One of the most interesting encounters I had at today’s Liberty Wine tasting was with Armenia, the land-locked country hemmed in by Georgia, Ajerbaijan, Iran and Turkey. This broader area is widely regarded to be the birthplace of wine, and the wine in question that I tasted today is Zorah’s now famous Karasi.
I had a look at the first vintage of this wine, the 2010, back in June 2012, and was impressed. I’m even more impressed with this, the 2011. And in two months the 2012 will be released, and from the chat I had today with owner/founder Zorik Gharibian and his wife Yeraz Tomassians (pictured above), I think I’ll like that even better.
The story is a great one. Gharibian, a fashion guy from Milan, had a vineyard fantasy. He thought about Italy, but then realized it would be far cooler (and more challenging) to go back to his ancestral land, Armenia, to do the vineyard fantasy. He took his time, did his research, and then found the perfect spot: virgin land near the small rural village of Rind in the heart of Vayotz Dzor, the top wine region in the country. The site is at 1400 m surrounded by mountains, and Gharibian planted 15 hectares of vines from cuttings of old vine Areni Noir, the top native red variety. Assisted by consultant winemaker Alberto Antonini, the first wine was made in 2010, using a mixture of stainless steel, barrels, concrete fermenters and a few amphorae.
With the 2012, Gharibian is changing the style a little. ‘We want the full terroir to speak,’ he says. To this end, he’s moving away from stainless steel and small barrels towards concrete and large Slavonian casks. Of the 2012, Gharibian thinks it’s better than the 2011.
But there are more exciting developments. ‘I have found a semi-abandoned vineyard at 1650 metres, 250 metres higher than this one,’ he says. ‘The vines are centuries old, with huge trunks.’ He adds that, ‘the hardest part is to get there.’ From these ancient vines of Areni Noir, he has made a new wine, beginning in 2012, which will be released – if all goes to plan – next year. ‘It has more minerality, more spices and more herbs,’ he says of this developing wine.
He’s also been working with white indigenous varieties that he’s been able to identify. ‘We started with 10 and have now narrowed this down to four.’ The wine from this project might be released in 2016 if things progress as planned. ‘It goes on a slow pace,’ says Gharibian. ‘All we have to look to is the 6000 year old cave next to us,’ he says, referring to the Areni 1 archaeological site which is the oldest evidence of human commercial winemaking activity yet found.
Zorah Karasi Areni Noir 2011 Armenia
Very fresh, bright, vivid and pure with good acidity and fine, expressive cherry and red berry fruit. Supple and fine, this has sweet fruit but it is fresh and structured with lovely purity. Such a stylish wine showing great definition. 93/100 (RRP £22.99 UK agent Liberty Wines)
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