Yerevan has had a few more wine venues lately, a hint that wine is getting a growing interest among the middle class in the city. Of course, wine is certainly still a luxury product in Armenia for average people but this is slowly changing. In Vino is one of these new venues and you don't feel any snobbish attitude in this place, it is close to what Parisians call a cave à manger, a rather ugly wording but which depicts well the fact that you can either buy bottles to go or eat-and-drink there in a casual way. The bar is a no-fuss wine spot where of course you're likely to stumble on foreigners, be it expats or visitors but you'll see many young Armenians there too, and there's an interesting choice of wines, all the Armenian ones of course but also many foreign.
In Vino is certainly a good spot to gauge the temperature of the wine scene, the quality of the wine is improving in the country and the number of the established wineries is at a turning point, with new wineries popping up thanks to Armenians from the diaspora coming back to invest in their homeland or local entrepreneurs deciding to join the fray. What helps is that In Vino located in a very lively area, this part of the Martiros Saryan Street is bustling in the evening with people, inside restaurants and on the terraces. You better reserve on friday or saturday evenings and in the worst case you may find another wine venue in the vicinity until your table is ready.
We were treated with a special tasting experience at In Vino by the organizing party Vine & Wine Foundation of Armenia, with a casual blind tasting of several Armenian wines, whites, rosés & reds. You can see the room, I didn't bring my wide angle that evening but the pictures more or less gives a good idea of the the sitting space, there was this couple of long tables stretching along the counter with the cheese/charcuterie on one side and the shop window on the other, add to that bottles all around on the walls. There were several people from VWWA beginning with our guide Karine (our press trip was coming to its end), and a lady from In Vino told us briefly about the place.
The evening was very busy and lively on the streets of Yerevan that day (a saturday if I remember) and Armenians were enjoying a glass inside as well as outside on the terraces, proving that wine was indeed also an apéritif you could enjoy with a side dish. Here are a few prices of the non-wine things at In Vino (1000 AMD make 1,9 €) :
Tea 900 AMD; Espresso 600 AMD; Armenian cheese platter 2900 AMD: Prosciutto 4400 AMD; Grana Padano 2900 AMD; Olives 900 AMD; Peanuts 600 AMD; Sanswich 1 cm = 60 AMD. Regarding the wines the glasses start at 800 AMD and you can buy a bottle on the shelves & add 20 % for the cork fee.
we were greeted by a woman I'll call the spokeswoman of the wine bar asI still looking for her name in my notes. She says In Vino was the first such wine bar to open in Yerevan, this was december 25 2012, they have here the biggest wine selection in town with more than 900 different wines from Armenia and the rest of the world. THe venue is a shop as well as a wine bar, they also set up a wine club where people can take part to tasting and wine courses.
Armenia is a country where there seems to be lots of wine women, and In Vino is a wine bar where you're very likely to see wine professionals including winemakers or winery people dropping for a glass, possibly delivering a few cases maybe (and I think many winery owners actually live in Yerevan proper, several wine regions being relatively close to the capital city). Here you can see [the woman in green] Alina Mkrtchyan from the Voskeni winery chatting with Meri Ghevondyan, CEO of the Vine & Wine Foundation of Armenia. Voskeni is a family-owned domaine based in Sardarapat, and the story of this winery is very interesting, here is what I read on their homepage :
It was founded by our family forefather Smbat Mateossian, a successful businessman from Boston, who moved to Armenia in the early 1920-es. He dreamed of his own winery. Unfortunately, Smbat was repressed and his property was confiscated during the Bolsheviks time. In 2008 we bought back the vineyard full of authentic grape varieties and made his dream of high quality wine come true.
I'll certainly try to visit them when I come back in Armenia...
We all sat along the long table with lots of glasses in front of us, one for each of the 10 wines we'd taste blind. We just had the names of the cuvées and their variety & vintages, and we were asked to point to the wines by order, for example we began with 3 whites and had to put a mark in front of the 3 cuvées, like, the first on the list (Highland Cellars Koor 2014 white) is the 3rd we tasted, the 2nd on the list (Trinity E Voskehat white 2015) is the 1st we tasted and the 3rd on the list ( Takar Kangun 2014) is the 2nd we tasted. At least that's what I marked on my paper and I was 100 % right !
The Trinity was possibly my favored white here, ample, gentle and easy drinking at least.
I'm sorry for the couple I shot the picture of here above : The young man wrote his email address but although I asked him again about a few letters that were hard to read, I couldn't successfully send them the image because the email address was a fail... If someone knows them, just tell me, the hi-res file is here waiting. and this was their first evening out together !
This group of Germans happened to stay like us in the Tufenkian hotel, We saw each other at the generous breakfast buffet in the restaurant room, and when I asked about shooting this picture on the street terrace of the wine bar they said OK, great ! There are quite a few foreign visitors in Yerevan, my feel is they were often from Russia, Germany, the United States and France. The country is kind of off-the-beaten-path but it's very secure and sunny most of the year, and with the Middle East and North Africa becoming ever more hazardous and off-limits for tourists, this part of Transcaucasia looks like a stable alternative. Oddly there has been a 4-day conflict this year early april in the Nagorno-Karabakh but it remained mostly unnoticed in the West although quite a few people lost their lives during this fighting. The exact unfolding of events is unclear but it seems likely that the Azebaidjan side launched an unprovoked assault on the Armenia positions, getting a swift response in return. To go with these wines we had many different small dishes, often involving gently-cooked vegetables, really delicious (I haven't commented much on the food but Armenia is a place to visit beginning for the quality of the food).
After the whites we were poured 3 rosés from Armenia, a Trinity 6100 rosé 2015, then a Van Ardi rosé 2015, a wine made with Syrah & Kakhet, and lastly an ArmAs rosé 2012 made with Karmrahyut. I again guessed the right order (but the color helped) and the Trinity was probably the one I liked the most, it was light, aerial and easy drinking. You can see on the Facebook page of In Vino (november 2nd) the French winemaker of Trinity giving a speech to wine amateurs in the bar about his work. The ArmAs was kind of harsh and tannic in comparison and the Van Ardi looked more like a gastronomy wine, a wine to eat something with.
Then we were poured 4 different reds, an Avetissyan Kataro 2014 (a very nice wine about which I already wrote in the previous story), a Trinity Areni 2014, a Zorah Karasi Areni Noir 2013 and an ArmAs 2012. I guessed right 2 of these wines and permuted the 2 others alas, But I'm proud to have rightly guessed the Zorah, which I had never tasted before and about which I read great reviews by Jamie Goode. And among these wines that we were tasting blind there was this one that stood clearly above the other ones, it was perfectly balanced with intense, silky tannins and a bright acidity, it couldn't but be this Zorah...
Zohra Wines is a pretty new winery that was founded by Zorik Gharibian, an wealthy Armenian-Italian who worked in the fashion industry in Milan came back to invest in his country roots, in the village of Rind in the Vayots Dzor Province, working with the traditional clay pots that are named Karasi here. You can see the insightful story of this winery on Adler Yarrow's Vinography, Zorik Gharibian made a first visit to his homeland at the end of the Soviet Union, the worst possible time to find quality wine in Armenia but he nonetheless pursued the dream of starting from scratch a domaine, hiring the help of the talented winemaker Alberto Antonini, finding the available & suitable land, plant ungrafted local varieties (almost all the vineyards are ungrafted in Armenia) and have the winery tools imported there... He was surprised one day to find his wine listed in a Bloomberg story as being in a list of the top 10 wines from 2012 [the article was not online anymore and I salvaged it & republished it for this story], with this Zorah wine displayed side by side with La Romanée Conti...
The wine is pretty expensive in Armenia at 15600 AMD (29 €) but it's really excellent and worth a try. You can find it in Switzerland at 25 € (27 CHF) and here is a page for rates in the U.K. and the United States. They also have the vintage 2012 at In Vino. This type of wine really gives you an insight of what this country can yield in terms of quality from its terroirs and local varieties.
Read the Wakawaka wine review on this wine.
The shelves offer a diverse range of wines, some of the French like Malesan or the JP Chenet range being not particularly small-volume wines. There was oddly an interesting choice of American wines, especially for the many Francis Copolla wines it offered.
Here are a few pictures of the shelves, there's much more in this shop than what you see here. Prices on the bottles are in Armenian currency (AMD), 1000 AMD making 1,9 € or 2,1 USD.
The staff at In Vino speaks good English and you can call them to reserve a table or enquire about their planned activities and tastings.
Here is a page listing a few other wine bars and wine-centered venues in Yerevan, and more should open along the next few months and years...