The best Iranian wine made in Armenia I’ve ever had!

Dustin Wilson, MS

SOMM 4: Cup of Salvation takes place in what can ostensibly be called The (extended) Holy Land. Just like the other SOMM movies, it’s a documentary; but in this case, it’s a wine documentary that teeters on the edge of catastrophe with potentially international repercussions.

Of course I had to go to the Vegas premiere! Promoted as a red carpet event, I dressed accordingly. Sort of. It was the first time I’d worn an actual dress and heels in years. My feet were beyond unhappy. Next time I’ll go boho.

But I digress

The Movie

It Began in 1979.

The history of the Iranian Revolution is broken down into historical bits here, on Wikipedia. In a nutshell, the Shah of Iran was overthrown by Islamic separatists, and a monarchy was replaced by a theocracy.

So what does that have to do with wine?

All alcohol is forbidden by current Islamic law, including wine. The history of the Middle East is steeped in wine – metaphorically speaking – but it was abolished under the new regime. It is illegal, with harsh penalties in place.

Armenia is a Christian country. They have also been making wine for centuries. Ironically, Iran, then known as Persia, was making wine a full millennium before Armenia, since at least 5000 BC.

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail because of spoilers, but the good guy wins in the end! That said, some of the operations were more like a dangerous, high-risk drug deal than anything to do with wine. I felt sad that Iran had so thoroughly abandoned its rich wine history.

We, the participants in the wine world in the Western world, are so very fortunate it’s crazy. We don’t have to worry about putting on flak jackets just in case we get shot at because we’re buying grapes. GRAPES! We can own or visit wineries where it’s freely made, rules and regulations notwithstanding. We can carry bottles, order cases, or share in our homes with friends and not worry about somebody going to the authorities to report us because we don’t cowtow to particular dogmas.

After-Movie Wine Pairing

So what do you drink after a movie like this? I had no Armenian wines – who does – and I wanted a wine that was flavorful and from a place that didn’t come from the Western (new and old) world of wine. The closest wine I had was one that came from South Africa. While South Africa still has some political angst, at least you won’t get shot for grapes.

My choice was the 2017 Three Cape Ladies wine. It’s a unique blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Pinotage, and 12% Cab Franc. Only 217 barrels were made of the 2017 vintage, and I was lucky to have one. Do I have another? I’m afraid to look.

A quick review of a 7-year-old vintage is that it’s beautiful, still dark and youthful in the glass; on the nose, a riot of berries, spice, and Africa (trust me on this); and full-bodied and luscious on the tongue. With a surprising touch of cocoa. It was delicious and surprisingly soothing after watching such a soul-stirring movie.

While we don’t have a bottle of the star of the movie, we’re hoping to be able to acquire some soon. My friend Bordeaux Bob (who is a small wine distributor here in Vegas) is, hopefully, hooking us up. I can’t wait to taste it, and I can’t wait to share my observations!

SOMM 4 is, for me, a deeply emotional story about wine, freedom, and family. It is a great addition to your SOMM movie night!



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