ear, Clara Dalzell, the general manager of Flatiron Wines in New York City, has her eye on an underappreciated Armenian wine: the Zulal Areni, made from the country’s leading indigenous red grape variety.
Though Dalzell had tasted several wines from Armenia in the past, she found them to be lacking. Recently, she’s been much more impressed. “The wines used to be more focused on new oak and European grape varieties,” says Dalzell. “They had no sense of place in my opinion.” Now, there’s a new wave of Armenian winemakers focused on producing terroir-driven wines from native grape varieties. “Like Georgia, which made a strong push in our market sooner, [Armenia] has many indigenous grape varieties. They have the second-oldest evidence of wine being made there,” explains Dalzell.
Zulal’s Areni is driving international recognition for Armenian wines because it demonstrates the country’s potential for producing high-quality wines from indigenous grape varieties. While Dalzell likens Areni, also called Areni Noir, to Blaufränkisch, others have called it Armenia’s Pinot Noir. It’s a sturdy grape with thick skins and good disease resistance, producing elegant, medium-bodied wines like the Zulal, with red-fruit aromas and silky tannins.