Unique indigenous grape varieties are one of the key ingredients that make Armenian wine so interesting. One of our favorites is Khndoghni, the red wine grape from Artsakh.
Last year we did a tasting of Armenian wine with one of the stars of the movie “SOMM” Master Sommelier Dustin Wilson. It was his first exposure to Armenian wine and on tasting the Kataro Reserve, Dustin commented that Khndoghni reminded him of Petite Sirah from California. Like Khndoghni, Petite Sirah makes deeply colored, high alcohol red wines.
We decided to put Dustin’s theory to the test, and did a blind tasting with our US tasting team, comparing two of Armenia’s finest Khndoghni Reserve wines and a highly rated Petite Sirah from California.
2014 Kataro Reserve Sireni1 from Domaine Avetissyan
2014 Takri Reserve Sireni1
2013 Outpost Petite Sirah “The Other”
The results were fascinating. The scores were generally close, but almost all of the tasters were able to correctly identify the California Petit Sirah. The biggest difference was role of the fruit. In the Khndoghni wines, the black fruits swam under the surface of the deep dark wine, emerging wrapped in oak and earthy, caramelized aromas, while in the Petite Sirah, the ripe jam-like fruit floated over the structure of the wine, making it your first and foremost impression.
Outpost Vineyards 2013 Petit Syrah was rated 93 points in the October 2015 issue of The Wine Advocate. It was the favorite wine of the group for 4 of our 6 tasters.
Opinions were evenly divided between the Kataro and the Takri wines. Both are outstanding wines that scored highly with the tasting panel. Some preferred the more fruit forward Kataro, while others preferred the beefy/earthy tones of the Takri.
Khndoghni is a unique grape and a treasure for Armenian winemakers. It remains to be seen if Petit Sirah is indeed the best comparison grape for wine drinkers used to European varietals, but it is clear that Khndoghni, when married with the spicy oak of Artsakh, makes a compelling wine.
1WineWorks, who oversees the marketing of both Kataro and Takri, prefers the alternative name Sireni (instead of Khndoghni) for its ease of pronunciation when marketing the wines outside of Armenia.