Vahe Keushguerian And Jason Wise Believe Wine Has The Power To Make People Talk To Each Other - Exclusive

Winemaker Vahe Keushguerian and filmmaker Jason Wise's meeting in Armenia transformed the trajectory of Wise's latest film "Cup of Salvation" — his fourth in the documentary series "SOMM." We recently sat down with Keushguerian and Wise for an exclusive interview with Food Republic where the pair discussed wine's inherent power in getting people to talk with one another. 

Wise believes that wine gets people talking even before the bottle is opened. "There is no single bottle of wine that's ever been put in front of more than two people where [one doesn't] at least acknowledge, 'What are we having?' or "What is this?' It's almost ritualized," Wise reflects. That ritual speaks to the way that wine is understood in the gastronomical world. It's not simply something to consume. There is a story behind it, a history of place. 

That story extends to the way the people who are drinking the wine start to ask questions and listen to each other. "The alcohol certainly helps, but wine has a tremendous ability to make the table feel smaller. When you're there and able to look someone in the eye, you don't get up and run away. You don't leave. You sit there and you talk to somebody," Wise adds.

Talking and diplomacy

Beyond wine's ability to forge connections between friends and strangers, Keushguerian has a broader vision for using wine to start conversations that will ultimately lead to the breakdown of cultural and political barriers. Given all of the crises currently happening globally, Keushguerian believes that now, more than ever, we need to find ways to connect with one another. "I'm not saying wine will do it," Keushguerian notes. "But if an Iranian diplomat opened [a bottle of wine] with a French ambassador, even [just] on a friendly level, the conversation would shift." 

That shift is the power that comes with sharing in a gastronomical ritual: the process of observing one another as fellow humans. One of the reasons Keushguerian is so passionate about bringing Armenian wines to worldwide audiences is that he wants Armenia's story to be captured within the wine the country produces. 

"The minute we open a French wine or an Italian Barolo, it takes us immediately to the villages of Piemonte, to the nice two-star Michelin restaurant, or even the trattoria that serves stewed rabbit," Keushguerian reflects. One day, both Keushguerian and Wise hope that people will be able to start a dialogue by enjoying a bottle of Armenian wine and being transported into the beautiful landscape. 

Check out a screening of "SOMM: Cups of Salvation" to learn more about Keushguerian and Wise's pursuit of Armenian wine.