Yeghegnadzor, Vayots Dzor, Armenia
Zorik Gharibian planted six hectares of the native Areni grape variety in the Yeghegnadzor valley in south-eastern Armenia in 2006, under the guidance of Italian viticulturalist Stefano Bartolomei. The vineyard is situated at an altitude of 1,370 metres, close to Mount Ararat and two kilometres from what archaeologists say is one of the oldest wineries in the world, dating back 6,100 years.
Because of the area's isolation, the vines are ungrafted, as phylloxera has never reached this part of Armenia. The wines are made under the guidance of Alberto Antonini. "I was struck by the superb conditions when I first visited the area", says Alberto. "The altitude gives cool nights and a long growing season, so we don't harvest until the end of October. It is very dry with intense sunlight and stony, low vigour soils. It is one of the most exciting projects I've ever been involved with."
'Voskì' is made from equal portions of native varieties Voskéat and Garandmak. The grapes are planted on their own roots and are grown in an old village at 1,400 metres above sea level. The name Voskì means 'gold' in Armenian. The wine is unoaked and has a lovely intensity of perfume, great depth on the palate and lovely length.
"Yeraz means 'dream' in Armenian. It is the culmination of all our dreams to make a wine like this." It is from centuries old bush vines grown at 1,600 metres above sea level. "The high altitude and age of the vines gives more complexity and elegance," says Zorik. The wine is intense yet balanced, a wonderful example of a once lost world of winemaking.
Zorik is part of the seven million Armenian diaspora (there are just three million people living in Armenia). He was born in Iran into a family that had fled Armenia in 1915. His parents sent him to the Armenian school in Venice when the Iranian revolution took place. He stayed in Italy and built a successful fashion business that enabled him to pursue a passion and invest over €1 million in this project. The simple winery has stainless steel tanks, round cement tanks and some French and Armenian oak. Alberto, however, now prefers amphorae for ageing, as the polymerisation of tannins they facilitate ensures a supple and sinewy wine. Indeed, the word 'Karasì' means 'amphora' in Armenian.