Victoria Aslanian is the CEO of ArmAs in Armenia—which features a vineyard, distillery and hospitality amenities. Born within the metropolis of Yerevan, she has lived in Armenia, the U.S. and Europe, is fluent in English and Russian, and labored along with her father Armenak when their household spent six years constructing an property within the Aragatsotn Province in western Armenia. She studied on the College of California, Berkeley, and later remotely obtained an govt MBA.
ArmAs and the related Keerk label produce 12 wines available on the market. The household additionally produces grapes used to make brandy, and have providers to provide wines from different producers’ grapes. Grape varieties used to make ArmAs wines, in addition to wines from their Keerk label, embrace Karmrahyut and Areni for purple wines, and Kangun, Rkatsiteli and Voskehat for white wines.
We met on a latest weekend after we have been each in Paris, quickly after Victoria spoke at a convention for the Armenian Normal Benevolent Union—AGBU, and its collaboration with France.
She described challenges and rewards of constructing wines in Armenia, and the way the home vintners’ scene has dramatically altered in the course of the previous decade.
‘My father bought 180 hectares [440 acres] of rocks in 2007. We constructed a 17-kilometer brick wall round it. We name it the Nice Wall of ArmAs. It’s undulating terrain.
‘Once I was 18 I lived in Florence in Italy for a number of months finding out artwork historical past. I picked up Italian. That got here in helpful after we had 35 Italians dwelling at ArmAs full for years throughout building. As a baby I gained gold medals in a science truthful in utilized engineering and physics. My father was a structural engineer. I needed to observe in his footsteps. After we constructed the vineyard, I understood a lot of the engineering.
‘ArmAs is brief for my nice grandfather Armenak Aslanian who was the winemaker in our household. Village winemaker. ‘Keerk’ in Armenian means ardour. We are saying ArmAs is our title, and Keerk is our strategy.
‘Our household revitalized the wine training business and wine service business in Armenia. Earlier than, if one thing broke down, we needed to name somebody from Europe to return, after which pay them an exuberant amount of cash to repair it. Now not. We have been the primary to do wine tourism on this scale. Most significantly, there was no market to talk of when it comes to superb wines. Now, it’s virtually embarrassing if you’re caught ingesting a non-Armenian wine in Armenia.
‘We began from scratch. From grape to glass, actually. We are saying man versus nature—section one. Man versus man, with the vineyard and workforce—section two. Then man versus the market. All three are ongoing.
‘Man versus nature: in 2011 we have been anticipating our very first harvest, 800 tons of grapes. We have been going to promote them and reinvest within the vineyard which was nonetheless underneath building. In 5 minutes we misplaced all of it. Huge hailstorm. Nothing of the like had been in Armenia in not less than 40 years; we all know that as a result of we studied the previous 40 years of meteorological studies—wind rain, snow. However, we are saying—trying on the wine glass half full—then okay, if it needed to occur, and I assume it needed to occur, it was higher in 2011 and never in 2012 after we have been anticipating our property grown grapes for our property bottled wines.
‘Now when it’s going to hail we all know. By expertise. We are able to even odor it, and naturally we take heed to meteorological studies. After we see it, mainly we shoot this propane capsule from any of three weapons situated on the property into the clouds. As quickly because it hits, a response takes place that disperses the cloud.
‘We now have 100 hectares of scattered planted vineyards and now have 40 hectares of scattered orchards all through the property—in order that flavors and aromas affect the soils and vines and grapes.
‘Some folks invested on this nation blindly; others have been good. Some received land from the federal government. We didn’t. What we have now executed thus far is particular person. It’s commendable. However think about how far we might go. I used to take the politics of all the pieces very exhausting. However my father mentioned—and I took it very critically—‘Pay attention, take it simple. Some folks will come and go. We’ll keep. Maintain your head down. Maintain your head up. Work. That’s it. That’s what we do.
‘I used to be born in what was the Soviet Union—in Yerevan, Armenia. I left proper because it was collapsing, then visited fairly often, virtually each summer season. Noticed the transition. Noticed it in the course of the darkish years, as we name them. As a result of at one level there was no water, no lights. Noticed it by way of full and utter corruption and extra corruption and revolution.
‘Now, town of Yerevan excites me. Offers me hope for the long run. Yerevan is enjoyable and fantastic. So many good new locations. When folks go to, they really feel like they’ve made a discovery. It’s not what they have been anticipating. The Yerevan Wine Days pageant has an enormous, big turnout. Individuals find it irresistible. After we began in 2007 there have been three, perhaps 4 wine producers. Now we’re getting nearer to 200.
‘It by no means ceases to amaze me that regardless of all the pieces and something, we nonetheless have progress. We nonetheless go ahead, and issues get higher. They get cleaner, extra peaceable, extra lovely, extra elegant, with higher providers, nicer locations, industries flourish and what excites me most—the change in mindset. Like some wines—the end is lasting and chronic, very similar to the tradition itself.
‘Final summer season I moved again to Armenia. There’s nowhere else I’d reasonably reside. I find it irresistible. It’s dwelling. They are saying that in love there’s a sense of possession. I make a comparability to native grape varieties—these which are indigenous. Our native grape varieties thrive of their native soils. I can say the identical of my soul. It thrives in my native soil.
‘Autumn—my favourite time of yr. To start with, it’s not too scorching. Secondly, the leaves change so you have got these attractive blankets of greens and oranges and reds and yellows. So lovely. On any day when Mount Ararat is shining by way of, by some means it lifts my spirit. It’s innate.’
The nation of Armenia is 29,700+ sq. kilometers in space, or about 11,500 sq. miles in space—about the identical measurement because the U.S. state of South Carolina, or of the nation of Belgium; its annual wine manufacturing of some 13 million liters (3.4 million gallons) is considerably bigger than that of the U.S. state of Michigan or roughly the identical as that of Luxembourg, however lower than Slovakia.
‘Contemplating we’re such a small nation, if we simply export our uncooked supplies, it’s by no means going to make a distinction. So to make wine from grapes, or prime of the road beauty merchandise—that is the way in which to take it to the following degree. I used to be invited right here to Paris to discuss that. It’s a giant deal. The Armenian Normal Benevolent Union is the largest and wealthiest benefactor for various Armenian causes. They’re concerned in loads and have been round fairly a while.
‘The nation is getting increasingly numerous, particularly now. We now have so many Russians and Ukrainians. Which is excellent. Though costs of all the pieces have gone up, high quality and demand are also going up. New wines, new markets, new occasions. Tourism—beforehand most of our vacationers to ArmAs have been from the US. Now, most are Russians.
[In 2020 there was a 44-day serious armed conflict that involved Armenia, Azerbaijan and the disputed terrain of Artsakh.]
‘After 44 days of struggle in 2020, the nation was actually in mourning. Months and months of that. Individuals couldn’t take it anymore. They wanted to go outdoors and reside. There was this palpable shift in mentality. Streets are vibrant as soon as extra after heartache, disappointment, tragedy. However you don’t honor that by stopping dwelling. You honor it by saying—We might be blissful; we are going to progress; we are going to construct; we are going to smile. That’s what we did. And that’s no small feat.
‘You already know what? Take it simple. Take pleasure in what you may. Best pleasures in life? Relations we have now with folks; the enjoyment we take from them, and provides to them. Then the fundamental senses. What I like about wine, and in addition about nice firm, is each are likely to do the identical. They awaken a sixth sense. With wine we really feel it, we see it, we odor it, we style it and we hear it [clinking wine glasses] and after we get pleasure from it—a sixth sense arises as effectively. In nice firm it’s additionally true—from the power that arises.
‘What to say of a nation the place the one factor we have now to share with the world is our tradition—our future and fortune? We’re altering that, with exports of wine. It can take some time. However Armenia? The per capita awesomeness is off the charts.’