The chance to taste many Armenian wines at one time, is an offer that is hard to refuse. It was a charity event and all the food offered was Armenian. It was a delightful evening. If I had a complaint, it would be that it was not organized as a wine tasting, the evening was a fund raiser with the ability to graze on different foods and as a bonus they were pouring wines from Armenia. I think that I would have liked a more formal wine tasting, but that is just me.
One of the featured wineries with three different wines for the evening was Van Ardi Wines from the Aragatsotn region of Armenia. I am going to guess that they are relatively new, as their website started in 2014. Van Ardi Wines is a self-proclaimed family run boutique winery located in one of the ancient wine making regions of Armenia, nestled between the mountains of Ararat, Aragats and Ara. They only use estate grown grapes; Areni Noir, Kakhet, Haghtanak and Kangun which are indigenous to Armenia and they also grow Syrah; and they are planning to grow some other almost forgotten, but indigenous varietals in the future.
At the event there were three Van Ardi wines being offered, a white, a rosé and a red. The first wine that I tried was the Van Ardi White Dry Wine Ashtarak 2016. The soil of most of Armenia is volcanic and limestone. The wine is a blend of seventy percent Kangun and thirty percent Rkatsiteli. Kangun is an Armenian varietal that is originally a Soviet era hybrid crossing local Armenian indigenous grapes (?) and the Georgian grape Rkatsiteli, and even the name means “sturdy” as what is required from the severe winters in Armenia and the surrounding countries, and the grape is used both for wine and for the famed Armenian Brandy. Rkatsiteli is another white wine grape that is found in the Trans-Caucasian region and is most know in Georgia and is one of their famed varietals. The grape is very popular in the region because it can survive the winters, maintains good acidity and since it is a rather balanced, it is used for table wines, sparkling wines, dessert wines, fortified wines and Brandy. This particular wine was interesting in that it was dry with hints of pear and a finish showcasing the terroir of the region. I would like this wine with nuts, cheese and charcuterie and especially with company in the living room, before we go into the dining room to eat. I then tried the Van Ardi Ashtarak Rosé 2017 which was a blend of Areni Noir and Kakhet. The Areni Noir is the most prominent varietal of Armenia and has become popular internationally only recently when Bloomberg’s “Top 10 Wines of 2012” listed Zorah Karasi Areni Noir 2010 was listed alongside of Chateau Haut-Brion 1989 and Quinta do Noval Nacional Port NV. I found the wine to be a rather disconcerting murky dark pink, with no noticeable nose and my only description as I was writing my notes was “off” and while I would like to be more of a cheer leader for these wines, I have to be honest and say that I would not buy this wine. The next wine that I had was the Van Ardi Red Wine Ashtarak 2016 and the wine is a blend of forty percent Areni Noir, thirty percent Kakhet and thirty percent Haghtanak. The Kakhet grape, alas I can find no information, other than it imparts good acidity to a wine when blended, and it could possibly be from Georgia, as the main growing region there, especially for the famed Saperavi grape is from Kakheti. Haghtanak is Armenian for “victory” and is a modern Soviet period hybrid of Armenian varietals (?) and Georgian Saperavi which produces dark colored juice with black fruit flavors and a high sugar content. This wine was also described in my notes at the tasting as “off” as it reminded me of some of the early Cold Hardy Red wines that were first popular in Michigan forty years ago. The last wine would have been interesting to try, but I saw it in the handouts, but I must have missed it on the assorted tables was the Van Ardi Areni Reserve 2016 which was a blend of Syrah and Kakhet.