Wednesday, 22 June 2016
Mountain Wines From Kazakhstan - Arba
Wines must rank alongside Borat as Kazakhstan's unlikeliest exports; what Islam started, the Soviet Union finished off, bit by bit.
Zeinulla Kakimzhakov set out to change all that in the early 2000s with Arba wines based in the Assa Valley at 1,000m altitude in South-Eastern Kazakhstan.
If this is effectively the foothills of the Himalayas, the nearest oenological reference point is perhaps South America - high, dry mountain valleys.
But these high-altitude vines are also cool climate and have massive temperature fluctuations to contend with. From minus 15-30 in the winter, the temperature rises to plus 35-40 in the summer, then halves at night.
With almost no quality wine industry in Kazakhstan to speak of, there is no definable "Kazakh" style to emulate.
Arba's wines must, then, be compared against world styles generally - they have two distinctly Eastern European grapes, Rkatsiteli and Saperavi, but the remainder are international varieties in an international style.
What they all have in common is an ambitious elegance, substance, freshness and a well-made quality. With good acidity and ripe, supple tannins these are classic "restaurant wines".
Ainala Arba Gewurztraminer 2013 varietally-correct sweet spice and lychees, but restrained, long, textured and dry.
Sary Arba Rkatsiteli 2013 more-neutral, long and supple, white stone fruit with good underpinnings. An adept and versatile food wine.
AK Arba Kazakh Riesling 2013 aromatic and Mosel-esque nose; peaches and pineapple fruit, zippy acidity, minerality and a touch of sweetness.
Pino Arba Pinot Noir 2013 dark cherries, raspberries, cool mint and spice. Soft, supple and mineral with fine, ripe tannins.
Lagyl Arba Saperavi 2013 dark fruit, spice, cool mint and a touch of earthy-sulphuriness. Fresh, full and supple - think Syrah.
Kyzyl Arba Cab Franc 2013 raspberry leaves, dark berry fruit and spice. Long and adept with supple tannins. Very Good.
Other related articles
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"Wine Grapes" Seminar with Dr José Vouillamoz