Like most wine growing areas, Armenia has several climate factors which influence the quality of the grapes produced; the severity of the winter months, growing season sunshine and harvest rain. However, one factor which seems to be sited more than any is late summer hail, which can devastate the vines just as the grapes are starting to ripen.
Armenia has several wine regions, Vayots Dzor, Ararat Valley, Agaratsotn and Ijevan – and over time each will reveal its unique vintage characteristics, but in 2017 it is far too soon to talk of how the vintage looks in each of these regions, except for Artsakh, which clearly has different weather than the rest of Armenia. Right now, when we speak of vintage variations, we are simplistically talking about all main growing regions as a whole:
2014: A very good to great vintage. Most of the 2014 wines we were able to try were characterized by deep, ripe fruit with a healthy dose of acid and tannins. Where we were able to taste the same wine from 2014 and 2015 side by side, it was clear that 2014 produced the more concentrated, flavorful wines.
2015: Hail seemed to be the problem with the 2015’s for many of the top producers. For example, Old Bridge did not make any wine in 2015 as they felt the grapes were not up to standard. For those who did produce 2015s, grape selection prior to fermentation was a key factor. The wineries that discarded the most damaged fruit tended to make the best wines. While not as deep as the 2014s, the best 2015s have a beautiful purity of fruit that shines through.
2016: We tasted a number of 2016 wines; some still in tank or barrel, some recently bottled and released. It’s clear to us that 2016 looks to more like 2014 in terms of ripeness and quality. We will need more samples to be sure, but it looks like 2016 will be a vintage to get excited about.
One important factor; 2016 may only be the fourth or fifth vintage for many of these new wineries. Most of the winemakers are still getting to know their vineyards and are improving the grape cultivation each year to produce better fruit. In the cellar, they are also getting better at understanding the fruit and how to get the best wine out of each harvest. As a result, all things being equal, we expect that Armenian wines will get better with each successive vintage. All the more reason to look forward to the 2016’s with enthusiasm!