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History in a Glass: Rediscovering Armenian Wine

Evening Program with Tastings

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1W0072
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
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Winemaker Vahe Keushguerian

Recent archaeological discoveries in the Areni cave complex in southeastern Armenia, suggest viniculture began there around 6,100 years ago. The mineral-rich volcanic soil, unique topography, and microclimates of the Armenian terroir historically yielded a diverse range of grape varietals, and winemaking was a staple of the country’s horticulture for millennia. However, during the Soviet era (1920–1991), innovation in the wine industry suffered and many historic varietals were uncultivated and later lost.

Armenian winemaker Vahe Keushguerian and his peers are reinvigorating their nation’s cultural heritage through recovering and reintroducing historic wine types, sometimes using DNA technologies to identify grapes from abandoned monasteries and villages. Due to geographic remoteness and high-elevation viticulture, Armenian varietals like Voskehat (“golden grape or seed”) escaped the phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century. Along with wines from the Middle East and the Caucasus, they constitute a new wine designation, Historic World, distinct from either the Old World or New World varietals of Europe and the Americas.

Hear Keushguerian offer a brief overview of his country’s ancient viniculture, then sample his méthode traditionelle Keush and wines from six other producers (Karas, Kataro, Trinity, Old Bridge, Koor, and Van Ardi) when you join the winemakers for an evening of tastings, storytelling, and light refreshments that celebrates the history and renaissance of Armenian wines. 

This program is co-sponsored with the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the Office of International Relations.

Other Connections

The quest for a decent red may be as old as civilization itself. In 2011, traces on pot shards of a pigment that gives grapes and wine a dark red hue led archeological researchers from UCLA to the discovery of the world’s oldest known winery in Armenia.