Zorah Karasi Areni Noir, Armenia 2013 An idle question prompted by the vivid opening chapter of A Natural History of Wine, a fascinating new book by American academics Ian Tattersall and Rob Desalle: what kind of wines were they making 5,000 years ago in the cave at the feet of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains known as Areni-1? It was here, in modern-day Armenia in 2011, that archaeologists discovered the world’s earliest winery, dating back to circa 3,000 to 3,500 BC. I may not have found an answer tasting the 2014 vintage (available in May) of Italian-Armenian Zorik Gharibian’s Karasi made from Armenia’s most planted grape variety (which, like the cave, takes its name from the village of Areni). But, as with the 2013, the sense of history brings an added frisson to a vibrant, highly polished red.
Karasì, is a tribute to the 6100 year wine tradition of Armenia and to its Areni Noir grape, which has created the authentic spirit of this wine. Its name is a reference to its long aging in traditional large, clay, amphorae (karasì being the Armenian translation “from amphora”).
Full bodied and well balanced with silky ripe tannins, it is a wine of great elegance and richness and offers an incredibly interesting and unique wine tasting experience.
Armenia is considered one of the most ancient cradles of grape growing and wine making. The Bible states “Noah descended from Mount Ararat; he planted the first vine and made wine from it.” Vine is in fact, an indigenous plant in the valleys of Armenia. The wild vine Vitis vinifera silvestris (ancestor of the cultivated vinifera vine species) was already established in this region over a million years ago and historically grapes have always been an important crop in Armenia.
The Urartian kings of eighth century BC referred to Armenia as ‘the land of the vineyards’ while, Greek scholars Herodotus, Xenophon and Strabo described the river trade on the Tigris by Armenian merchants who exported their excellent wines downstream to the Assyrians and beyond. Armenian wine making traditions can also be traced back to ancient illuminated manuscripts. In 301 AD Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity and during this period wine became an important part of different religious rituals.