Azerbaijan Days: Château Monolit and Ismailli Wine. Quality Vino from Azerbaijan!

A selection of Ismailli wines

The usually reliable travel writer Mark Elliot says in his guide-book to Azerbaijan that Ivanovka [a village not far from Château Monolit] is “synonymous with Azerbaijan’s cheapest, vaguely drinkable wine”. Talk about damned with faint praise! Well I have to say, that I beg to differ. I spent an agreeable afternoon a week or so ago, touring the Ismailli winery at Hajiahetemli village, a few kilometers outside of Ivanovka and its associated 4 star, luxury hotel and wine vaults. I then topped off the experience, with a wine tasting that left me wanting more! Oh yes, I left the château soon afterwards with more than a dozen bottles of their selected wines, safely tucked into the back of my hire-car…

High in the mountains above Ismayilli, some three-hours North of Baku, Château Monolit is set at an altitude of 1,100 meters, in beautiful rolling hills that back on to the dramatic Caucasus mountains. It is a very green part of the country, with frequent mists and rain in the Spring. It also features soil that is much richer than you would normally associate with wine of this quality. None the less, both the wine and the winery exceeded my expectations in terms of quality and presentation.

Although wine making in Azerbaijan has a history that goes back to the second millennium BC http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azerbaijani_wine, the facilities at Monolit were only built in 1982 and upgraded to international standards in 2006.

The stone-built wine cave could be two-hundred years old

Today the facility boasts up-to-the-minute French wine-making equipment and a modern Italian-made bottling plant. Most astonishing of all is the massive stone-built cave, used to mature and store the newly made wines. Completed only two years ago, it was built of limestone, with many vaulted stone arches and brick niches to age the wines. If you are a wine devotee yourself, you can even hire one of the spare niches to age your own stash!

Walking around inside the vaults, you could swear that it was built two-hundred years ago. It is simply astonishing…

The winery produces a range of full-bodied, red wines and a fine desert wine. My personal favourite was the dry red. Similar in character to a French Cabernet, it is rich, fruity and full of complex tannins that you will be able to savour on your tongue.

The qualities of the wine come partly through the wine making process but also thanks to the local grape varieties [Matraza -a sweet, red grape from the Ganja and Saperavi – known for its dark pink flesh and very dark skins]. These are used in addition to the well-known Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dimitri, our Moldovan guide

My friends and I were shown around the winery by Dimitri, a young wine expert from Moldova, who was at the château to oversee quality control of a shipment bound for Russia, where most of the wine from here is sold.

He said that unfortunately, the market for quality wine in Azerbaijan was weak, so most of the best vintages leave the country for export. That is a shame because Azeri wine has a generally poor reputation amongst the ex-patriot community here but it seems to be the case that is because many of the really good quality wines leave the country…

Before coming to Azerbaijan, I lived in Namibia and was spoiled for choice by good quality, modestly priced wine. One “quaffing” wine I enjoyed was called “Tall Horse”. I am shocked to find it available in Azerbaijan at ten-times the price it was on sale there. It’s not a bad wine, but to be honest, the Ismailli wines from Château Monolit, represent far better value and given their smaller carbon footprint [not having been shipped halfway around the world] are in my opinion the way to go for ex-pats wanting to watch the sun go down, with a glass of red in their hand…

For more information about Ismailli wines: http://ismailliwine.com/

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About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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3 Responses to Azerbaijan Days: Château Monolit and Ismailli Wine. Quality Vino from Azerbaijan!

  1. Pingback: Italian Wine Bottles | Italian Red Wine | Brunello di Montalcino» Azerbaijan Days: Château Monolit and Ismailli Wine. Quality Vino …

  2. Ilham says:

    I should met you there to share my knowledge about Hajihatamli and its history what makes it famous.

  3. Pingback: Ivanovka – the remnants of the USSR | Silk Way Travel

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