The grapes to produce the “Yeraz” Zorah were harvested by hand into small 15 kilogram crates. After destemming, the grapes were gently crushed. Fermentation with indigenous yeast and maceration on the skins took place in concrete tanks with no epoxy lining. Malolactic fermentation occurred naturally. The wine was aged for 24 months in traditional Armenian amphorae (karas) of varying sizes, with some time in large untoasted oak casks to soften the tannins. The wine was very lightly filtered before bottling. The wine spent a further 12 months ageing in bottle before release.
Zorah has 15 hectares of vineyards, surrounded by mountains at 1,400 metres above sea level and only a little over a kilometre from the oldest winery in the world. The vineyards are situated in the small rural village of Rind, in the heart of Vayotz Dzor. Long dry summers with plenty of sunlight, high daytime temperatures and cool nights encourage a lengthy growing season. The phylloxera-free soils are rocky and rich in limestone, helping maintain moisture for the vines during the intense summer heat. The indigenous vines for ‘Yeraz’ come from a single site at 1,600 metres and are over 100 years old. Each small vineyard parcel encompasses a unique combination of the varying strains of the Areni variety which have survived and evolved through the ages.
Zorik Gharibian planted six hectares of the native Areni grape variety in the Yeghegnadzor Valley in south-eastern Armenia in 2006, under the guidance of Italian viticulturalist Stefano Bartolomei. The vineyard is situated at an altitude of 1,370 metres, close to Mount Ararat and two kilometres from what archaeologists say is one of the oldest wineries in the world, dating back 6,100 years. Because of the area’s isolation, the vines are ungrafted, as phylloxera has never reached this part of Armenia. The wines are made under the guidance of Alberto Antonini. “I was struck by the superb conditions when I first visited the area”, says Alberto. “The altitude gives cool nights and a long growing season, so we don‘t harvest until the end of October. It is very dry with intense sunlight and stony, low-vigour soils. It is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever been involved with.”