Marina Mirzabekian visits the Aparteny winery, a new small family winery. Hayk is the only one who makes wine from the Karmrashat grape. It is mentioned on the wine map.

WATERTOWN — It is no secret that the oldest known winery in the world, dating from somewhere between 4100 and 4000 B.C., exists on the territory of the Republic of Armenia (in Areni), yet contemporary Armenian winemaking only recently has experienced a renaissance after a retreat in the Soviet period. Wine now produced in various regions of Armenia and Artsakh is attracting more attention domestically and internationally. The EVN Wine Academy, affiliated with the International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE), just issued the second edition of the “Wine Map of Armenia” to facilitate finding some of the more unique wineries.

Marina Mirzabekian, who works parttime for ICARE, collaborated with Sargis Antonian, a graphics designer, to prepare this map. She said that Armenia’s neighbor Georgia has had for some years now a map representing the main wine-producing areas of that country, and that gave ICARE the idea to do an Armenian one in 2021.

Marina Mirzabekian volunteering picking grapes for the Alluria winery. She said, “I admire Samvel Machanyan, the co-founder and winemaker, for making natural wines through spontaneous fermentation, with no added yeast.”

There are over 100 wineries in Armenia and Artsakh, so this is far too many to place on a map. In fact, only 24 wineries of Armenia and Artsakh are included in the map. Mirzabekian said that the majority of the wineries chosen to be highlighted have their own vineyards and produce their own wines, but most importantly, the ones that were selected also accept guests and offer a special touristic experience.

One side of the Wine Map of 2022

She said, “We visited all the wineries we included in order to assess their quality, and the focus was on the small and medium wineries because they are the ones that need the visibility and recognition.” They tend to be family-owned and family-run. The large wineries, some of which can practically be called factories, are well established and do not need extra promotion, she continued, so only a few have been included. Many export, especially to Russia.

Hrant, the founder and self-taught winemaker of Azaria wines, shows Marina Mirzabekian around his Kangun vines. The vines are sleeping, as it is winter.

In future editions, if there are some new small wineries with decent quality wine, they will replace some of the big wineries on the map, since the space in the map is limited.

The first edition of the map included more wineries in Artsakh, but a good number were lost as a result of the 2020 war, leaving only three Artsakh sites for the second edition to depict which still consistently produce wine and accept guests.

At the Mnatsakanyan gastro yard, Artur is making homemade wines. Everybody has fun and laughs at his jokes during the tasting.

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The map includes a description of each winery as well as the scale of the winery. More significantly, Mirzabekian said that she did not just copy the text from the websites of the various wineries, as some are poorly written and sometimes not that captivating. Instead, she said, “What we have done in the wine map is storytelling…Storytelling is what makes each winery authentic and unique.” She conducted interviews, asking the owners to tell how they started, and this uncovered reasons why people should come visit their winery instead of another. The names of the families involved are given, which personalize the stories further. She said that this approach will hopefully attract both local and international tourists.

Marina Mirzabekian is sealing a bottle of wine under Artur Mnatsakanyan’s instructions

On the reverse of the wine map is a second map which depicts the locations of wine bars, restaurants and shops in the center of Yerevan city, basic information about the Voskehat and Khndoghni (Sireni) indigenous grape varieties used for winemaking, and a description of the programs offered by the EVN Wine Academy. Several annual Armenian wine festivals are noted. Mirzabekian said that the Dilijan festival started this year but it was too late to include it in the current edition.

Interestingly, the map notes that the best value for money Armenian wines cost in the range of 4,500 dram per bottle, or roughly $8. Mirzabekian said that she consulted some of her colleagues and sommeliers to come up with this figure, but it should be noted that every year the price of wine is increasing because of increasing demand.

The map exists at present in English and Russian editions, but Mirzabekian said that the preparation of a version in Armenian was planned for the following year. Furthermore, in the 2023 version there may also be another map depicting small and medium-sized gastronomy destinations, she stated, though not large chain restaurants.

Sea of Wine

Mirzabekian as part of her work at ICARE is also involved in another wine-related project called the Sea of Wine, which is funded by the European Union. She declared that it is the next step after the wine map and a continuation of sorts. Armenia has partnered with Ukraine, Greece and Georgia to prepare wine-related travel routes.

“Each country has developed a theme to use, like wine and art, wine and extreme sports in the case of Armenia, or wine and gastronomy,” she explained. In Armenia’s case, in addition to wineries, other venues that might be memorable for tourists or visitors such as “gastro yards,” village sites or restaurants where barbecue is prepared in the traditional tonir ovens, or local crafts and skills are demonstrated, will be described on the website of the project, where various routes will be visible.

The project is funded for a limited period of time, but after it concludes, Mirzabekian said that hopefully these routes could be enriched and further developed through investments. She said, “Probably the most realistic option is to collaborate with Georgia, because we are neighboring countries. We are both ancient winemaking nations.”

She added that this project, along with the wine map one, has led her to continue to follow the work of the various Armenian wineries to see what experiments are being done with some almost forgotten and rare varieties of grapes. She gave as examples the creation of Armenian ice wine, or pét nat (petillant naturel, which means naturally sparkling in French).

Greece and Armenia

Mirzabekian has lived most of her life in Greece, where she was involved in the tourism industry. After moving to Armenia, over the past decade, she has gone back every year, especially to Thessaloniki, where she is from, and visited wineries. She said that she always compares how service-oriented people are in Greece and in Armenia.

The winery scene in Greece is more established. She said, “The people are more open to show you and tell you everything. They can treat you to coffee without charge and they can surprise you with some treats that you didn’t ask for. I have seen this in Armenia too, but I think in Greece it comes more naturally.” She speculated that this was due to the greater contact over the years with tourists in Greece, which after all is a country open to the sea so more used to travel and tourism.

In Armenia, she said, people had already been getting more training and education in technical fields, but now the younger generations are traveling and learning about service and tourism too. In the small hotels in villages and in the provinces in general, she felt service was much better over the last decade, and this would make a significant difference.

“Wine tourism is not only about infrastructure. I think it is mostly about people, sharing, telling stories, and their soft skills – how they are going to meet you. This is what makes an experience so unforgettable,” she stressed.

A digital copy of the current edition of the wine map may be found at

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