Wines from Armenia aren’t exactly crowding store shelves or restaurant wine lists in the U.S., but the country is one of the world’s oldest wine-producing regions. In 2011, archaeologists discovered in an Armenian cave what is thought to be the world’s oldest winery, dating to around 4000 BC. The cave, known as Areni-1, contained such items as a shallow basin for pressing grapes, jars for fermentation and grape seeds and dried vines.
In 2008, renowned California winemaker Paul Hobbs and his partners, brothers Vahe and Viken Yacoubian, formed a partnership in the Vayots Dzor province, near where the cave was later discovered. The mountainous, high-altitude region has volcanic and limestone soils.
The 2015 vintage represents the second commercial release for Yacoubian-Hobbs. The venture’s two red wines are based on the indigenous areni grape. (There’s also a white blend.)
The 2015 Yacoubian-Hobbs Areni ($32) offers a fascinating glimpse at Armenia’s potential. The wine reminds me a little of zinfandel from the old days, before so many zins got so ripe, jammy and alcoholic: It’s quite peppery, with lively red berry fruit, medium weight and a nice savory quality. There’s some tannin on the finish, but it’s not overbearing. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel, so it’s a pure expression of the grape. (The second wine based on areni, called Sarpina, spends seven months in French oak. I haven’t tasted it.)