Zorah, "Karasì" Areni Noir 2019
Areni Noir｜Vayots Dzor, Armenia
You'll find that not only is this a wonderful, characterful wine but one with a rich history and fascinating backstory.
Areni Noir, or Areni for short, is the grape here. It's native to the Vayots Dzor province of Armenia and neighboring Georgia, which together lay claim to some of the oldest evidence of winemaking anywhere.
Zorik Gharibian, aka Zorah, is part of the Armenian diaspora; in 2000 he returned to his homeland where he found these abandoned vineyards of Areni Noir growing at over 5000 feet altitude on completely ungrafted, native rootstock in the shadow of Mt. Ararat. This was an amazing find in of itself; little did he know that just a short decade later researchers would make an amazing discovery just steps away from these vineyards and his winery:
In 2011, archaeologists discovered a cave known as Areni-1 – adjacent to Zorah's winery itself! – containing, among other artifacts, the world's oldest humanoid brain as well as remnants of winemaking, all dating back over 6100 years. When the residue from clay amphorae were submitted to DNA analysis, they were shown to be the very same Areni grape in Zorah's Karasì bottling here.
With smoky, minerally notes of woodsmoke, pomegranate, ripe blackberry, crushed tarragon, and five-spice cake the wine is almost paradoxically fresh and bright yet meaty and boldly full bodied. Exotic, multifaceted, and deeply perfumed, the wine unfolds its many layers over a period of 2-3 hours after opening. Truly special stuff.
"Karasì" means "from amphorae" in Armenian, and Zorik gives the wine the full traditional clay-pot treatment. Fermented from native yeasts in a blend of concrete tank and clay amphorae, then buried underground much as they once were millennia ago, it both reaches back in time to an ancient tradition and points the way forward for a fantastic future of Armenian wine. There is no doubt the wines of Zorah deserve a place among the top in the world.
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