Inside One Winemaker’s Ambitious International Project

Winemaking has been banned in Iran for decades

Shiraz grapes
Shiraz grapes growing in Australia.
Tim Graham/Getty Images

The city of Shiraz, Iran has a long history of producing wine — though making wine is currentyl outlawed in the nation in question. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t bootleg winemaking happening there, but — just as was the case in the U.S. during Prohibition — some of the alcohol produced there is hazardous to drinkers’ health. Earlier this year, The New York Times (among other publications) wrote about the increase in alcohol poisonings in Iran.

Does that mean that the nation’s storied winemaking traditions have entirely fallen out of use? Not exactly. In a new article for the Los Angeles Times, Ani Duzdabanyan chronicled the ambitious quest of one winemaker: making new wine from grapes grown in Iran, and doing so just over the border in Armenia.

The winemaker in question is Vahe Keushguerian, who’s spoken about the ability of wine to bring bring people together across national and international lines. As Duzdabanyan explained at the Times, Keushguerian created a wine called Mòläna using a kind of grape called Rasheh. Keushguerian got the grapes to Armenia, where production began – and it was all covered in a recent documentary titled SOMM: Cup of Salvation.

This was a process not without its hazards, chief among them the fact that winemaking has been illegal in Iran since 1979. As Keushguerian told the Times, the two production runs of Mòläna are likely to be the only ones created due to the risks involved.

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This wine certainly has a compelling story, but there’s another factor in play here as well — namely, how does it taste? One chef who created a testing menu to accompany the wine, Vartan Abgaryan, had encouraging things to say, telling Duzdabanyan that Mòläna is “a well-balanced and structured wine” and comparing the experience of drinking it to that of eating a ripe date. If that piques your interest, you might just have a new wine to track down.


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