Gastronomic influences from Russia to the Middle East have shaped Armenian cuisine and made it a true treasure trove for those looking for rich flavors and complex tastes. The best way to learn about the rich traditions of food and wine-making is by taking a wine tasting tour in Armenia. To this day, Armenian cuisine remains predominantly based on locally sourced and seasonal produce. What Western society considers environmentally responsible consumption is essentially routine in Armenia. Food is, of course, deeply woven into the fabric of social interactions in Armenia. Wherever you go, it is impossible to avoid a table generously filled with delicious food or snacks. Here is our showcase of the best gastronomical experiences you can have in Armenia.
Wine-tasting in Armenia
It is widely accepted that the 6,100 -year-old winery discovered in a cave near the village of Areni in 2010 is the world’s “earliest known winery“. That is probably the best place to start your gastronomic journey through Armenia. Wine-making is, without a doubt, a long-standing tradition in Armenia that continues to this day thanks to the hundreds of families that make wine from local grapes. While Armenian wine is not exactly well known yet in the world, it’s slowly but surely gaining worldwide recognition. Three things make Armenian wine great: the abundant sun, local grape types, and, of course, the long tradition of winemaking. The best way to get to know this alcoholic beverage is to go on a wine tasting tour in Armenia’s best wine-making regions, or visit Saryan Street in Yerevan, where some of the trendiest wine bars are located. Alternatively, you can visit one of the annual wine festivals taking place in May and in October.
“Areni” is the most popular local wine grape variety. Dry red Areni wine is the essential Armenian wine for tasting.
Another alcoholic beverage every Armenian is proud of is Armenian brandy. Made in Yerevan since 1887, brandy is still Armenia’s most important export. Today there are several major brandy producers in Armenia, the most prominent of which is the Ararat Brandy Factory, established in 1887 in Yerevan. The company has won multiple prizes at international wine and spirit competitions. When you’re in Yerevan, make sure to visit their museum and take a fascinating guided tour, which includes a brandy tasting session among other things.
Food to try in Armenia
One of the most popular dishes found in Armenian cuisine is a matzoun (yogurt)-based soup with spelt grain, onion, and mint. In the southern region of Syuniq, a cold version of spas is especially popular in the summertime. Spas is a vegetarian’s best friend when you’re traveling in Armenia.
Sometimes pronounced “dolma,” if you ask a local, this is probably the most authentic Armenian food. Ironically, however, tolma, like a lot of dishes, is a regional dish with local variations. Different variations of tolma can be found in Turkey, Azerbaijan, and the Balkans. In its most basic form, tolma is minced seasoned meat wrapped in a grape leaf, and there are several types of tolma in Armenian cuisine. Other variations of tolma include a vegan version, with dried fruits, rice, and lentils and is served cold.
The most basic food we know is khashlama, a beef or lamb broth with potatoes, bell peppers, and occasionally other vegetables, such as tomatoes or carrots. This soup is especially popular in the Highlands, where even summer evenings can get slightly cold.
Another popular vegetarian dish is a mix of grilled vegetables, such as eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers, finely chopped and seasoned with a lot of butter. You can also substitute the butter with olive oil if you want a vegan version.
Khorovats, as locals call it, is by far the most popular dish for Armenian picnics. Preparing khorovats is a ritual that involves a lot of homemade vodka consumption and endless discussion about how much fire is needed for a perfect khorovats. The meat of choice is pork as a rule, although some people argue that true khorovats is only made of lamb. This discussion is probably as old as the dish itself. Try both and pick your side in the ongoing debate!
Lavash is the traditional bread of Armenia. It is a thin dough baked in a clay-coated pit. It is usually used as a wrap for cheese, herbs, and grilled meat.
Armenian dessert usually consists of a cup of Turkish coffee (Armenians naturally never call it Turkish; it’s Armenian coffee), a traditional sweet pastry called Gata, chocolates, (dried) fruit, and sometimes even brandy, if you want the deluxe version.
Coffee in Armenia comes in three variations: sweet, bitter (no sugar added) and normal (little sugar added).
The dessert in Armenia can last sometimes up to two hours, during which people socialize actively, share rumors and discuss current political affairs or just about anything in general.
Another dessert recipe, although one that occurs more seldom due to the amount of work that goes into it is Ghapama. A pumpkin stuffed with rice, dried fruit, walnuts, ghee , honey and cinnamon baked in the oven.
Armenia definitely has a lot to offer even the most fussy gourmand: great wine and spirits, delicious food influenced by so many neighbors and conquerors, and, most importantly, warm and hospitable people to enjoy the food with.
We invite you to take a gastronomic journey through Armenia that includes food and wine tasting, workshops with inspiring chefs who rethink and question the traditional ways of cooking food, and many other surprising discoveries.