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Armenia: Where Sandaramet Made Her Wines

A country of legends, some unearthed still, Armenia’s been in the news lately as a cradle of civilization. Numerous archaeological discoveries are testimony to the land’s rich culture and heritage. Sandaramet, the ancient spirit of the Earth, in her later masculine form the god of Hell, was also worshiped as a goddess/ god of wine. There must be a reason why wine traditions here find their roots in illo tempore, and what follows must be it.

If you needed at least one good reason to visit Armenia, National Geographic gives you one. In news from January 10, 2011, the prestigious magazine announced the discovery of the world’s oldest known winery in a cave near the village of Areni, the Vayots Dzor province of Armenia. Areni is already known for its wine production, and also for many other important archaeological discoveries from the Chalcolithic Age and Early Bronze Age, which also include the world’s oldest leather shoe.

The Areni 1 winery is believed to be at least a thousand years older than the winery unearthed in the West Bank (the eastern part of the Palestinian territories) in 1963. Radiocarbon tests carried out by researchers at the University of California, Irvine and Oxford University have revealed the date of the Areni-1 winery to 4100 BC.

Areni is best known for its wine production

Areni is best known for its wine production, no wonder that the world's oldest winery has been found here. - Above, a modern winery in Areni, courtesy Katy Pearce

“This is the earliest, most reliable evidence of wine production,” said archaeologist Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The winery consists of fermentation vats, a wine press, storage jars, pottery shards, drinking cups and bowls.

The winery consists of fermentation vats, a wine press, storage jars, pottery shards, drinking cups and bowls. - Photograph courtesy Envoy Hostel Blog.

The winery, believed to be over 6,100-year-old, has been discovered in the same cave where the 5,500 years old leather shoe was unearthed. It contains a wine press for stomping grapes, fermentation and storage vessels, drinking cups, and withered grape vines, skins, and seeds.

Earliest known winery found in a cave in Areni, Armenia.

An apparent wine press (in front of sign) and fermentation vat (right) emerge during a dig in Armenia - photograph courtesy Gregory Areshian, National Geographic

Areni holds a spectacular wine festival every October, sign that the wine tradition in the region is part of the community’s daily life. Although relatively recent, established in 2004, the festival is a major event in the community. Alongside wine and food tasting, and wine-making demonstrations, the festival features traditional dancing, singing, contests and so on.

They are still making wine in Areni as their ancestors used to.

They are still making wine in Areni as their ancestors used to. - Photograph courtesy Emily Haas.

Comments

    • says

      A great find here Mig, I love these unexpected finds and the revelations about people and countries. You always seem to find something rich for our readers to dine on. You are the best in my book, and many other people’s too. Armenia, can we go there too?

      Always your biggest fan,
      Phil

    • says

      Thanks so much Envoy peeps, we may take you up on that offer soon. We have always wanted to travel there, but somehow the time never has arrived. Maybe soon.

      All the best,
      Always,
      Phil

  1. Berge Jololian says

    According to the Greek historian Herodotus, the Armenians were the first to store and transport wine in wooden barrels.

    Herodotus described coracles floated from Armenia down the Euphrates or Tigris rivers to Babylon with the principal cargo of wine in palm wood casks for export.

  2. Anhat Soghoyan says

    Armenia is worth for your time, Phillip. Be sure!
    Thanks for an interesting topic.

    Regards,
    Anhat

    • says

      We are so pleased so many people liked this article Anhat. My wife and partner actually wrote this one. All the best, and we hope to see everyone there soon.

      Always,
      Phil