Symbol of Blessing: The Story of Grape and Wine School

Haykuhi Hovhannisyan

This is a real tale about the Grape and Wine School, born in the desert three years ago, address: South-West District of Yerevan, Mkhitar Sebastatsi Educational Complex. The EduComplex is also young, only 33 years old, exactly the earthly age of Jesus. It is said that one day the founder of the educational complex, Ashot Bleyan, had a dream. He woke up and gave birth to a new school of grape and wine just in the center of the desert-like district. It gave impetus to viticulture and winemaking, and like a sacred liquid, it was pushed into the arterial system of the EduComplex; like the blood flow in the vessels, it provided a new movement, a new path, wrapping, spreading, and stretching like a grapevine. 

A rhythmic work cycle was created in several stages, each with its own unique developmental branches. The research work was done in the first stage – Viticulture: the science of grape cultivation and grape growing. With one foot on the Internet, and with the other in the vineyards and factories of Armenian viticulturists and winemakers, the Sebastatsi winemakers studied both world experience of viticulture and the experience of Armenian viticulturists. They got acquainted with the best specialists and scientists in the field, cooperated, and learned from them, giving hope and faith that there is someone who continues their work. 

In the second stage, we studied Winemaking, Oenology, is the whole process of making wine from grapes. It starts with the selection of grapes and ends with the bottling of wine. All the Sebastatsies from the age of two, became winemakers being engaged in playing different roles: primary, secondary, tertiary, gardening, cultural, ritual, traditional, ethnographic, forming part of the puzzle in this great winepress process.  

The Wine School has its dedicated director, Artak Rshtuni, whom you can see everywhere: digging in the gardens, cultivating grapes, watering, putting up signs with a hammer and nail, making wine, bottling, giving lessons to the students and traveling with them. Artak Rshtuni and a world of grapes and wine. He is always at work and what energy and willpower he has! He never drinks the wine he makes. I am honestly surprised and I may say that I could not stand it. 

In the third stage, we studied viticulture and winemaking as a culture. Armenia, as a country with 6600 years of winemaking traditions, as the homeland of grapes, should study and develop this culture, present to the world the Armenian wineries, wine vessels and wine pots, charred grapestones, numerous cuneiform inscriptions, sculptures found in Armenia. Other documents testify to the domestication of wild grapes by Armenians engaged in grape cultivation. 

If the people of any other country had all these, they would conquer the world of wine, the world that is tired of European wines, and is seeking the grapes of exotic countries - Chile, New Zealand, South Africa. The world is now looking for a new taste and new quality, it seems to be focusing on the birthplace of the grape. We should try to present ourselves to the world with our exotic "aboriginal" grape wine, about which ethnographer Suren Hobosyan said. We went to the Dalma Gardens and together with archaeologists ethnographers began to look for and find old vines, prune them, take care of them and cultivate them.  This historic sanctuary is now fragmented and privatized, where the owner desecrates the sacred heritage. If you try to hinder them, you may be taken to the police station. You do not believe, do you? Before going to Dalma Gardens, Sebastatsies wanted to take care of the uncared-for vines in the South-West district of Yerevan. In a result of this, a 195-page criminal case was initiated. 

Where there is education and culture, there you can find ritual - a traditional, religious ceremony that has mysterious, magical properties. Spirituality plays a major role in the ritual. The ritual is accompanied by prayers, choirs, dance, and music. The Blessing of the Grapes dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Holy Mother of God is the oldest. The Grape and Wine School has celebrated the blessing and tasting ritual of its hand-grown grapes for three years. This ritual was once performed by the Armenian king and was associated with the worship of the goddess of fertility Anahit and the goddess of love Astghik.  

According to the legend, Astghik was born from the white foam of the sea. Where Astghik walked, roses grew from the blood dripping from her feet, and she poured the petals of the roses on the Armenian world, endowing Armenian girls with divine beauty. 

Now the EduComplex founder Ashot Bleyan has a three-year-old daughter named Astghik. She has become the goddess of the rituals held in the EduComplex. The revelation of Astghik Bleyan is like a fairy tale. Whether it is a fairy tale or a miracle, it is true, because the fairy tale itself is born when there are cherished dreams and aspirations. Let's consider the mystery of the birth of Astghik and Grape and Wine School to be revealed, and let’s move on to the fourth stage – farming arable land.  

They have been engaged in farming arable land in the Armenian Highlands since the Stone Age. Extensive irrigation systems were created: Menua and Shamiram canals. They used perfect iron hoses and tools. And now Ashot Bleyan has created the irrigation system of the educational complex. Increasing soil fertility, getting a good harvest is the primary law of farming arable lands. The essence of this law is that the quality of the soil changes, so not to use, not to cultivate the arable lands, means to harm nature. We take care of our arable land, remove stones from it, and even create a fruitful garden from a landfill. The area called Saralanj (hillside) is one of the vivid proofs of that. We turned it not only into a vineyard but also into a well-maintained road, playground, alley, bicycle path, and cultural park with the sculptures of the national epic "Daredevils of Sassoun".   

To see the complete mosaic of the fairy tale, we will walk around the Grape and Vine School, grown and cared for vineyards. We will discover the symbolic statement made by Jesus Christ "I am the vine".  


Աստղիկ Իսրայելյանի ֆիլմը Խաղողի և Գինու դպրոցի մասին՝

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