Highlights: Zorah Heritage Chilar 2019 Armenia

I wrote a bit about Zorah back in 2014, when I met the owners at a Liberty Wines tasting. It’s a remarkable project in Armenia, which is historically very important for wine.

Zorik Gharibian and his wife Yeraz Tomassians made their first wine in 2010. Gharibian, a fashion guy from Milan, had a vineyard fantasy. He thought about Italy, but then realized it would be far cooler (and more challenging) to go back to his ancestral land, Armenia, to do the vineyard fantasy. He took his time, did his research, and then found the perfect spot: virgin land near the small rural village of Rind in the heart of Vayotz Dzor, the top wine region in the country. The site is at 1400 m surrounded by mountains, and Gharibian planted 15 hectares of vines from cuttings of old vine Areni Noir, the top native red variety. Assisted by consultant winemaker Alberto Antonini, the first wine was made in 2010, using a mixture of stainless steel, barrels, concrete fermenters and a few amphorae. They also began looking for ancestral white varieties, and one of them is this Chilar.

The amphorae used to make this wine (called karas) are handmade and they are all different. They are unlined and are all very old.

Zorah Heritage Chilar 2019 Armenia
13.5% alcohol. The idea behind Zorah’s heritage series of wines is to showcase a uniquely Armenian variety, and in doing so help save it from extinction. This Chilar is fermented with skins in traditional amphorae (in Armenia these are half in and half out of the ground). It’s a beautifully balanced, textural white wine that’s quite pale in colour (considering the skin contact) with rounded but fresh flavours of pear and white peach, a hint of fennel, a bit of grainy structure and a long, pure, linear citrus finish. This is really fine, and so harmonious. There are no edges here. Such purity, delicacy and depth. It doesn’t have much of tat skin-contact character at all. The wine holds up really well three days after opening, too. 94/100

Notes on other Zorah wines from November 2019:

Zorah Yeraz 2015 Armenia
This is from 1600 m altitude, made from very old bush vines planted 150 years ago. This is fermented in concrete then aged for two years in amphorae. The wines are then blended in large wooden casks and go back to amphorae for a year. Very fine-grained, nicely structured and elegant with lovely purity and finesse. This has amazing purity and quality: very textured. 95/100

Zorah Karasi 2017 Armenia
This is 100% Areni Noir, fermented in concrete and aged for a year in amphora. Very supple with red cherries and raspberries. Nice elegance here with a supple palate. Silky with nice grainy structure. Very stylish. 93/100

Zorah Voski 2017 Armenia
This is a blend of local white varieties Voskeat and Garandmak, 1400 m altitude, concrete fermentation and ageing. Nutty and stony with nice texture. Smooth with some richness, showing pear and white peach fruit with some delicacy. Very harmonious. 93/100

UK agent: Liberty

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