Completely abandoned by locals and almost on the road to extinction, Chilar is an ancient grape variety indigenous to Armenia and present in the highlands of Vayotz Dzor. Grown at 1,400–1,500 m (4,500–5,000 ft)) the Chilar grapes are gathered from among random rows of old, local, small-plot vineyards in the surroundings of Zorah estate. Vines 30 to 40 years old. A phylloxera-free terroir, all vines are on their own roots. The soils are low vigour, sub-alkaline and rich in limestone with large stones and a top layer of sand. Hand-picked. Fermented with ambient yeast and aged in large traditional Armenian clay amphorae (karasi), with around 60 days’ skin contact. Ageing in clay for around 9 months with a further 10 months in the bottle. Very light filtration before bottling. Third commercial vintage of this wine.
“The aroma is relatively subtle: of citrus (grapefruit) and stone fruit with a very slight herbal note. Complex without excessive richness. On the palate, intense sour-freshness with a particularly distinctive flavour that’s I am at a loss to describe – not particularly fruity or aromatic in character, there’s intensity without weight even though the texture is rounded and smooth, mouth-watering freshness and lots of tension from the acidity. Powerful character for a wine of just 12% and a long minerally aftertaste, also just a little bit salty-sour. It is hard to believe that this had 60 days’ skin contact – the tannins are hardly noticeable. I have no evidence but I have a feeling this will age really well, hence the plus.”