16-02-2018

An updated taste of Armenian wines

Just over a year ago I was invited to visit and explore all that is Armenia wine. A great and typically exhausting trip, I wrote a summary of the wines tasted and wineries visited if you felt like having a read. I mention these as to give a bit of backstory to the wines of Armenia without having to rehash the basics given that this country along with its grapes and regions will probably be unfamiliar to most.

On my last night, I picked up a number of wines to take back and try. This is easier said than done as a proper wine shop in the capital, Yerevan doesn’t really exist and the closest thing you get are the Armenian wine bars selling what they’re also stocking. This generally works except for the fact that the one I bought from, InVino, didn’t seem to have adequate cooling in the summer or they turned it off at night. There was an overall tinge of spent quality to most of the wines. Still good and tasty but you can tell that they’d been exposed to a bit of heat which was weird as I didn’t taste this when drinking at the bar and in seemed to be the same stock.

What were the takeaways from this little selection of wines? They confirm that quality wine is indeed possible in Armenia and more importantly is being produced currently whether in international style or via the karasi ( amphora) producers that have started. This second (and very small) group has found themselves in a bit of contention lately as it seems the shit has hit the karas with the Zorah & Karas wineries (both tasted below) getting into a battle of the right to use the name. Zorah is doing everything they can to bring back production in karas whereas the winery Karas has 400ha of grapes and absolutely none of it is produced using the old methods. That and the owner of the winery also owns the airport which is why there’s this big giant Karas bottle jabbing up from the roundabout when you approach it.

This whole issue is tedious as it would be like some winery in France deciding to call themselves “Domaine Barrique”, produce everything in stainless steel, and then forbid anyone from using “barrique” (barrel) on their labels. On the other hand, the fact that the producers actually have something worth suing over is in some ways a positive?

Bagratuni – Reserve 2012
Light ruby in color. Dark fruit notes of cherry and boundless minerality, oak well-integrated. Light on the palate with excellent acidity and a lingering finish. Shows the potential of the Areni grape when made well and correctly.
100% Areni 15%
** 90

ArmAs Areni Reserve 2012
Light red currant, minor cherry notes, bay leaf, bit of menthol, granitic, pinch of brett. Medium plus acidity, full ripe red fruit on the palate, sweet cranberry, little hollow on the mid palate without a great deal of length.
100% Areni 12.9%
* 89

Zabel – Sireni, Areni 2014
Dark fruit, bit overripe raisined notes, mineral, baking spice and sage, potpourri, and black pepper. Good wealth of dark cherry notes on the palate, alcohol a but more forceful but not unbridled, medium finish, and good, fresh zest overall. Apparently aged in local oak barrels.
Sireni, Areni 13.5%
** 89

Highland Cellars – Koor Red 2014
Initially a bit of a reductive waft but it blows off. Gives way to tangy dark cherries, light mineral graphite notes, balanced green vegetal notes similar to Loire Cab Franc. A savory, tasty acidity that while spread across the palate isn’t at all overbearing and is in fact quite luscious and very, very food friendly.
Areni, Sireni 13.5%
**Q 91

Karas – Reserve Winemaker’s Selection Blend 2013
Inky ruby with no rim variation. Dark cherry, cigar, tea leave, forest floor, graphite, and dense raisined fruit. Medium acidity, alcohol well integrated but with medium minus finish and very undefined, muddled variety character.
? 14.5%
* 86

Zorah – Karasi Areni Noir 2014
Light ruby with a mild rim. Good deal of reduction that leads into smoky tar notes, minor cloves, cured red cherry, fig, light chalkiness. Smooth on the palate with medium plus acidity and a lunch of crisp spicy fruit on the palate with alcohol showing a touch much but generally pleasing.
100% Areni 14%
* 88