I tried an Armenian sparkling !
I found the estate shop on Mashrot Avenue while walking randomly there. It is located on # 27 near where it crosses Pushkin street. There was this big picture on the outside with an Armenian legend out of my reach, and I walked the few stairs to the shop. There was no customer in there and I enquired in Russian about what sort of sparkling they had. It's a Champagne method sparkling with various expressions, including the semi-sweet ones which sell well in this part of the world. I bought a Brut and we drank it several days later. You know what ? that was not bad actually, when I was rather suspicious especially that I paid only 1700 Dram for the bottle (makes 3,08 € or 4,56 USD to be precise). The semi-sweet was 1300 Dram only if I remember. I'd certainly stock up this Brut for casual festive apéritifs if I lived here...
We hadn't the right glasses in the rented appartment, to say the least, and so the conditions were not optimum but it made it. I just would have liked to know more about what the label said. I hadn't be very curious when I was in the shop and I forgot to show the bottle to an Armenian for more infos.
After some research in France, I found the winery website. According to its history page, it was soviet built and it was probably making one of those Sovetsskoe Champanskoe (soviet Champagne) wines that we still find in Russia or Ukraine. Here is the page for the Brut I bought (not much info there).
I haven't seen any wine there, there seems to be mostly fruits, vegetables, spices and jellied fruits, something the Armenians do beautifully. I had here some of the most excellent jellied fruits I ever had, some being stuffed with walnut. They have also whole jellied walnuts, complete with the nutshell and skin, amazing and tasty (and soft). Someone also sells herbs for medicine, something you find in Russia and Ukraine too.
This statue of an angel (she has wings in her back) holding grapes from her basket was fun.
The Iranian side still managed to leave a bust of Khomeini in a corner, protected by a plexiglass panel (why that ? ;-). I met several friendly people in the garden sitting in the middle of the mosque, and exchanged a few words with two Iranian students who didn't look religious at all and seemed eager to speak with a Westerner.
The walls of this upper room have been touched by so many pilgrims and fervent people that the stone has vertical grooves like if fingers had succeeded along the centuries to take some of the stone fabric away. See on the picture on left, the walls seem to bleed.
Otherwise the vodka aisle in the Armenian shops and supermarkets is very large and diverse with many Russian brands too in addition to the national ones.
We shared a bottle with a dinner in this restaurant that isn't listed yet in his Yerevan eating page : The Club, a relax but also a trendy place at the same time where the food is excellent and with a wine list displaying both French and Armenian wines. We had this Novarank Areni 2004 which they had here at 6700 Dram if I remember, which makes 12 €. The wine was not as good as he expected, for me neither, considering it was a 2004, but it somewhat opened later or was it the food, and it eased a bit.
There's another restaurant that I think is worth even if the food is not as good : The Caucasus tavern is a very popular Georgian/Armenian restaurant where you can eat for very little. Just avoid the fries which are very greasy.
The second beer was a blond beer like we say in France. This Kozel Vetly beer was really good and onctuous, very nice to quench your thirst. As I understand through this article, Czech beers (it's a Czech beer) sell well in Armenia even though it's a premium product. The article says it sells also very well in Russia.
I watched some TV in Armenia, as there was the cable or satellite connection, and that was the occasion to feel the beat of the Russian programs (there is lots of Russian TV watching in Armenia). I discovered a Russian channel that I hadn't noticed before : 24DOK, which may translate as 24-hour documentary, it's a cultural channel which has sometimes the feel of a National Geographic centered on Russia and sometimes has history shows about the Soviet Union which makes it look like another Russian channel that I like : Nostagia TV, which runs programs for those who never really quit the soviet era...
For the nostalgic crowd missing the late Soviet Union, there are sweet compensations in the form of these CCCP ice cones (picture on left) which you also find in Russia and Ukraine.
Armenia is also a paradise for those looking for older versions of Russian vehicules, like the Volgas, the Jigulis (Ladas) or the all-terrain weird-looking UAZ like this one. As you may know, I am a fan of these bizarre UAZ light trucks. And I am very jealous because a colleague of my relative bought for his private use (and fun) one of these extremely-resilient UAZ mini-buses on an open-air market near Yerevan. These 4-wheel-drive UAZ don't look very trendy but they can drive on any conceivable situation on the dilapidated and muddy side roads of Russia and of any country with tough roads. The only thing is that I'm not sure it would be easy to get it registered in the Loire where I'd like to keep it if I got the courage and the chance to buy one. This particular UAZ is still made to this day, along with several other versions.
The women working there were very pleased with these French guys who liked their bread and marvelled at the brisk way they cooked it (see by yourself, it's bread-making like it has always been).
There are also many kebab joints around in Yerevan. While I think kebab meat is one of the unhealthiest type of food, I still bought some a couple of times here, and it tasted awful like if the meat wasn't fresh but I didn't get ill like I expected to.