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Drinking With Purpose

August 27, 2022 Leave a comment

Drinking with purpose.

Okay, so what are we talking about here?

First of all, we are talking about wine. Usually, we drink wine for pleasure. Of course, sometimes people drink just for the buzz, to forget, to relax – there are many reasons why people use alcohol, but wine (I hope) stands a bit apart from the rest of the alcohol. Wine helps us to converse with friends, create memories, enhance our food experiences and simply derive pleasure from the simple moment of existence. Then what is this purpose I’m talking about?

Wine is the product of passion. At least this is how we, wine lovers, want to see it. Wine also enables passion. Not even passion, but passions. It solicits passions. Wine is surrounded by desire, obsession, exclusivity, mysticism, glamor, science, greed, mystery, art, and devotion, it evokes all of these and many other feelings and emotions. Wine allows everyone to find their own passion.

One such passion is collecting. Yes, some people are collecting the wine. In a lot of cases, they simply do this to feel superior to others, as they have something which other people want but can’t have. We can leave this aside, as this is a boring aspect of wine. Collecting unopened bottles is not the only thing to collect around wines.

The wine offers lots of artifacts. People collect unique bottles. People collect unique labels (hundreds of thousands of different wines are produced every year around the world – and many labels can change every year – think of an endless potential here). People collect champagne and sparkling wine bottle caps – this hobby even has an official name, placomusophilia. Peope collect corks and screwtops. I collect grapes and experiences.

Many, many, years ago I came across The Wine Century Club. No, you don’t have to be 100 years old or drink 100 years old wines. It is all about grapes. Anyone who tasted 100 different grapes (obviously, in wines) – don’t have to be individual grapes, blends are totally fine – is welcome to apply to become a member of the club. The application is honor-based (well, if you lie, your palate would be cursed forever – who would want to risk that), and you get the certificate sometime after you submit the application. Tasting the first 100 grapes was relatively easy. By the time I was done with the first 100, the club was already offering the 200 grapes level (Doppel), then 300 (Treble), 400 (Quattro), 500 (Pentavini), and now even 600 (Hexavin).

After I passed the 100 grapes level, hunting for the new grapes became an obsession, which I thoroughly documented on this very blog. I had friends reaching out and asking if I already had such and such grape. I spent countless hours looking for the grape information online, trying to figure out what grapes went into this particular wine from this particular vintage. Hunting down new grapes became drinking with purpose. I didn’t care if I would like the new wine or not – if it had the grapes I didn’t taste before, that was all I needed.

As I mentioned before, I collect not only grapes but also experiences. Wines are made in all of the 50 states in the USA. Wines are made at least in 60 countries around the world, maybe more. I have a personal goal to experience (read: taste) wines of all 50 states. I also would love to taste wines made in all the different countries around the world.

This is how I collect the grapes and experiences. And this is how drinking with purpose happens. A wine from the new state or a country – yes, please! The wine with new grapes? Yes, pretty please!

Recently, I managed to find a few wines with grapes I never had before. Not only that but one of the wines was made in the region which was new to me, so the two proverbial birds were killed with one stone – err, bottle. Here are the quick notes on these wines:

First, two wines from Eastern Europe. I never had the wines of Bosnia and Herzegovina, so this was a new country I was able to add to the list. Both wines were tasty, and Tikveš Belo was probably my favorite wine out of these 4. New grapes are marked in bold:

2015 Čitluk Winery Blatina Bosnia & Herzegovina (13% ABV,  100% Blatina)
Brickish red
Plums, dried fruits, medium intensity
Sour cherries, soft, round, medium body, good acidity, soft tannins
7+, not sure how it was stored. It is still nice, simple, and easy to drink, but probably on the decline.
8, on the second day. Interesting transformation – tertiary aromas are gone, plums, cherries and sage on the palate, nice, round, pleasant.

2020 Tikveš Belo Special Selection North Macedonia (11.5% ABV, Smederevka, Riesling, Marsanne, Roussanne)
A light greenish hue
A hint of gunflint, Whitestone fruit, medium intensity but very confident nose
Lemon, a hint of grass, salivating acidity.
8, this is a beautiful food wine, will compliment a wide range of foods.

It is my second time drinking Armenian wines. I was really looking forward to Yacoubian-Hobbs white, but the wines ended up being a disappointment. The Armenian red was quite drinkable. In any case, when you drink with a purpose, you don’t complain.

2018 Yacoubian-Hobbs Dry White Wine Aghavnadzor Vayots Dzor Armenia (14% ABV, blend of Voskehat, Khatuni, Qrdi, Garan Demak)
Golden color
Stewed fruit on the nose
The palate had some stewed plums, it was overwhelming and had no acidity. The wine was devoid of balance.
N/R, Maybe a bad bottle? Cork broke while I was opening the wine using a standard waiter corkscrew. But the wine didn’t seem oxidized, maybe heat damage?

2019 VinArdi Estate Blend Dry Red Wine Armenia (13.5% ABV, 40% Areni, 35% Haghtanak, 25% Milagh)
Dark Ruby red
Wild berries on the nose
Wild berries, dried herbs, medium+ body, good structure, good acidity, excellent balance.
8-, easy to drink

Now you know all about my wine obsessions. And I get to increase the counter you see on the top of the page from 561 to 567. Little by little…

By the way, there is no stopping in sight. While I’m trying to close on 600, there are people in The Wine Century Club discussing the 800 mark. Talk about obsessions… Enjoy your wine. Cheers!

Discovering Armenian Wine

May 17, 2021 5 comments

I love wine.

I’m a collector.

Based on these two statements, how easy it is to assume that I’m a wine collector? No brainer, right?

And nevertheless, I don’t see myself as a wine collector. The only reason I have a wine cellar (a bunch of wine fridges, rather) is that I like to drink aged wines – not for any bragging or financial reasons.

So what am I collecting then?

Experiences. I love to collect experiences. Tasting the wines I didn’t taste before (an easy one – every year, I should have what, 500,000 options?) Tasting the wines made from the grapes I never tasted before. Tasting the wines from the new places.

Growing up in the 80s in the USSR, I knew about Georgian wines – those were the most famous (Georgia was one of the 15 republics in the former Soviet Union). I also knew about Georgian cognac (yeah, should be called brandy, but do you think anyone cared there about the trademarks?) – but those were not the best. The best cognacs (okay, okay, brandies) were coming from Armenia (another republic then) though. Not being really into wines and grape growing, I never thought of a possible connection between the wine and cognac (both are made from grapes), thus I never thought that it is entirely possible that Armenia might be also making wines if they already got the grapes.

Turns out that it would be an excellent guess to connect the dots err, grapes, as it appears that wine had been made in Armenia for the past 6,000 years or so. I’m not here to debate the crowning of the “cradle of winemaking” title – whether it is Armenia, Georgia, or Turkey is all fine by me, please accept my sincere gratitude for bringing wine into this world.

Armenian Wine Regions. Source: Storica Wines

As we said, Armenia is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world, which had been shown through the archaeological excavations, discovering the wine production facility located in Areni cave complex and dating back to around 4000 BC. Considering such a long history, it is safe to say that wine is an indelible part of the Armenian lifestyle.

In more recent days, during the Soviet rule, Armenia was producing wine and brandy, but the majority of the wine was produced in the Sherry style (it is interesting to note that similar to the wines of the Sherry region in Spain, Armenian “Sherry” wines can also develop a thin protective layer (flor) on the surface. Needless to say that production of fine wines was never encouraged during the soviet era.

Armenia’s terroir is conducive for the production of fine wine – predominantly volcanic soils, rich in nutrients, and high vineyard elevation (2,000 – 5,000+ feet above sea level) help to produce good quality grapes. About 30 indigenous grape varieties also help to produce wines of unique flavor profile and character.

I had an opportunity to sample two of the Armenian wines, courtesy of Storica wines, an importer and online retailer of Armenian wines in the USA.

The first wine I tried was traditional method sparkling wine produced by Keush. Keush winery was established in 2013, however, they use 100–120 years old vines, growing at the 5,200 feet elevation above sea level, some of the highest vineyards in Armenia. This classic method sparkling wine was produced from the indigenous grape varieties, and I have to honestly admit that the wine greatly exceeded my expectations.

The second wine I tasted was produced by one of the youngest wineries in Armenia, Zulal (the word means “pure” in Armenian). The winery produces about 10,000 cases per year, focusing on Areni and Voskehat grapes sourced from about 40 villages from Aghavnadzor, Rind, Arpa Valley, and Vayots Dzor regions.

NV Keush Origins Brut Methode Traditionelle Armenia (12% ABV, $25.99, 60% Voskehat, 40% Khatouni, at least 22 months on the lees, Lot 08.15)
Light golden color
Beautiful nose of toasted bread, a touch of yeast, clean, inviting, classic
Beautiful minerality, fresh, toasted notes, vibrant, clean acidity, fine creamy bubbles coating your mouth.
Outstanding, 8+

2018 Zulal Areni Reserve Vayots Dzor, Armenia (13% ABV, $32.99, 100% Areni, 12 months in Caucasian and French oak barrels)
Dark garnet
Not an expressive nose, underbrush, herbal undertones, a touch of fresh berries
Black pepper, wild berries, dried herbs, soft, clean, easy to drink
8, simple, quaffable, easy to drink, perfect for the conversation

As a wine drinker, I’m very happy with my discovery. Keush sparkling was outstanding, both delicious and a great QPR. Zulal Areni was also quite delightful. As a collector, I’m also very happy, as I get to add 3 new grapes, plus a checkmark to the list of the winemaking countries I had an opportunity to taste the wines from. Most importantly, I had an experience of drinking the wines made in the country which is an indelible part of the world’s winemaking history.  All in all, a good day.

Have you ever had Armenian wines? If you had, what do you think of them? If you didn’t, are you ready to rectify things? Cheers!

 

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