This week, I decided to select another bottle from Armenia. This one is a blend of 2 indigenous white grapes, Voskéat and Garandmak, from the winery Zorah in the Voyots Dzor region. According to the winery’s website (there isn’t a lot of information about these grapes out there), the name Voskéat means ‘golden seed’ in reference to its golden colored grapes. Garandmak, meaning ‘fatty tail’, is a hardier, thicker skinned variety than Voskéat. Together, the grapes are combined into a pale white wine called Voski, meaning gold. The vineyards in which these vines are propagated are at an elevation of around 4500 ft (1400 meters). This altitude is on par with the highest vineyards in Europe. While this is nothing compared to the vineyards in the northern province of Salta, Argentina, that are found around 2500-3000 meters, it is very significant for the part of the world they are from.
Zorah Winery was founded by Zorik Gharibian. Zorik grew up in Italy but wanted to explore his homeland. While his dream was to buy vineyard land in Italy, that dream evolved once he began to understand the history of the wine culture in Armenia. Like in other countries that have fallen under Soviet rule at some point in their history, wine production and quality greatly suffered in Armenia. In these countries, it had become almost non-existent. The periods of Russian reign also resulted in vineyards falling into disrepair. Attempting to reverse the damage to production and quality is difficult enough, but the damage the image of wines suffered is another wayward ship they are attempting to right. Their focus is on indigenous grapes rather than importing famed international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay. They are also utilizing traditional tools of Armenian wine making by using Karas, ancient clay amorphae, in addition to more modern tools like wooden barrels and concrete vats. They are found by searching villages for discarded Karas and cleaning them up to use to age wine. It is a common belief in Armenia that ‘just as the soil shapes the vine, the clay shapes the wine’. It is traditions like this that are being brought back to life by a new generation of winemakers devoting themselves to reviving this country’s ancient heritage.
Upon pouring my glass of 2019 Voski by Zorah Vineyards, I noted a pale lemon colored liquid with watery legs. It had fainter aromatics that consisted of floral notes (such as gardenia, honeysuckle, and orange blossom), citrus (lemon and lime), yellow pear and wet stone. This dry, full bodied wine had a moderate level of alcohol. It had a marked level of acidity, which was consistent with the elevation at which the grapes were grown. High elevations help moderate high daytime temperatures, creating a broader range of temperatures from day to night. The broader the range, the slower the ripening of the grapes. This helps the grapes maintain a sufficient level of acid to balance the elements in the finished product. This effect also aids the retention of fresher flavors in the grapes going into harvest. During the winemaking process, steps are taken to maintain these flavors so these varietal characteristics make it to the consumer. This wine tastes of lemon, honeysuckle, white peach, yellow pear, crisp minerality and a hint of spice from fresh white pepper on the prolonged finish. Overall, this ready to drink wine is interestingly complex and well balanced. It also accounts for #178 on my count!