From Egypt to China, from Greece to Armenia – pomegranate is more than just a fruit. It is a sacred symbol, associated with fertility, abundance and good fortune. Moreover, for many centuries, nations across the world have been using pomegranate as a remedy from various illnesses. Some of these nations, particularly, Armenia, have mastered the skill of making a delicious drink, known as pomegranate wine.
Pomegranate As Symbol Of Fertility
In ancient Rome, newlywed women wore crowns made of pomegranate leaves. For Romans, as well as for Greeks pomegranate was a symbol of fertility and abundant children. Interestingly, the same concept is found in Armenian, Persian and Turkish cultures. In this ancient part of the world, brides used to smash pomegranates against a wall or throw them on the ground: scattered seeds symbolised their future children.
Even in China, pomegranates have always been associated with childbirth. In fact, Buddha is often depicted holding a pomegranate, a peach and a citron. These three fruits stand for abundance of sons, years and happiness, respectively.
From Pagan Tree of Life…
Many ancient civilisations – Armenians, Egyptians, Sumerians, Persians, Assyrians, Babylonians – shared a common religious concept of The Tree of Life. According to many legends, the roots of this tree dug deep into the earth and the branches reached into the sky. The Tree of Life was a symbol of eternity, connection to ancestors’ spirits, as well as to gods. It signified the continuous cycle of life. Interestingly, in Persian culture the Tree of Life is often represented as a pomegranate tree.
The same concept is found in Armenian folklore. In ancient Armenia, the pomegranate Tree of Life was drawn on walls of fortresses and carved on the armour of warriors. Ancient Armenians believed that pomegranates can bring abundant children, as well as strengthen the marriage ties. Until nowadays in Yerevan, brides give small dried pomegranates to unmarried guests as a blessing.
… To A Christian Symbol
With the adoption of Christianity in Armenia, the pomegranate did not lose its significance. On the opposite, the red colour of the pomegranate became associated with Christ’s blood, and the head of the fruit – with Jesus’ crown. Moreover, in 2015 Armenian Christian Church even introduced a new tradition: Blessing of the pomegranates. This colourful church ceremony happens annually on New Year’s eve.
Art, food and wine
Throughout the centuries pomegranate has grown to become the national symbol of Armenia. At the same time, it became a common theme for Armenian artists, writers and filmmakers. In their work, this fruit often signifies the whole Armenian nation – spread across the world, yet united by strong bonds, just like pomegranate seeds are held together by thin but firm membranes.
For example, the most iconic and internationally acclaimed Armenian film is “The Colour of Pomegranates” by Sergey Parajanov. Made in 1969, the film explores this national symbol and its rich significance. For instance, in one of the scenes, the spilled pomegranate juice forms a stain that looks like the shape of the ancient Kingdom of Armenia.
This iconic film has not only secured its place amongst the timeless cinema classics, but also became a point of reference in pop culture. Madonna, Lady Gaga and R.E.M. have all recreated scenes from “The Colour of Pomegranates” in their music videos.
Needless to say, that pomegranate is a big part of Armenian cuisine. From meat stews to deserts, pomegranate juice and seeds are widely used in traditional cooking. Naturally, Armenians have mastered the skill of preserving this miraculous fruit – by making either pomegranate juice or a delicious fermented drink, known as pomegranate ‘wine’.
Armenians have been making pomegranate wine for centuries. For instance, bar reliefs found in the Armenian cathedral on the Akhtamar island (lake Van) show that pomegranates were used for fermentation along with the grapes at least 1000 years ago.Shop pomegranate wine
What does pomegranate wine taste like?
A well-made pomegranate wine is luscious. It has a beautiful red brick colour and pronounced aromas and flavours of juicy pomegranate. On the palate, it is refreshing, with soft tannins and a subtle, delicate sweetness. In fact, when a pomegranate wine is masterfully done, you might not even feel the sweetness as it is perfectly balanced by the vibrant acidity of the wine.
How is it made?
Not all pomegranates are equally good for winemaking. The fruit has to be juicy enough, as well as retaining high levels of sugar and acidity. Some of the best and oldest plantings of pomegranate trees are found around the Armenian town of Meghri. The name of this town can be translated ‘honeyed’. Most likely, this refers to sweetness of the pomegranates growing in this region since thousands years ago.
Just as with the usual grape wine, the fruit is crushed, pressed and then fermented. The most important part here is not to damage pomegranate skin during crushing – otherwise its bitterness will be transferred to the juice. The fermentation is usually stopped by cooling the tanks. This is done to preserve some natural sugar in order to achieve that pleasant delicate sweetness pomegranate wine is known for.
Is pomegranate wine good for me?
Actually, it is. Pomegranate is full of nutrients, high in vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and potassium. In fact, scientists have proven that pomegranate wine contains three times more antioxidants than red wine or even green tea. These antioxidants have a strong anti-ageing effect, help improve skin condition and lower cholesterol levels.
In addition, pomegranate seeds contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Research shows that this acid may help prevent atherosclerosis, obesity, hypertension, as well as such serious conditions as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
In a nutshell, if there is a wine which will make you feel better not only in your head, but also in your body – it is definitely pomegranate wine. And did we mention that it tastes delicious?
How to drink POMEGRANATE WINE
First of all, chilled, just as any medium sweet wine. When it comes to food, pomegranate wine can be incredibly versatile. It is surprisingly good with meat, from pork chops to stewed lamb. In addition, it creates amazing pairings with vibrant Persian dishes. The wine has enough body to stand up against the rich flavours of the spices, at the same time the elegant sweetness and juicy freshness of the wine really enhances the taste of the food.
Pomegranate wine is equally great with other Middle Eastern dishes, from kebab to baba ganoush, as well as with spicy Indian and sweet-and-sour Chinese food. It works wonders when paired with Japanese and Korean cuisine. Above all, pomegranate wine is a perfect accompaniment for desserts.