How this Armenian winery is disrupting the wine industry
Storica Wines co-founder Zack Armen explains what it takes to create a new category of wine in America and what makes Armenian wines so good.
Photo courtesy of Storica Wines
As Americans, most of the wines we drink come from Californian or Italian vineyards. If you ask the average wine drinker where the best wine in the world is produced, they might say Italy, France, or California. Armenia receives little or no attention. But unknown to most consumers, Armenia has a long and rich winemaking history stretching back over 6,000 years. In fact, the oldest wine-making artifacts ever discovered have been found in Armenia, making it the birthplace of wine.
Zack Armen, an Armenian businessman and co-founder of Storica Wines, brings Armenian wine history to life in the United States. Part of what makes Armenian wine so unique is the âterroirâ of Armenia, the combination of climate, soil and altitude, which gives Armenia native grape varieties a flavor and aroma profile. pleasant, first rate and reminiscent of other fine wines from around the world. Armen’s mission is to convince Americans of the superior offer of Armenian wines and to create a new category of Armenian wines which will be associated with wines traditionally recognized at the highest level. His business, Storica Wines, is off to a good start, with its portfolio offered in more than 150 stores and restaurants and available for sale in 40 states through state-level distribution channels and the company’s online store.
Armen sat down with Value to discuss what it takes to build a new category of wine in the United States and what makes Armenian wines so good.
Q: What is your vision for Storica Wines?
A: We are focused on creating a new category of Armenian wine in USA. In this effort, there is a really interesting tension between taking a disruptive, digitally-centric approach like many other products and services do today, while still needing to participate in a heavily regulated multilevel trading system. We try to be very respectful of working within the boundaries and with the industry value chain jargon, but at the same time we realize that there are some original thoughts and actions that we need to do to be managed to grab the attention of American consumers. We learn as we go and find that in the end having a great story and a high quality product will win out.
Our great overall goal is to bring to the United States these beautiful ancient wines, now produced with a very high degree of quality and sophistication, in a way that speaks and recognizes this history in ancient tradition, but which also has a modern methodology in which we engage with consumers.
What makes Armenian wines so good?
The quality of Armenian wine depends on a few key factors. The first is the terroir: the combination of climate, type of soil and altitude. Armenia receives 300 days of sunshine a year, which is significantly more than most countries in Europe. This strong concentration of sunshine, associated with high altitude vineyards, causes an intensity of the climate which stresses the vines. In addition, at high altitudes, changes in temperature, precipitation and wind are faster. When you combine all of these factors, it results in a very complex flavor and aroma profile which gives Armenian wines their unique attributes. Armenian vineyards are mostly volcanic soils, which are best suited for good drainage and water retention. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the main grape varieties of Armenia are themselves old native varieties of high quality from a viticultural point of view and having an optimal combination of similarities with more quality grapes. common, such as Pinot Noir for the Areni red grape and Chenin Blanc. for the white Voskehat grape.
With all these agronomic or raw viticultural advantages, vinification, or everything that happens after the harvest, is also the key to the quality of the wines. Armenia is now blessed with several prominent and world-renowned wine growers, who have built a large-scale wine infrastructure in the country’s multiple wine regions. We are fortunate to work with one of the pioneers of the Armenian wine movement, Vahe Keushguerian, who has decades of experience in winemaking in the United States, Italy and France. We will start working with other winemakers later this year who also have significant experience in winemaking and today produce globally recognized wines.
The future is bright for premium wines sourced from Armenia on an increasingly large scale, and we look forward to working with many of these winemakers as we expand Storica’s business in the United States.
How does Storica achieve its goals by becoming a National Brand Ambassador?
We focused on building a multi-faceted digital presence that tells the story of Armenian wine in a captivating and festive way. Overall what we are looking to do is be the creator of the category and the leader of Armenian wine in the United States. We do this by working with the best wineries in Armenia and bringing high quality wines to the United States in a way that is scalable nationwide, including people and processes in the areas of marketing. , sales, operations, finance and logistics. To our knowledge, there are no other companies building such a multi-establishment effort in the United States to support the Armenian wine category. Individual wineries sell their wines in the United States in some states, but from what we understand, it’s all a single brand or winery.
What type of consumers are you targeting?
We want to have an attractive wine portfolio for a wide variety of US consumer profiles, from the occasional wine drinker to the world’s top masters. We also want to make sure that our portfolio covers different price points and that each of our products is good value for money. Most of the wines in our portfolio today are between $ 20 and $ 30 a bottle, but we will have wines that are priced lower and lower in the future. Ultimately, it is this range of consumers that we are really looking for, as we see a home for Armenian wine in virtually any wine use case given the number of wonderful and diverse wines in Armenia.
What are your marketing strategies?
Storica has a strong digital marketing strategy focused on targeting three main consumer archetypes: Armenian communities, oenophiles and wine writers, and curious millennials. Armenia and the history of this emerging wine region is a topic that many audiences are delighted to learn and be among the first to share within their communities. Through social media, public relations, digital advertising, virtual events, brand and influencer partnerships, Storica has the unique opportunity to educate consumers about Armenian wine. We are proud to see the keen interest and positive reception from Karen MacNeil, Forbes, High life, Armenian communities, wine clubs and more.
What gave you the idea of ââstarting a wine business?
I grew up in the world of finance and more recently in life sciences and biotechnology. My day job is business development for a biotech company. The inspiration behind Storica came from one of my trips to Armenia in 2017, when I noticed that the wine was improving very quickly. I started asking people why, and I was introduced to Vahe and AimÃ©e Keushguerian, two winemakers very active in this Armenian wine renaissance, and they informed me of what was going on. From their perspective, entering the US market was going to be the key to the long-term success or failure of Armenian wine as a global wine region. I saw this as an opportunity to impact my home country in a multigenerational and extremely scalable way when you think about the benefit of having a product like wine that contributes to tourism, to growth. GDP and job creation. I also saw it as a great opportunity to build a US-based business that had significant benefits, and I’m honored every day to see this come to fruition, and by the progress we’ve made as a business and the support we have received from our investors, partners and consumers.
What is your marketing strategy with restaurants and stores?
For new brands of wines and spirits, being present in stores and restaurants is essential, rather than just selling online like many other products and services do. Successful wines have followed the game plan of securing top-tier restaurant placements early on, then building their brand from that cachet and credibility – because of COVID, we don’t have Could start there, of course, but as reopenings increase, we are focusing heavily on the foodservice channel. Growing up as a business during COVID has had its pros and cons, with the lack of catering obviously being a downside. However, starting with a strong focus on digital, increasing foot traffic in stores, and investing in creating beautiful content and engaging on social media, we hope to start paying off and we allow us to seize the current opportunity to rapidly accelerate our on-site sales. One goal for us is to have as many of our wines listed as BTG (“by the glass”) on menus, as this is where you see the best speed of sales movement and often see consumers more willing to. try new brands from less common areas. This is a high priority for us over the coming weeks and months, as well as entering into distribution partnerships with leading distributors who share our passion for this new category of wine and see its potential as we do. at Storica.