Armenia is potentially the country of origin of winemaking, with evidence dating back about 8000 years. However, during much of the 20th century, the Soviet Union forced the country to produce mainly Sherry-style wines. Once Armenia attained independence, in 1991, its winemaking industry began to change and modernize, to reclaim the glory of the past. Their wines are starting to get international attention, and locally, they have started to appear on a few wine store shelves.
Armenia is a landlocked country, mostly mountainous, which is bordered by Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, Iran to the south, and Turkey to the west. Though there are about 17,000 hectares of vineyards, most of the grapes are used for their famed brandy production. Wine production is still exploring the potential of their indigenous grapes. I've previously tasted only a single Armenian wine, though it was compelling, so I was intrigued when I had the opportunity to try another, especially bubbly from the Keush winery.
The winery was established by Vahe Keushguerian, an Armenian born in Lebanon. Vahe worked for a number of years in San Francisco in the retail wine business before moving to Italy to make wine. He came to Armenia in 2006 to start his own winery, which was founded in 2013. The indigenous grapes for his wines come from high-elevation vineyards, about 1750 meters above sea level, in the village of Khachik, in the Vayots Dzor province. The vineyards are located on limestone and volcanic soils, the grapes are ungrafted, and about 60-100 years old. The chief winemaker is Arman Manoukian, an Armenian native.
The NV Keush Origins Brut ($19.99) is a Sparkling wine made from two indigenous grapes, 60% Voskehat and 40% Khatouni. Voskehat, which means "golden berry," was named after the village of Voskehat. It is used to make a variety of wines, including sweet fortified wines, sparkling wine, and table wines. Khatouni provides wines with a crisp, bright finish. The wine is produced by the Méthode Traditionelle, ages for at least 22 months on the lees, and has a 12% ABV.
When you taste this bubbly, it will remind you of Champagne. This is a serious sparkling wine. It is dry, fresh and crisp, with a complex melange of flavors, including peach, pear, citrus, white flowers and a touch of brioche. It has a creamy and rich texture, pure pleasure on the palate. It has a lingering and clean finish and over delivers at this price point. This wine will make you want to explore more Armenian wines. Highly recommended!