Zorik Gharibyan: Arman Mkrtumyan have sold the 6000 year heritage of our country

02.07.2018 | 09:17 Home / News / Interviews /
Mediamax's interview with Zorik Gharibyan, the founder of Zorah brand

In the beginning of June now ex President of the Court of Cassation of Armenia Arman Mkrtumyan gave clearance to grant victory to Karas Wines in its case against ZORAH. Were you expecting such decision?

I was hoping for a fair and right decision from the Court of Cassation especially after the recent events in Armenia. The general consensus was that the final decision would have been passed on to the successors of Arman Mkrtumyan and the whole case would have been sent back for a re-trial.

The fact that this was Mr Mkrtumyan’s last decision before he left office, signed at the eleventh hour and then shamefully backdated highlights the degree of fraudulency of the decision and shows how important it was for Armenia that these so called judges leave their seats.

I can imagine how thankful our future wine making generations will be to Mr Mkrtumyan for having sold the 6000 year heritage of our country to the highest bidder.

When we talked in December 2017, you have said that you are ready to take taking this case to international courts. Are you still ready to do so? If yes, can you please tell us more about the next steps?

I am still ready to go all the way to international courts if necessary. All my homework is done and ready. The Karas cannot belong to an individual, an entity or a corporation they are our national heritage and belong to the national integrity of our country which we have inherited from our forefathers and it is our duty to pass to the next generation.

I’m not fighting this fight for my ego but because it is a right fight to fight and our future generations will be thankful that we stood up to bullying corporations who only want to secure their short term profits.
Are the representatives of the new Armenian Government aware about this case? Have you met any officials after the decision of the Court of Cassation?

Yes, the new representatives of the Armenian Government are aware of this. I have tried with all my forces to make my voice heard and explain the absurdity of this case and the destructive impact it will have on Armenia’s winemaking future and the detrimental image it will give the country. I often travel to promote the wines and consequently Armenia. So what am I to say now during international conferences? That we have 6000 year traditions of wine-making in the karas but I, or any other winery  for that matter, cannot use the word “karas” on their labels because a corrupt court granted copyrighted to a corporation who doesn’t even work with these vessels. What kind of an image does that give of our country?

I am of course very enthusiastic and optimistic about the prospects of the new movement in Armenia. Now it is to see if this Government will also bend its head to the pressures of a powerful corporations or will it respect the untouchable values of a nation and show that these are not for sale. If we are to create a “New Armenia” then Government must understand that there is no investment big enough that can buy the integrity of a people. ALL Armenians are the owners of their countries heritage, whatever that heritage may be, and it’s important to defend heritage because it’s part of the collective identity of a nation.
What is the position of other Armenian independent wine producers? Do they support you and how?

The positive thing that has come out of all this negativity is that it has united Armenian wine producers because they understand the importance of this cause for the collective good of the winemaking industry. As we speak there are now 15 wineries who have signed a petition and ready to start a class action for the liberalization of the word Karas. There is also another motion in action to have the karas declared a national heritage by the authorities so that no one can have exclusivity for word usage. If 5 years ago ZORAH was the only winery working with the Karas there are today 5 wineries who are experimenting and working with the karas and I am sure as investments in wine continue this trend will get bigger.

We have to realize that Armenia’s wine making future lies in its uniqueness and its history, what better uniqueness then our karasses?

I am also very touched by the grass root support which I have had from the general public.
You’ve sent an open letter to Eduardo Eurnekian in late January – have you received any feedback from him or his executives?

Open letters in their nature, even though addressed to a specific individual or organization, are intended to be read by a wide audience to raise awareness of an issue by its writer.

As such I didn’t expect a response from Eurnekian. My open letter served its purpose, it said what needed to be said, highlighted the absurdity of the situation and raised public awareness.
Do you believe that this issue still can be solved by you and Eduardo Ernekian through mutual compromises?

When I first received notice that Eurnekian’s team had taken ZORAH to court I was taken aback. It is incomprehensible to me how a diasporan Armenian can take another diasporan to court when they are both working towards investing in the future of the country. I did not go public at first because I was sure we could find mutual dialogue. How wrong I was.

I attempted to contact Mr Eurnekian personally with not much success. Eventually his representative Mr Jorg del Aguila came back with a curt “It is a matter of brand usage”. These short words spoke volumes. It must be noted that the previous government also tried to bring both parties to the table but Eurnekian’s team have been unbending with their corporate arrogance.

Today there is no room for compromise. However, there is always room for dialogue when talking about the betterment of Armenian wine making industry but NO room for negotiation on core principles that should guide the Armenian wine making industry towards global success. Eurnekian’s team must understand that they are the elephant in the room, what should matter is not monopolization by a single brand but the collective prosperity of Armenia’s Wine-making industry which will benefit all.

Ara Tadevosyan talked to Zorik Gharibyan
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