It’s been over a year since we last did a comprehensive Karas tasting, so we gathered up as many of the new releases we could find from Armenia’s largest winery.
Of all the Armenian wineries, Karas has the widest distribution outside of the country. For many Karas is their first exposure to Armenian wine. In fact, on arrival in Armenia the first thing most tourists see is the giant Karas bottle as you exit of Zvartnots airport!
The Karas line has now expanded to include a Dry Muscat, a Rose, an Areni-Khndoghni blend and a new luxury offering named Gran Karas.
Karas Classic Red & Classic White
We tried the new 2016 vintages of Karas Classic Red and Classic White and did a vertical tasting of the Classic Red from 2014 through 2016.
Karas’s Classic wines are primarily made from European grape varieties grown at the Armavir Estate. They generally sell for less than $15 in the US and if not the most exciting wines, they are uniformly well-made and good value for the price. Both the Red and the White are blends and each year winemaker Gabriel Rogel tinkers with the mix to get the best out of each component. It’s our sense that the White has improved a little with each vintage while the Red has become a little less interesting. Perhaps this is because more of the prime red grape components have gone into the excellent Karas Reserve and Gran Karas parcels.
For more on the Karas Classic line, click here.
Karas Areni & Khndoghni Blend
New to the Karas lineup is the 2016 Areni-Khndoghni blend. It’s the first Karas wine made exclusively from indigenous Armenian grape varieties. These grapes are grown at Karas’s Armavir Estate, not the traditional region for either variety.
We’re not entirely sold on the concept of the Areni/Khndoghni blend. Ideally you are trying to keep the nuance, perfume and bright fruits of the Areni grape while marrying it with the deep color and power of Khndoghni, but in most examples we’ve tried, the blend loses the best characteristics of each grape without gaining significant additional complexity.
2016 Karas Areni & Khndoghni is an interesting experiment and worth trying. Like all Karas wines, it is very well made. It would be interesting to see what winemaker Gabriel Rogel could do if he chose to make separate wines from these two iconic Armenian grape varieties.
Karas Reserve Reds
We have not yet had a chance to try the Gran Karas, but we did do a wine tasting dedicated to the excellent Karas Reserve Reds.
We compared the 2013 and newly released 2014 vintages of the Karas Reserve Red with a very highly rated California blend of Syrah, Cabernet and Petit Verdot in a blind tasting. Both of the Karas Reserves showed very well, the 2014 every bit as exciting as the original 2013 vintage of the Karas Reserve. For more on this comparison, click here.
In conclusion, there is a whole world of Armenian wine beyond Karas to explore, but if Karas is the only Armenian wine you can find we certainly recommend you give try to see why we’re so passionate about the subject.