Armenian winemaking sees an active development based on combination of the know-how and preservation of centuries-old traditions and achievements. Nowadays, Armenian winemakers; innovative views and aspirations are literally boundless. Sticking to this strategy, Armenian wine is persistently advancing toward the international arena.
In this regard, Tierras de Armenia CJSC represented by Karas Wines is one of the most famous members of the Armenian winemaking community on the international market, and Karas Wines is also among the most innovative wine producers in Armenia.
Combining various modern technologies Karas pioneers in the cultivation of international grape varieties in the Ararat Valley. With this production strategy Karas Wines brings the old winemaking traditions back to their historical birthplace.
Karas Wines’ policy is quite up-to-date - provide the consumers with high quality, exclusive style and unique flavour, and remain accessible both for professionals and wine enthusiasts.
It’s been more than ten years that the winery has been demonstrating the uniqueness of the Armenian terroir, cultivating international varieties in the Armenian soil.
It is Karas Wines that vividly manifests centuries-long winemaking culture and traditions, weaved with modern mindset and technologies. The end products of Karas Wines result from this gygantic work and they are the worthy representatives of the ancestors; legacy.
Karas Wines was founded in 2003. The choice of the brand name, the territory of the winery, grape varieties used, wine production and many more details are not accidental. Every component of the project has certain historical value linked to Armenia and its ancient winemaking culture.
The western part of the Ararat Valley is considered to have the most favorable terroir. It is also located among Armenia’s three most significant symbols - Ararat, symbolizing the whole Armenia, with its name and the silhouette being a typical Mecca for Armenians, Aragats, the
highest peak of modern Armenia, and Mount Ara, the symbol of eternal love and devotion to the homeland, named after Armenian king Ara Geghetsik (Ara the Beautiful) who was killed on the slopes of the mountain, as the legend runs.
All the wines are produced under the brand Karas Wines, symbolizing another historical heritage of ancient Armenia. Karas is a giant clay vessel of ellipse form, used for aging or long- term storage of wine.
Eduardo Eurnekian is the founder and the driver of the entire project. He is one of the major businessmen and investors in the American continent, as well as owner of a bank, post, international airport in Armenia along with Karas Wines brand.
The Eurnekian family has been cultivating grapes and making wine for over 20 years. Eduardo Eurnekian and Juliana Del Aguila Eurnekian – uncle and grandniece – are responsible for the premium vineyard property Bodega Del Fin Del Mundo, located right in the heart of Patagonia - a fantastic corner of lakes, volcanos and deserts, with wines popular throughout Argentina. So, the decades-long winemaking experience, expertise and high professionalism of the Eurnekian team were carefully transferred to Armenia to be weaved with its volcanic soil, highland vineyards, unique autochthonous grape varieties, climate and people’s love for vine.
In 2013 a young, active and ambitious Gabriel Rogel from Argentina (Mendoza) became the winemaker of the winery. After graduating from the University of Juan Agustin Maza with an enology degree at a young age he already had quite serious experience in the field of winemaking. He worked in an analytical laboratory and was attracted with the sparkling wine vinification, was engaged in premium wine production in Flechas de Los Andes.
Gabriel Rogel has been living and creating in Armenia for over 7 years now. He manages the entire production process, actively maintains every possible experiment searching for newer, better and more perfect wine styles. Zara Khechechyan is the second enologist of the winery.
The winery can also boast with Michel Rolland, a legendary oenologist, who has been consulting the whole project for ten years now. Today Michel Rolland claims that his list of top 3 wines includes also Armenian wines, along with French and Argentinian ones.
Michel Rolland visits Armenia once or twice a year to check the production process, as well as to create the assemblage for the category of Karas Reserve, Grand Karas and Syrah Reserve.
Manuel Gomez from Argentina has officially been the viticulturist of the project since 2004. It is him who created Karas winery’s unique and picturesque landscapes.
In 2004 - 2007 Karas Wines was actively meliorating the lands and only in 2007 did they decide to plant the first vines. In the same year, 200 hectares of different grape varieties were planted for selling the grapes to brandy production.
However, after getting a really good yield 3 years later, the Eurnekian family decided to use the grapes for its own high-quality wine production. Afterwards, they tended to gradually increase the number of international varieties for wine and decrease the number of vines grown
Today, Karas Wines owns over 400 hectares of vineyards, where more than 32 grape varieties are cultivated. At the same time, 70% of the territory is grown with red varieties and 30% - with white ones.
Growing such international and local grape varieties a Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Malbec, Montepulciano, Ancelotta, Areni, Khndoghni (Sireni), Kangun, Rkatsiteli, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombar and Viognier shows decent results.
The soil in this area of Armavir is rich in loam, clay, volcanic remains, with lots of rocks. Even the first facilities and fences of the wienry were built from the stones taken out from the lands on which vineyards stand now, which in its turn lays a favorable ground for cultivation of versatile grape varieties.
The vineyards are mainly located on a plane, located on 1035m above the sea level. The highest peak is 1100 m. In this altitude, Montepulciano, Ancelotta and Petit Verdot are cultivated. The following segment of the vineyard is considered to be the most favorable for grape cultivation in all aspects, which is why grapes growing here are used for Karas Reserve and Grand Karas production.
The winery is home to two big water reservoirs with a total capacity of 200.000 m 3 , and the water comes from the Akhurian reservoir. Water from one of the basins runs by gravity, and from the other it is pumped. The reservoir was constructed to support drip irrigation, which is maintained by software rarely seen in Armenia, which can even be managed through an app. Each part of the vineyard is divided into plots with Wi-Fi stations and special valves, which open and close automatically or manually. At the same time, there is a special approach to the water sources maintenance, where Jewish drip irrigation systems are exploited.
While cultivating the vine green harvest method is extensively applied, which allows having higher-quality grapes. It is possible to reach up to 40 t / ha yield without green harvest. After the green harvest, the yield for the classic line of Karas drops to 12 t/ha, for Karas Reserve – 6-7 t/ha and for the Grand Karas and Syrah Reserve – up to 5 t/ha.
Vine density is managed with a special system favorable for the growth and development of the vine: 2 m space between rows and up to 1m between vines for classic wines, for Grand Karas and Karas Reserve – 2,25 – 2,5 m space between rows and 1m between vines.
It is important to note that only manual harvesting is used in the vineyards. Harvest starts from the tenth of August and lasts till mid-October. First, its the grapes for sparkling wine production, and then the white varieties are harvested to complete the circle with harvesting of the red varieties. The crop for Grand Karas and Karas Reserve is naturally the last and the seasonal weather conditions are in this case considered.
Due to strict winters vineyards need to be covered, which starts in early November and lasts till mid-December. The uncovering process begins in February.
Karas Wines strives to create the most environment -friendly conditions for the vine: they don’t spray chemicals in vineyards and only use pheromones against pests. At the same time, all vines are grafted on special certified rootstocks to avoid the risk of phylloxera development in
future. Karas Wines applies a sustainable and organic philosophy in line with Bioma practices to ensure its vineyards are healthy and remain chemical additive- free.
Another peculiarity and challenge of the region are hailstorms. To protect the vineyards from hailstones almost 50% of it is covered with special anti-hail nets. There is high-quality net production in Italy; however, the winery is in the stage of discussions and testing of local production.
The winery has a full line of wine production based on German and Italian modern equipment. It produced its very first vintages exclusively in line with European wine production standards. Due to the tendency of continuous experiments, the wine becomes more and more unique and perfect every year. The empirical approach helps to reveal the best assemblage and balance through constant sampling.
Currently, the entire line of Karas Wines consists of red, white, rose, and sparkling wines. However, the winery is not going to stop growing: it’s in a constant quest for new aromas and flavors, which can become the masterpieces of Armenian winemaking in future. Karas Wines is actively working on the elaboration of superior quality wines made with local grapes.
Being keen on promoting local production, Karas never misses the chance to use and thus support Armenian products if the quality and the winery requirements meet. Artsakh oak barrels are a bright example of this. The ageing of wine is carried out in French and Artsakh oak barrels,
with quantity relation of 50%-50%. However, the company tends to fully switch to Artsakh oak barrels. There are classic barrels of 225l, as well as Artsakh barrels of 400l for experimenting purposes.
The assemblage is a result of blending wines from French and Armenian oak barrels, which gives Karas unique balance. Both new and old barrels play a significant role in this process.
Each grape variety is aged separately, and each of them has its own barrel with the most comfortable conditions.
Michel Rolland selects the best result of single varietal wines and combines them, or as they say in the New World, “creates the blends of Karas Wines”, where not all varieties are included.
The winery uses exclusively Portuguese corks for capping. However, it fully outsources to local companies the production of labels, boxes and wine bottles.
The first vintage of Classic Karas Red, Classic Karas White and Karas Reserve was produced in 2010, which made overall 50,000 bottles.
In 2015, the winery produced 460.000 bottles of wine, in 2017 – already about 1 million bottles, but the total capacity of the winery is 3 million bottles of wine.
Though the winery is still young and is in the phase of growing, and the history of Karas is only being written, its collection of wines is already popular for its uniqueness, and the pearl of the collection is indeed Karas Red Dry Reserve 2013, which is made of Syrah, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Montepulciano and Malbec. The dominant grape in blend is Syrah, which seedling was brought from France. The wine aged in oak barrels for 14 months.
The years of 2013 and 2018 were the most auspicious ones for the winery.
Since 2018, the winery has started to actively initiate and engage in various tourism projects. Karas Wines offers the opportunity to know its paradise of viticulture, watch the wine production process and to attend a professional tasting of their wines.
In July 2018, to mark the International Friends’ Day, the first Karas Fest was held and is regularly celebrated on the last Saturday of every July.
2020 was the tenth anniversary of the vintage of Karas Wines; however, all the celebrations were postponed because of the COVID-19 virus.
Karas Wines periodically organizes Karas Art Contest as part of a social project. Karas Art is an open contest for the best modern artists of Armenia and is focused on popularization of Armenian artists and their professional growth. All the participants present their works, and the
committee selects top 10.
Karas Art project provides artists with all the needed tools as well as oak barrels, on which the artists create their artworks. The three best barrels are selected by the committee and awarded with prizes and a set of Karas Wines. Each of the rest seven artists is also awarded with a set of Karas Wines.
Another significant project for Karas is the creation of employment opportunities for the people of neighboring villages in Armavir. 300-500 locals are engaged in Karas Wines production and at the same time get medical insurance, security items inside the territory, transportation, food, uniforms, as well as regular trainings for capacity building.
There are also orchards and greenhouses in the territory of the facility, which serve for the employees of the winery and vineyard.
Having its stable position in the local market, Karas is actively leading foreign policy to promote its product in the international arena. Almost half of the production is exported. Karas Wines is available in the Russian Federation, USA, Canada, the UK, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Lithuania, Switzerland, Greece, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Belarus, Ukraine, China, Lebanon, and starting from 2020 wines are exported to Argentina as well.
Having a really good value for money, the product is highly demanded abroad.