Notes From Hairenik
November 29, 2007
For the last three weeks or so since Ara Sarkissian's arrival from Boston I have been drinking tremendous quantities of wine. Both of us favor it over other libations--you can only drink so much vodka before you just want to go to bed with the world orbiting your mind, and it's getting rather cold out to throw back a beer or two, never mind needing to use the toilet every 20 minutes or so. Wine is the perfect drink to have with a meal, with fruit and cheese, or just to pass the time.

There's something about a good wine that invigorates you while simultaneously tending to tenderly numb your brain cells. It is the perfect aphrodisiac and muscle relaxer, and most essential of all it does not incapacitate you like other alcoholic beverages would if you drink excessively. If you enjoy more than you can usually handle, you just quietly fall asleep, and if it is a high-quality vintage there is no skull-severing headache in the morning. Lately my usual bed time has been 3:00 am, sometimes later, since we talk, smoke, and listen to music as our regular routine. But between the two of us along with friends coming over for a visit we must have put away arguably around a couple-dozen bottles easily, perhaps drinking more wine than water. Whenever I called to ask him if we had any wine left over the answer was usually no. On each trip to the store every other night I would buy a minimum of two bottles, sometimes four as I did last night. And Ara is still here for another day.

The problem is finding the right one. There are basically two common Armenian wines that are produced by countless wineries: Areni and Vernashen. The former is usually dry, sometimes with a very slight hint of sweetness, while Vernashen is semi-sweet. I have never had a good Vernashen as some of them are actually mixed with sugar water (which is of course not disclosed on the label) and I don't really care to since I cannot stand wine that is not dry--the tarter and full-bodied the better. Then there is the counterfeit wine which is usually found in stores that make their money from selling eggs, cheese, bread, and toilet paper. Once you open such a bottle and pour it you find that it is reddish-pink in color--far from being a rosé and featuring an unmistakable aroma of cheap grain alcohol.

For the most part we only drink dry wine in the house so the options are Areni or imported wines from France. There are reasonably priced wines from Bulgaria and Moldova but I cannot vouch for them quality wise since I haven't tried them and don't particularly care to. Spanish Riojas are available but out of our price range. Then there are the Georgian wines, some of which are supposed to be exquisite but I have had bad experiences with them. Finding the right Areni is difficult since there's lots of cheap barely consumable junk out there, some of which tastes like vinegar. But I found one reasonably priced Areni called Areni Country (Areni Kyughi) which is probably the best I have had in all my years here. The other is a superb French Côtes du Rhône. I plan on "reviewing" these wines on the other blog as soon as I get a chance.

Basically, if you are in Armenia and enjoy wine do not be afraid of experimenting. Most domestic wines cost under $10, and a great one can be found usually for $4-8. You are bound to find one you like and want to stick with.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Finding good and affordable wines in Armenia is still a problem for me. Even after three years I haven't found one that I really like, whether foreign or local (and that is within my price range), so any recommendation is appreciated. I hate even semi-sweet wines, let alone sweet ones. Recently the Areni Gedeon has been my wine of choice. I will definitely be on the lookout for the Areni you recommend and give that one a try and I'm looking forward to your wine review.