Friday, November 15, 2019

Karas Classic Red (2016)

Who knew that Armenia made wine? As it turns out, the country of Armenia stakes the claim to being one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. In fact, the oldest winery -- dating back approximately 6,100 years -- is located in the village of Areni. For centuries, grape vines have been cultivated in the valleys of the South Caucacus, producing wines that seem to receive little fanfare.

Perhaps part of the problem is that, at least in more recent times, the grapes don't always go toward traditional wines.  During much of the twentieth century, when Armenia was the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, a larger proportion of the grapes went to the production of brandy or sherry, as opposed to table wines.  Moreover, much of the production was destined for other parts of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, with very little making its way outside of the Iron Curtain.

Since it regained its independence, there has been growth in the production of red wines.  Many of Armenia's provinces -- from Aragotsotn to Voyats Dozr -- have vineyards and wineries, producing wines from grapes seldom heard outside of the Country of Stones.  Grapes such as Lalvari, Kakhet, Areni and Khndogni.  Winemakers also cultivate more well known varietals, such as Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Tannat.  I came across one such wine on my birthday, when I ordered a bottle to accompany a dinner of kebabs at a local Persian restaurant. 

The wine is the Karas Classic Red (2016), which is produced in the Armavir region of Armenia.  Due east of Armenia's capital of Yerevan, the Armavir region holds a special place in the country's history.  It has a long history, but the central event in that timeline is the 1918 Battle of Sardarabad.  The battle pitted the Ottoman Empire, which sought to take advantage of the collapse of the Russian Empire, by attacking the Armenians. The Armenians fought back at that battle and stopped the Ottoman advance.  It is said that the Armenians' victory at Sardarabad saved the Armenian nation.

The history of Karas wine is not as long or contested.  Karas is the Armenian word for "amphora," the vessel used in classical times to store wine.  The family that owns Karas had left Armenia long ago as part of the diaspora, finding their way to Argentina.  However, they made their way back to their native Armenia, returned to the Armavir region, and established Karas, producing a range of wines, including the Classic Red.

With that background, the Karas Classic Red is a blend of 35% Syrah, 35% Cot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Tannat. The Karas pours a deep ruby red.  The aroma gives hints of bold red fruit, such as juicy cherries and strawberries.  Wafts of something more earthy, more expected from someplace with the nickname of "Country of Stones" can be found on the nose.  Some slate, some pebble, some kind of stone can be found in the aroma.

As for the taste, this wine is relatively bold, presenting a taste that is full of ripe, red cherries in season.  Indeed, the cherries are so bold that, in some sense, they take on a candied note.  That note is somewhat softened by other dark fruit on the palate, such as a little blackberries. 

The taste, along with the aroma, was quite the surprise to someone like me, who had no idea of Armenian wine.  This Classic Red left me wanting to learn more about Armenian wine, as well as searching out a few wine stores that carry bottles of this blend.  (Fortunately, I have found a couple in my area.) If you find a bottle, which goes for between $14.99 and $16.99, you should buy a bottle and learn a little about Armenian wine.  Until next time...


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