At my hotel (Republica – it comes highly recommended) in Armenia’s capital city, Yerevan, the helpful and knowledgable Maria was especially pleased I was interested in trying several of the local wines. Their extensive winelist has Armenian, New and Old World options.
I couldn’t help but chuckle though at the list’s use of the term, Old World. The traditional Old World wine regions of France, Spain and Italy don’t even come close when compared to the time Armenia has spent producing wine.
They’ve been making wine in Armenia, literally the cradle of civilization, for about 6,100 years; excavations in the Yeghegnadzor region uncovered the world’s oldest complete wine production facility ever discovered and the first historical evidence of wine-making on an industrial scale.
So, although many parts of Italy, France and Spain have been producing wine since Roman and even Greek times under the Phocaeans, Armenia wins the prize on longevity.
That said, we never see these wines in most Western markets as they’re simply not exported. This is our great loss.
The Takar is produced by the Armenia Wine Company and is available everywhere in Yerevan as well as at the airport. AWC is located to the northwest of Yerevan in the protected rain shadow of Mount Ararat where Noah is believed to have moored his ark during the flood. Yes, that flood.
Takar is a dry red wine made from the Areni Noir grape. There’s great information on Wine-Searcher regarding this grape – most notably that it’s especially suited to Armenia’s continental climate because it has thick skins to help it tolerate the strong diurnal shifts (it gets very hot here during the day and the temperature plummets at nighttime). Grapes thrive in this climate; diurnal temperature shifts help maintain the grape’s acidity, and when it is made into wine, its elegance.
Further, because of isolation during Soviet rule, the grapes in this region have remained unaltered (they haven’t been crossbred with others or replaced by run-of-the-mill internationals) and as far as I could find out, are still grown on ungrafted roots having never been affected by phylloxera.
The red Takar is a medium plus shade of ruby with a beautifully perfumed nose of spiced purple plum and field berry, pomegranate, a light jasmine note, pine and crushed rocks.
The palate is dry with medium plus acidity and lightly grippy, ripe tannins which adored the traditional Armenian beef dolmas I ordered to accompany it. The alcohol is medium and flavours include more Damson plum and berry, black cherry, pomegranate, incense and pine with a tingling minerality and spicy vanilla. The finish is medium plus.
This is a really delicious, elegant and nuanced WSET Very Good wine. We’d be lucky to have it in Western markets.