There are more than 350 grape varieties grown across Armenia, some of which date back millennia. While a thirsty scholar could spend years studying all of Armenia’s indigenous wine grapes, a few varieties have emerged as major players in its modern wine industry.
Arguably the most important red wine grape in Armenia is Areni, while Voskehat is considered the key white wine grape. They’re two of hundreds of indigenous grapes featured in the winemaking renaissance across the country. Winemakers use these grapes and many others to produce diverse bottlings that reflect not only Armenia’s varied terrain, 70% of which is mountainous, but also winemakers’ evolving tastes and expertise.
These five Armenian wine grapes can jumpstart your dive into an ancient world of wine.
Armenian Red Wine Grapes
Areni is used to make all sorts of dry red wines and rosés, and is cultivated throughout Armenia. Like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Areni is Vitis vinifera, a species of grapevine native to Southern Europe and Central Asia.
“With thick, dark skin, Areni is disease-resistant and strong enough to survive the country’s harsh winters, lending itself to elegant, full-bodied wines,” journalist Ani Duzdabanyan writes in The Los Angeles.
Tasting notes for Areni include notes of red cherries, currants, and spices. Oak-aged iterations like Noa’s Areni 2019 can express nuanced flavors of berries, black tea, and cedar alongside velvety tannins. Areni is also used to make crisp, dry rosés like Shofer Rosé, and sparkling wines that highlight the grape’s potential for minerally complexity, such as Keush Ultra Blanc de Noirs.
Another widely planted red wine grape in Armenia, Haghtanak has a dark, almost purple color. Its name means “victory” in Armenian.
Key aromas and flavors of Haghtanak include cherries, currants, blackberries, plums, and other red and black fruits, as well as chocolate, cloves, and other spices.
Haghtanak is often used in red wine blends, but the Voskevaz Karasi Collection includes a 2016 varietal Haghtanak fermented in clay amphora, or karas, and aged in oak barrels. The result is a full-bodied red wine with smoky, spicy blackberry notes that pairs beautifully with barbecue and other hearty fare.
Also known as Kakhet, Sev Milage, and a host of other names, Milar is a red wine grape with a deep ruby color. It’s used in blends, as a varietal dry wine, and in sweet wine production.
Milar produces fruit-forward varietal wines with notes of blackberries and red currants. Winemakers also blend Milar with other Armenian grape varieties to make layered wines with smoky, spicy flavors.
Armenian White Wine Grapes
“There are more indigenous white grapes in Armenia than red—and Voskehat leads the pack,” says Matthew Horkey, coauthor of Uncorking the Caucasus, told SevenFifty Daily. “Producers are only beginning to unveil its potential.”
It’s an ancient variety, grown in Armenia for some 3,000 years. During the Soviet era, Voskehat was used to make brandy and sweet wines.
Modern Armenian winemakers produce dry, medium-bodied Voskehat wines with aromas and flavors that include fresh-cut grass, white flowers, citrus, stone fruits, and more. When oak-aged, Voskehat produces wines with round, creamy profiles. Oshin Voskehat 2017, a barrel-fermented varietal wine, has a textured palate with bready, almond, and ripe fruit flavors.
Created during the Soviet period, Kangun is a cross of Georgia’s Rkatsiteli grape and Sukhalinskiy Beliiy from Ukraine. One of the most common white wine grapes in Armenia today, Kangun is often bottled varietally and produces wines with notes of apricots and other stone fruits, as well as citrus, green apple, and herbal flavors.