I first tasted this wine at the winery, directly from Karas (Armenian for Amphora), halfway finished. It was bursting with floral aromas, juicy-fruity-spicy cherryish characters and bold tannins, suggesting great potential in bottle. Five years on, freshness has matured into savory, dried red fruit notes, with a fuller bodied velvety texture. Balanced and persistent, it more than hints at what might have existed 6,000 years ago at the beginnings of wine culture.
Yeraz’s vines are tipped as ‘older than time’ but no one really knows exactly how old, only that they had been there before the parents and grandparents of oldest people in the nearest village had been born. The ‘mile high’ vineyard grows at 1600 metres with an extreme 15º C temperature difference between night and day – markedly retarding growth. The vines, as old as they look, and lean and hardy as they are, are less obviously much older.
All that alone makes the vineyard special enough, but only scratches the surface. Armenia never had the 19th C Phylloxera plague hence these vines didn’t require defensive grafting, instead they grow on their own roots. Lacking rows and trellising, their growth is wildish and meandering, following the lie of land and hugging the earth for warmth.
Most importantly, these vines share DNA with seeds and grape residues found inside pots buried 6,000 years ago inside one of the world’s oldest wineries inside Areni Cave. At this point in time this is as close as you can get to tasting s wine like those made at the beginning of civilization.
Respecting its fruit, Yeraz’s wine is naturally fermented in massive, egg shaped concrete tanks, sparked off by native yeasts inhabiting the vineyard. Maturation for 2 years begins with conditioning in terracotta Karas (Armenian amphora) and then reintegration in 3,000ltr barrels (botti) before bottling. Made with minimal intervention, the only addition a small dose of preservative sulphites before bottling, this wine is very much in tune with the place it comes from.