It took Armenian ex-pat Zorik Gharibian nearly three years of searching for his dream winery in Tuscany to finally find it on the slopes of Mount Ararat in Armenia.
Zorik was raised in Iran, but as a young man he found his way to Italy to use his artistic and business skills in the fashion trade. It was in Milan that he met and married Yeraz Tovmasyan, a Swedish-Armenian raised in London. Gharibian and Tovmasyan both loved the wines of Tuscany and dreamed of buying an estate in Chianti. In 1998, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Gharibian visited his native Armenia and had an epiphany. He would return to the “cradle of wine” and start the winery of their dreams.
There’s evidence that grapes were first fermented on Mount Ararat more than 6,000 years ago. The wine tradition was continued in monasteries throughout the Middle Ages and, despite invasions from Russians, Persians, Arabs and Turks, right through the 20th century.
Land was purchased in 2000 and soil samples sent to the University of Milan. Working in concert with Tuscan oenologist Alberto Antonini, the Gharibians developed a plan to grow the native Areni Noir grape (well suited to the high-altitude, rough winds, and vast diurnals). Pre-phyloxerra cuttings were used, and the winery also began a search to find the traditional Karasi or Amphorae in which to make the wine. Today there is some steel and oak at the winery but the vast majority of winemaking is done in the clay pots. The focus is on native varietals like Areni Noir and Voskehat.
Surrounded by dramatic snow-capped mountains, 1,400 meters above sea level and only steps away from the most ancient of sites (a 6,100 year old winery), the vineyards of Zorah are situated in the small rural village of Rind in the heart of Yeghegnadzor. This is Armenia’s quintessential grape growing region for wines of elegance. Today the team still includes Antonini, and they are joined by agronomist Stefano Bartolomei. The Gharbians say that their philosophy is “nothing but quality”.