To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare, we are heading to Verona in April. As luck would have it, there is also a massive wine fair in the city of Romeo and Juliet. Although Vinitaly (April 10-13) will be packed with winemakers from all parts of Italy, we are going there to taste the wines of Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Hungary, England, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Serbia, China, and the one that’s top of our list, Armenia.
This is the country which can trace its grape-growing and winemaking back to Noah.
We met the couple behind leading brand Zorah at the VinCE Budapest wine fair in Hungary earlier this year, and fell in love with its new red wine, Yeraz. At Vinitaly, Zorah’s owners, Zorik Gharibian and wife Yeraz Tomassians, will also be showing the red Karasì 2013 and white Voskì 2014. “Voskì and Yeraz are the new releases while Karasì is at its fourth vintage,” Yeraz told ywine.press.
The Zorah Karasì and Yeraz are made from the Armenian grape variety Areni Noir. The Karasi is made from the Areni Noir vines that Zorik and Yeraz planted when they decided to invest in a new winery in their ancestral homeland rather than in their dream place, Tuscany, which is much closer to their fashion business in Milan. They bought 15ha in Armenia’s top wine region, Vayotz Dzor, and have been making wine, with the help of Italian consultant Alberto Antonini, since 2010. Karasì in Armenian means “from amphora” and shows that the wines are aged in the traditional manner.
The spicier Yeraz 2012 is made from old vines that are growing 1650m up a mountain on their own rootstocks. The wine is made in cement tanks and aged for two years in amphorae.
Zorik describes his wines as “the purest contemporary expression of this grape variety”.
Voskì is made from four indigenous white varieties in a winery opposite the Areni-1 cave, the recently discovered “world’s oldest winery”, dating back 6,100 years.
Vinitaly is not so old but it has been going for 50 years. It is Italy’s premier wine show and showcases the wide breadth of Italian wine. It also introduces the Italians to wines from other major producing countries, such as France, Spain, Australia, Argentina and Portugal, and, of course, the wonders of minnows such as Armenia.
In total, there will be more than 4,100 exhibitors at the fair. One of the aims of the fair is to help take Italian wine exports from 2015’s €5.4bn to €7.5bn by 2020. That’s why both the president and prime minister of Italy will attend the event. The Minister of Agriculture, Maurizio Martina, will be there too. He said: “We must now move forwards in the awareness that internationalization and expanding exports is the main key for the reorganization and success of the sector.”
THE LATEST ITALIAN WINE FACTS AND FIGURES
Number of Italian winemaking companies: about 310,000, 21% of all agricultural companies
Employment: 1 million 250 thousand employees throughout the supply chain
2015 production: 47 million hl of wine (+12% compared to 2014)
Hectares of vineyards: 637,634 (4% of UAA, Utilised Agricultural Area) – of which 334,000 (52%) DOCG and DOC and 156,000 (24%) IGT
Denominations of origin: 73 DOCG, 332 DOC and 118 IGT wines
Total value of production (2014): €3.9bn (1.9 DOCG and DOC; 0.8 IGT; 1.2 table wines)
Total turnover by winemaking companies (2014): €12.4bn (9.4% of revenues in the agro-food industry and 7.2% of agricultural revenue)
Total exports in 2015 (with variations compared to 2014): a record €5.4bn (+5.4% on 2014); 20.1 million hectolitres (-1.8%); average unitary value +7.3%
Source: Wine Observatory, which is promoted by the Italian Wine Union and works under the auspices of Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry policies.