way before being fermented in blue plastic vats. Along the main road through Areni, we saw roadside stands selling homemade wine out of dusty soda bottles and plastic jugs. A litre of these wine sells for the equivalent of 3 USD.
The rest of the tour group I was with went inside a ‘real’ winery to do proper sampling. I thought the roadside stands looked so much more fun.
The wines I tried ranged from ok to vinegar. Then again it wasn’t as if I knew enough Armenian to ask for what I wanted. My communication was limited to pointing at various bottles, which you can see, all looked the same.
My favorite sample from Areni turned out not to be wine at all, but majar – a fermented grape juice, which tasted like an alcoholic grape soda. Similar to what I’ve tried before in Kakheti, but much more carbonated. I loved it!
My wine tasting experience in Areni reminded me of my time in Kakheti, a wine region I spent some time in Georgia. There’s something endearing I really liked about the whole wine tasting experience there. Sure, there are fancy wineries as well, but as someone who drinks wine out of coffee mugs I much prefer the less pretentious atmosphere of homemade wine, drunk straight out of a jar at a family’s underground basement.
Or out of a used Coke bottle by the roadside.
Do you often go wine tasting when traveling? Any favorite spot?
Visiting Areni from Yerevan
Many tour companies offer day tour to Noravank and area that stop by Areni. I recommend taking a private taxi to give you more time to explore this beautiful area. Don’t make the same mistake I did!