Dancer turns wine importer

Dancer turns wine importer
By SUSAN HOUSTON, Staff Writer

The News & Observer (Raleigh)
Wednesday, May 26, 2004 7:43AM EDT

When Edgar Vardanian finally hangs up his ballet slippers as a
dancer for Carolina Ballet, he has a second career all lined up:
wine importer.

And one of the first wines to be offered in the Triangle by his Ararat
Import Export company will be pomegranate wine from Vardanian’s native
Armenia. Pomegranate wine should be available in early June at Whole
Foods in Raleigh, with other locations to be announced later.

“It’s delicious. It’s very popular in Armenia and in Russia, but
because of the Soviet Union, nothing could leave the Soviet Union. Now
Armenia is separate, it can export the wine,” Vardanian said.

The wine is made from the pomegranate, a fruit grown throughout Asia
and the Mediterranean. About the size of an orange, the pomegranate
has a thin, reddish skin and hundreds of tiny seeds surrounded by
bright red pulp.

In Armenia, this pulp is pressed to extract the juice and a
light-colored red wine is made from it, Vardanian said. Pomegranate
wine has been imported to America before, but “now only goes to
California, because there are so many Armenians living there.”

Vardanian and his business partners — fellow dancer Vlad Bourakov
of Charlotte and importer Arnie Slutsky of Raleigh — are working
with two Armenian wineries to produce a wine that Ararat calls simply
“Pomegranate: Semi Sweet Red Wine.” Its colorful cubist-style label
was created by Vardanian’s uncle, an artist.

Vardanian hopes the novelty of wine made from pomegranates as well as
its health benefits (it is higher in cancer-fighting antioxidants than
red wine from grapes) will attract mainstream American wine drinkers.

Scott Brown, wine buyer for Whole Foods Market in Raleigh, is sold.

“We’ve all tasted and all really liked it,” said Brown, who
recommended serving pomegranate wine chilled. “It’s fairly sweet,
but not as sweet as Zinfandel or Riesling. It’s really refreshing,
a good white wine alternative.”

The wine will retail for about $9 a bottle.

Food editor Susan Houston can be reached at 812-4109 or
[email protected].