RAISE A GLASS in Azerbaijan


Enchanting experience of pomegranate wine


Dominating the small town of Agsu is Az-Granata’s giant modern plant for processing a wide range of fruits into wines, liqueurs and juices.

The word ‘granat’ means pomegranate in Russian (the word is ‘nar’ in Azerbaijani), and indeed a major product here is pomegranate juice processed by fascinating hi-tech machines which manage to extract the juice without crushing the very numerous pips. But the concern also produces an impressive range of spirits and inexpensive, easy-drinking table wines made from a range of European and Caucasian grape varieties grown on the hills of Shamakhi province to the north. By arrangement, visits to the production plant are possible and highly engaging – don’t miss the Tetra-Pak production line. They culminate in a tasting room adorned with barrels and an exhibition of sepia photos that illustrate the history of winemaking in Azerbaijan. Tastings might encompass flavored vodkas and ‘Azerbaijan’s first Raki’.




Pearl Nar – For an unforgettable taste experience, try this palate-baffling pomegranate Crémant. The tart, fruity flavours might not immediately seem to fit with a frothy effervescence but judged as a unique drink rather than a faux fruit champagne, Pearl is an undoubted original that is likely to be a talking point gift wherever you might take it. There are also several alternative Nar Sharabi still pomegranate wines. 

Rübai Reserve – this somewhat pricier brand (made from Saperavi and Madrasa grape sorts) has somewhat more depth, as it is kept in non-corrosive metal reservoirs, and then in oak barrels brought from France – each time for two years. Rubai won a Grand Prix and bronze awards at wine tasting competitions at the 4th International Ganja Wine Festival in 2016 and in Shanghai in 2018 respectively. 

Mil – this white dessert wine was kept in oak barrels for 30 years in underground wine cellars built by the Hummel brothers in Ganja in the 19th century, and packaged by filtering through ‘the cold method’ at the Az-Granata plant. It has a dark straw colour and a delicate bouquet with an aromatic honey, harmonic taste.




For wine tourists, there are two excellent hotels high on the pass above Agsu Town: Shamakhi Palace has a glitzy sense of Las Vegas-esque vaudeville, while Silent Lake offers high-quality chalet-bungalows around a rural pond. South of Agsu, the archaeological site of ‘Agsu Fortress’ (aka Kharabasheher or New Shamakhi) has revealed the site of a short-lived settlement to which the population of Shamakhi, the region’s former capital, were forcibly transplanted in 1735 by the prominent Azerbaijani Commander Nadir Shah Afshar. It only lasted for around 60 years after which residents gradually started coming back to Shamakhi proper, but the large areas of excavations give an intriguing snapshot into the lives of people in that era.


The factory is open to visitors by arrangement.