#28: Armenia

Year: 2014
Grapes: Areni Noir
Producer: Zorah Wines
Alcohol: 13.5%
Source: Alex and Pavlina (thanks guys!)

On Thursday night, Liv and I did the kind of thing for which you might assume wine would be required. We went to London Zoo with a couple of friends, took off our clothes, and – alongside 150 other cheery souls – jogged past a dozen press photographers, a small crowd of enthusiastic spectators, and some visibly confused monkeys. After completing one 300m circuit of the zoo’s central square, we joined hands and went round again. And again.

When we felt like we’d run far enough, we took some photos out on a balcony that looked out towards the penguin enclosure, then got dressed and went to the pub. It was great.

Streak for Tigers is one of the quirkier elements of ZSL’s annual fundraising events programme. I’ve been doing it since 2014, and Liv joined me for the first time last year. It’s fair to say that not everyone understands the appeal of running naked in public, but she might be even keener on the idea than I am – if Thursday’s foray into full-on tiger body paint is anything to go by, anyway. Clumsy application of stripes aside (turns out I’m about as good at body art as I am at most other kinds of art…), she stepped out of the changing block looking suitably fierce, and just really happy, confident and relaxed in her own body, as the photos from that night make clear.

Ever since we first met, I’ve loved the freedom with which Liv carries herself, but of course she shouldn’t be an outlier in that regard. Her sky-high body confidence ought to be the norm, rather than something that other people find noteworthy or even challenging. Events like Streak for Tigers are brilliant because they offer a glimpse into that alternate reality. Into a world where we don’t get taught from an early age that nudity is bad, and aren’t told by an avalanche of magazines, adverts, and TV shows that our bodies are shameful or ugly or wrong.

There was none of that on Thursday. Instead there was warmth, laughter, celebration, and – best of all – incredible diversity. You could have gone into any pub that night, any restaurant, any leisure centre or gym; any supermarket, for that matter, or department store, or hairdresser’s. You could have gone into all those places, and you still wouldn’t have found as wide a range of body types as we ran alongside on our three laps of the zoo.

Old, middle-aged, young; tall, short; skinny, athletic, average, chubby, fat; able-bodied, disabled; male, female. Different accents, different ethnicities, and everywhere I looked, just a tremendous amount of goodwill. In that sense, nudity is a great equalizer; when no-one is wearing clothes, you quickly stop thinking about the fact that you don’t have yours on either. The minute that happens, any instinctive panic or embarrassment disappears, and it just becomes…normal.

That normalisation has the power to revolutionise the relationships we have with our bodies, which for many of us are formed and solidified at an achingly vulnerable point in life. How many people remember the changing rooms at school, or at the local sports centre after a swimming lesson, with anything even remotely resembling fondness? I certainly don’t. I hated my body from the age of 9 or 10 all the way through to university, and even in my early 20s I was largely ambivalent. Being naked around other people meant opening the door to that hatred, and projecting it onto the faces of my class-mates, or team-mates, or whoever else happened to be getting changed around me. It was a miserable experience, but it was also utterly unremarkable, judging by the things I hear other people say about their own teenage years.

For the most part, body image is something that improves with age, and I certainly felt a lot better about myself by the time I first did the tiger streak in 2014. However, the mere fact that many of us require a number of years, a lot of hard work, and affirmation from others to become reasonably comfortable in our own skin, is precisely why the payoff at events like that makes me so happy. It’s why our recent trip to Scotland involved a naked run through the fizzing, rain-flecked surf on a deserted Tentsmuir beach; and it’s why recreating the label on our French wine in Paris a couple of months ago was something that left us both grinning like idiots afterwards.

The prospect of marrying Liv makes me unbelievably happy for more reasons than I could – or would want – to list here, but the big, beaming smile on her face last Thursday as we sprinted over the start line, and into the staccato-snap of those dozen photographers’ lenses, is definitely one of them. I know that whatever else our future brings, it will be full of ‘fuck it’ moments like that; of silly, exhilarating, taboo-busting adventures, big and small.

Streak for Tigers no longer counts as an adventure, given how comfortable we both are in that environment. I’m sure we’ll continue to go anyway, if only to show our support for an event that we’ve both come to love, and to help ensure that other people go away from it having had the same positive experience. Maybe you’ll be one of them!

Ok, on to the wine…

Wine Info

From the Zorah Wines website, on Areni Noir (a grape I’d not heard of before last week):

The king of Armenia’s grapes and possibly one of the oldest grape varieties in the world Areni has been present in Armenia for millennia. Never grafted and on its own roots, it is 100% indigenous to this land with a unique DNA profile that does not match any other. Elegant and fresh, thick skinned and extremely resistant to disease, through the ages Areni has adapted perfectly to the high altitudes and extreme temperatures variations of Vayots Dzor, its natural habitat.

And on the 2014 Karasì:

Karasì, is a tribute to the 6100 year wine tradition of Armenia. Aged in traditional amphorae, hence its name, ‘from amphorae’ in Armenian, this wine embraces the living heritage of a country while at the same time it delves back into a long forgotten chapter in the ancient history of wine.

Wine Verdict

Chris

Armenia is another country with a proud, centuries-old winemaking heritage. Areni Noir was new to me, but I warmed instantly to the juicy, berry flavours and soft tannins of this well-made, balanced red. It was both full-bodied and somehow very sunny, which made it perfect for drinking outside on a summer’s evening. Serious and substantial, it reminded me of a really good Pinot Noir, which is no bad thing at all.

8/10 – and the label is great!

Livvy

I really liked this wine – a rich, dark and plumy red that was packed with fruity deliciousness. It had a full, rounded flavour that lingered and warmed my palate.

Just as I’ve realised that I prefer the buttery whites over the fresher ones, I much prefer fruity reds to those with spicier flavours, and this is a great example of the strong, rich, fruity reds that I love! There was no harshness despite this strength – the tannins were soft, the fruity plum notes were warm, and it really worked.

9/10, definitely a favourite

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