Drink Picks

A Benchmark Example of Armenia’s Most Popular Red Grape

The Zulal Areni showcases how terroir-driven winemaking and indigenous grape varieties are putting Armenian wine on the map

Photo credit (above): Storica Wines; Photo credit (below): Damien LaFargue.
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Clara Dalzell, general manager

Flatiron Wines, New York City

This year, 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. 

Zulal Areni Selling Points

  • Because it’s not yet well-known, the producer, and the country more generally, is highly affordable.
  • It will likely require hand selling, but consumers are increasingly seeking out new and interesting grape varieties to explore. 
  • Though the grape is unfamiliar, the wine style is friendly. The Zulal Areni will appeal to lovers of Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.

Zulal Areni Tasting Notes

Zulal’s Areni has super fine, chalky tannins, medium body, refreshing acidity, and red fruit and spice notes. But Areni is a versatile grape: it can be Gamay-like with soft tannins similar to Beaujolais or it can be made in a more structured style. It also has high acid, allowing some producers to use it to make a sparkling wine.

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Caitlin A. Miller is a New York-based wine writer and the current associate editor for SevenFifty Daily. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Vinous, and Christie’s International Real Estate Magazine. She holds the WSET Diploma in Wines and was the recipient of the 2020 Vinous Young Wine Writer Fellowship.

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