Forbes magazine has unveiled a feature about the world of the Armenian brandy, exploring the age-old brandy-making tradition and the thriving industry that developed in Armenia in the 19th century.
Armenia, along with its northern neighbor, Georgia, is believed to be the birth place of wine, the magazine says. Although it is likely that the different families of grape varieties had multiple independent centers of origin, the oldest historical evidence of winemaking, going back some 6,000 years, is found in this region.
The region was conquered by Russia during the 19th century, and the historic region of Armenia was divided between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. The country enjoyed a brief independent existence from 1917 through 1920, before it was eventually incorporated into the USSR as the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Armenia declared its sovereignty and became an independent republic in 1991.
“According to local legend, Armenians have been distilling wine into brandy since the 12th century. There is little definitive evidence of this,” the article says.
“During the late 19th century a thriving brandy industry developed in Armenia. Taking advantage of the popularity of Cognac in Russia; a consequence of the anti-German, Franco-Russian alliance that preceded World War I, Armenian Brandy was also labeled Kanyak, the Armenian spelling for Cognac. A practice that continues in Armenia, Russia and some of the other former Soviet republics.”
For a brief time, the feature says, one Armenian producer, Nikolay Shustov, did have the right to label his brandy as Cognac. Shustov was the official supplier of Armenian brandy to the court of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II. His company, Shustov & Sons, eventually became the Yerevan Brandy Company, Armenia’s largest brandy producer.
At the 1900 Universal Expo of Paris, Shustov & Sons’ brandy, was selected as the best brandy in a blind judging, beating out stiff competition from Cognac’s leading producer and earning the reward to legally call their product Cognac. That right, however, was revoked after the end of WW II.
The magazine reminds that the Armenian government lobbied the EU for permission to use the term Kanyak on its brandy in 2013.
However, under the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement signed between Armenia and the European Union in November 2017, the country will be able to export “Cognac” to EU member countries for 25 years. The agreement will give Armenian brandy producers the right to represent their product in the EU as “Armenian cognac” by 2042.