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Zorah

Zorah

Zorik Gharibian was born in Iran into an Armenian family who had fled the country in 1915. During the Iranian revolution Zorik was sent to an Armenian school in Venice, and he stayed in Italy where he established a successful fashion business. In the wine culture of Italy he dreamed of tending his own vines in Tuscany - that is until he visited his ancestral home, Armenia. Zorik was captivated by the country and instantly knew that he wanted to get to know it. By travelling around, meeting the people and exploring their traditions, he came to realise that Armenia had a deep rooted wine culture, but after years of Soviet rule it had all but disappeared. So Zorik abandoned his idea of buying a Tuscan vineyard. It was in Armenia that he would make his wine dream a reality and his powerful vision of creating unique world-class wines with a deep rooted sense of place had begun. After running soil tests in laboratories in Italy, Zorik settled on the traditional winemaking area of Vayots Dzor in the south of Armenia, choosing Rind for his winery. This not far from the Areni-1 cave complex, where in 2011 archaeologists discovered the world's oldest winery dating back 6,100 years. Zorik wanted to champion the indigenous treasure trove of native Armenian grape varieties like Areni, Voskèat and Garandmak. Italian agronomist Stefano Bartolomei has been with Zorik from the beginning and the pair scoured the mountainous valleys of the region looking for old vines. They discovered some incredible ancient heirloom vineyards, where the gnarly old vines are on their own roots. They also worked on assiduous field selection by propagating vines from cuttings from old abandoned vineyards, including the vineyard of a 13th century monastery. This project took years, but the vineyards of Zorah were eventually planted in 2006. They are located in the Yeghegnadzor Valley in the foothills of Mount Ararat at an altitude of between 1,400 and 1,600 metres above sea level on rocky limestone soils which have never seen phylloxera. There is an extraordinary microclimate here. Long dry summers and vivid sunlight, coupled with contrasting cool nights, create a long growing season. For the wines to be true to their roots, they would have to be crafted traditionally. Since the dawn of winemaking in Armenia distinctive clay pots called Karas were used, and Zorik invested in the revival of winemaking in these ancient amphorae (karas means amphora in Armenian) vessels. The karas are of varying sizes and are found throughout the villages: some are buried in the ground, whilst others are above ground, each imbuing the wine with their own nuances. It took time of course to set up the operation but, after almost 10 years of determination and hard work, the first wine was produced. There is a juxtaposition of ancient and modern at Zorah. Large modern temperature controlled concrete vats, deliberately left rough to favour micro-oxygenation using only native yeasts are also used in the winery. Similar to the karas they allow the wine to breath, and large untoasted casks help improve tannins without overpowering the flavour of the finished wine. The wines are made under the guidance of renowned Italian oenologist Alberto Antonini, one of the world's foremost winemaking consultants. They are made with a very hands-off approach so as not to affect the expression of their origin. By embracing a living heritage binding and connecting the past, present and future, Zorik has set a benchmark for Armenian wines and put them on a world stage. These are authentic and pure, vital and exciting wines with 6,000 years of history in every bottle!