Episode 81: Uncorking the Caucasus With Exotic Wine Travel!

Dr. Matthew Horkey and Charine Tan are authors of the book Uncorking the Caucasus: Wines from Turkey, Armenia, and Georgia and this week they joined us from ArmAs Winery in Armenia. Charine and Matthew tell the most incredible stories about wine travels through less-explored regions, like Serbia, and share a plethora of #W25Challenge fodder for all of us! We couldn’t get enough of this dynamic duo and we’re quite sure you’ll fall in love with them and want to follow their Exotic Wine Travels.

Listen along:

We were all over the world today during this recording! Steph was still hanging out in Italy, Val was in Colorado, and our guests, Dr. Matthew Horkey and Charine Tan, joined us from, ArmAs winery in Armenia, where it was 10 o’clock in the evening and there was a birthday party for the owner in full swing. So, just when we thought it was fun to be us, you know, drinking and podcasting in the middle of the day … can you imagine being Matthew and Charine for a day? And yay Skype!

In our glasses today:

Val: Chateau Sainte-Eulalie 2012 Minervois La Liviniere, La Cantilene. This is a blend of Carignan from 100-year-old vines, Syrah and Grenache from the Langeudoc.

Steph:  Aperol spritz. “When we were in Liguria, we had a spritz daily. Now that we’ve been in Umbria for over 2 weeks, I have them now and then. I think Aperol spritzes pair best with sunny patios and people watching.”

Speaking of people watching, we’ve had our eyes on the Exotic Wine Travel adventures for some time and we were finally able to catch up with the creators. We hope you enjoy the interview this week with Dr. Matthew Horkey and Charene Tan.

In May 2015, after four years of deliberating and planning together, Charine Tan and Dr. Matthew Horkey sold almost all of their possessions, dropped the comfort and security of their lucrative careers, and left Singapore to travel around the world with a dream of building a location-independent business and to absorb the world’s lessons. Driven by a common passion for wine, they ended up diverting all their attention and resources to the self-study of wine as they traveled through Western Europe, the Caucasus, ex-Yugoslavia, and Mexico in the past year. Uncorking the Caucasus is the first of a series of wine travel books. They also share wine travel tips, videos, wine-related stories, and exciting finds from lesser-known wine regions on their website Exotic Wine Travel.

We hope you enjoyed our chat with Exotic Wine Travel founders, Dr. Matthew Horkey and Charine Tan. We sure did, and could not get enough of their stories about traveling through lesser known wine regions. Charine shared a particularly funny tale of being shown into a wine maker’s home in Serbia. They were then left alone to ponder all the guns and knives on the wall as music blared downstairs. Meanwhile, while the owner went outside to smoke.

What Matthew and Charine shared with us is the very core of why we love wine and why we do what we do. Not only do you meet the most interesting people, but you meet a lot of people who have a story to tell. You also meet the people who tell the most incredible stories that bring wine alive. Yes, we often tout wine as being a grocery, a necessity. However, through this podcast and the perspectives our guests have offered, we’ve made it pretty clear that there is always more to the wine story. One doesn’t need to have a special password or vocabulary to access the social and cultural aspects of wine. Our guests this week have also shown us how a common language isn’t even necessary to engage over a glass of wine. Honestly, we could have chatted with them a lot longer, and we don’t believe this will be the last our listeners will hear about Exotic Wine Travel.

We do encourage you to check out their brand new book, Uncorking the Caucasus: Wines from Turkey, Armenia, and Georgia for more insight into wines that are slowly making their way into the mainstream market. Slowly. This book does a fantastic job of explaining why we don’t see more of these wines. We also get some great recommendations for wines that have plenty of backstory. What better way to up your #W25Challenge game than this?

Factoid: (from Uncorking the Caucasus): Armenia is believed to have the oldest winery in the world (although we know that wine making and grape growing goes back even further in Georgia to about 8000 B.C.). However, the caves at Areni-1 date back to nearly 4000 BC. Jancis Robinson also mentions the archeological evidence of this in her Oxford Companion to Wine, describes the caves, and that this announcement has been only since 2011.


Steph: Since this is my last podcast recording while I’m in Italy, I would like to officially thank a few people and recognize them.

  • Giuseppe Nuzzaci – owner and operator of Villa Nuba apartments in Perugia
  • Susan Guerra – owner and operator of her new business called Via del Vino Food & Wine Tours in Perugia
  • Joe Rehmer – part of the Scacciadiavoli winery team and owner of Microclima Vini & Vinili wine bar in Foligno


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Val: One more thing … don’t forget to use the #W25Challenge when you are trying new wines and drinks to win an opportunity to co-host the show with us. Until next week …. Cheers!

Check out the entire episode: