Wine and Brandy

Wine and Brandy

Armenia has been called the country of perfumed wine. According to a legend, the first vine was planted on the slope of Ararat by Noah. Geneticist and botanist Academician Nikolay Vavilov notes: “The main hearth of morphogenesis of wild and cultivated grapes is Transcaucasia. The culture of grapes and its use here goes deep into the millennia”. Several scientists, e.g. Victor Hehn and Boris Piotrowski, believe that Armenia is the ancestral home of grapes. In 2010 in the caves near Areni village the oldest known winery in the world was discovered, dating from 4230-3790 cal. BC, as evidenced by the found grape seeds, vines, means for production and storage of wine, which date back to Chalcolithic period. In this region native Armenian Areni grape is still being cultivated to produce wine. The first written records showing the developed viticulture and wine-making in Armenia are the ancient cuneiform inscriptions of the 9 century BC. According to them, the Kings of Urartu had to build a temple and plan a vineyard. As a symbol of love and eternity, they had to name the gardens after their daughters and wives. The Assyrian king Sargon (8th century BC) mentioned about aromatic wines in countless large and small flasks that seemed endless, even after his troops were already drunk. Herodotus (5th century BC) indicates that from the land of Armenians in the north people used to bring the wine down the rivers Euphrates and Tigris in the boats upholstered in leather to Assyria and sell it there.  Xenophon (5-4th centuries BC) tells about fragrant wines of Armenia, as well as unknown to him drink made of barley (probably beer). According to the Greek historian and geographer Strabo (1st century BC) Armenia was covered with vineyards. Armenians called wine the blood of grape and daughter of vines, and in contrast to the ancient Greeks and Romans, they never diluted it with water. During the excavations of a 7th century BC fortress Karmir Blur wine cellars with 480 giant jugs were found with the remains of typical Armenian grape sorts, such as Voskehat, Mskhali, Ararat, still being cultivated in Armenia. In the 10th century, Armenians created an encyclopedia of viticulture and winemaking. Despite the twists and turns of its history, Armenia always remained a country of classic wine-growing and wine-making. Only in Erivan Province more than 7 dozen large and small wine, vodka and cognac enterprises were functioning since 1870s. Varieties of wine and cognac of Shustov factory were especially popular. It was producing more than 20 types of wine: “Madera”, “Port”, “Sherry”, “Cahors”, “Erivan White”, “Davalinskoe Red”, “Oshakan”, “Table wine Number 35”, “Dalma” etc and brandies: “One-star”, “Three-star”, “Four-star”, “Extra”, “Fine Champagne”, “Caucasian” and others. Industrial production of Armenian cognac was operated by Tairov, Gyozalyan, Afrikyan, Sarajev and others. In 1907 the first vintage Armenian brandy was awarded with a bronze medal in Bordeaux. In order to strengthen the fame, incognito samples of Armenian cognac were sent to exhibition in Paris. Jury of venerable French tasters unanimously awarded the Grand-Prix to the unknown wine-maker. Knowing that the maker is not a Frenchman and the samples are sent from Armenia, they presented the Armenian brandy as the only foreign one, exclusively privileged to have “cognac” written on the products, rather than “brandy”, as it should be. No other brandy had ever been honored with this right in the history of cognac production. In 1912, Emperor Nikolay 2 tasted Shustov cognac and empowered the Shustov Company to be the Principal Purveyor of Russian Imperial Court. After the October revolution all the property of the Shustov Company was nationalized and the factory was renamed “Ararat” trust. Later on, the name Shustov was mentioned only in the personal correspondence of Churchill, who was known to prefer Armenian cognac to all other drinks and did not miss the opportunity to banter the Soviet power, constantly ordering cognac called “Dvin”. 400 bottles were sent to him annually. The renowned Armenian cognacs are divided into ordinary, vintage, and collection types. The climate conditions, sunny weather and stony soil give good features to the vines to create incredible brandy and wines. Viticulture and wine-making have always been an integral part of Armenian national culture and a subject of its pride. Grapes can be found in the Armenian fine arts. Architects and sculptors decorated the buildings with bas-reliefs of vine. Grape and vine along with pomegranate create Armenian Tree of Life, which is a widely used national ornament as well.

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