Zorah Wine's vineyard in Rind, Armenia

Friday, August 1st, 2014 | Posted by Contributor

Armenia Fund: In Vino Veritas

Armenia Fund continues its new series on welcome developments in
Armenia, including Artsakh. For over two decades, the Fund has been
doing humanitarian work throughout Armenia and this series is a
showcase of encouraging initiatives, some that are a direct result of
Armenia Fund's work and some that are the product of innovation and
pure determination.

Pliny the Elder was convinced that in wine, there is truth -- in vino
veritas. His early adage about the drink has been followed by
thousands more seeking to succinctly express its mystical properties.
Whatever the motivation behind the millennia-long enchantment with
wine, it has returned to Armenia.

Zorik Gharibian is a fashion mogul in Italy. You might even have
bought clothing in Los Angeles manufactured by his company without
knowing it. Growing up in the wine-obsessed culture of Italy, he
dreamed of one day tending to his own vines in the country's famed
Tuscany region. Until he visited Armenia, that is.

Zorik Gharibian

After running soil tests at university laboratories in Italy,
Gharibian was assured that the traditional winemaking area of Vayots
Dzor in southern Armenia would be the ideal place for his vineyards.
He chose Rind as the center of his operations, not far from Areni,
where the world's oldest winery was discovered.

Karas, in Armenian, translates to amphora, the clay jars in which wine
was aged for thousands of years before the advent of wood barrel
aging. These are the jars that were found at the ancient winery in
Areni. Karasi is the name of Gharibian's most famous production thus
far. Listed among bottles of wine costing thousands or tens of
thousands of dollars, it was chosen as a top 10 wine by Bloomberg from
a field of over 4,000 wines.

Besides being just a name that honors a method of winemaking used in
the ancient world, Karasi is actually aged in amphora. Gharibian
recognizes that employing these disused clay jars is not easy: "We of
course have trouble finding amphora [to use in our wine production]
because unfortunately there is no longer amphora production in
Armenia," says Gharibian. The ones used by Zorah Wines - the name of
his winery - were bought, piece by piece, by visiting the homes of
local villagers.

Not one to be discouraged, Gharibian plans to establish a school in
Rind where the art of making amphora will be revived by a new
generation of expert artisans. Serendipitously, his wife, Yeraz
Tovmasyan, is an expert ceramicist whose skills will be put to good
use when the school opens.

If it wasn't already obvious, Gharibian insists on originality and
that goes for the grapes he uses in his wines. While most people had
dismissed areni as a good enough grape to be used in quality
winemaking, the ambitious entrepreneur did his research and found
strains of areni that he says "can compete with any grape variety in
the world." He believes that by embracing and promoting indigenous
Armenian grape varieties - as opposed to imported foreign ones like
cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir - those grapes will become as well
known, putting Armenia on the wine world's map.

Wine in traditional amphora at Zorah Wines

Tenaciously pursuing his goal of making Armenia a global player in the
wine market, Gharibian says that in 2016, Zorah will release a red
wine better than Karasi, the one that was listed in Bloomberg's top
ten. Asked where he gets his inspiration, he references Armenia's
6,100-year winemaking tradition that is apparent throughout Armenian
culture from social customs to stone carvings.

For Zorik Gharibian, winemaking is not a business so much as it is a
labor of love. It would seem then that Pliny the Elder was right. It
was in wine that Gharibian found the truth that his passion belongs in
one place: Armenia.


From: Baghdasarian