Roadside wine tasting in Areni, Armenia
The makeshift roadside wine sellers in southern Armenia are continuing a tradition that is six millennia old.
The locals have been making wine for a long time in the southern Armenia town of Aleni.
Archaeologists excavating a cave down near the turn off for the churches at Noravank have discovered ancient implements that suggest they have been at it for well over 6,000 years.
That makes Aleni the oldest wine producing region in the world.
These days the locals sell their wine from shacks lining the Yerevan-Mehgri road that passes through the town.
The stalls initially sold wine to tourists returning to Yerevan after visiting the incredible 13th-century monastery at Noravank.
Increasingly their trade comes from Iranian truck drivers, keen to let their hair down on the way into Armenia or indulge in a little smuggling on their way home.
The drivers cross at the nearby border at between Agarak and Nurduz. As trade between the two countries increases, so too does the sale of wine.
Wine making is a 360-degree enterprise in Areni.
The vines stretch along the Arpa River, a ribbon of green in the dry rocky canyons here.
Even the most modest dwelling has a rudimentary ‘production line’. You’ll find metal foot-stomping boxes in the garden, with tubes leading the juice to plastic containers in underground cellars below.
When the wine is ready it’s bottled and taken to the wine shacks. It’s simply poured into whatever lays close to hand.
Old jam jars. Glass flagons. Plastic Coke and Fanta bottles. If it’s got a screw cap, it will be used.
The wine shacks here sell an average of 20 litres a day, up to 150 litres on national holidays.
It comes in a variety hues and quality. They also sell fermented sparkling grape juice called majar, a kind of ancient alcopop for those with a sweet tooth.
You don’t have to buy just wine. Each shack offers an assortment of jars full of pickled peppers as well as local honeys and jams.
Basically everything a day-tripper needs for the long hot trip back to Yerevan.
For more information about Areni and the monastery at Noravank, visit Armenia.Travel
Main image: Pick your poison from a roadside wine seller in Areni, Armenia (© Peter Moore)