Flagships (Mendoza, Argentina – Day Five)

For my (unfortunately) final day in Mendoza, I visited three wineries; two similar, one different. The first was established back in 1901 (the year of Australia’s federation!) by a Spaniard, who named the winery Bosca. It became Luigi Bosca for reasons I can’t quite fathom, but they had something to do with marketing. I’m not sure how the addition of Luigi helps, considering he was the dud Mario Brother… Anyway, the cellar is very large and historic, combining Mendoza cement fermenters stainless steel, 5,000 barrels for maturing the wines, and a fantastic museum area where the 12 pillars of the cross are reimagined as the life cycle of wine and Luigi Bosca. The winery produces in excess of 8 million litres of wine each year, covering 35 different wines. No mean feat for the consultant winemaker Roberto de la Mota, who you may remember is the winemaker at Mendel. I was taken through part of the winery and part of the range of wines by Soledad, from the hospitality department. She picked a few wines to show me, and you can read my notes here.

My wonderful host Mariana from Finca Flichman recommended a small winery called Monte Quieto, and even put me in touch with the marketing guy. Not expecting to be leaving Luigi Bosca after only an hour I arrived at the winery about 45 minutes earlier than arranged, but they were good enough to welcome me anyway. Monte Quieto was opened in 2001 by another eccentrically wealthy South Americans, initially to grow and sell fruit, but converting to wine production and sales shortly after. The winemaking philosophy is to blend, except of course to make a malbec which the market needs. The winery is evolving fast, changing the blend and learning more about the three vineyards being sourced from. The newly appointed French winemaker is poised to pull the winery into the upper echelons of Mendoza, and is certainly on the right track with blending varieties. We looked at some components for the 2011 blend, which is blended post tank fermentation and maceration before barrel maturing. We tasted the 2006 wine but it isn’t worth talking about as the style and blend is changing. We spent several hours chatting about wine and life, as he had worked for a year each in New Zealand and Australia, at Leeuwin Estate and the Wine Room in St. Kilda. A fantastic afternoon with two great guys, hopefully we can catch up again in the future.

The final visit in Mendoza was to possibly the most important winery in the region. The Catena family have been growing and producing wine for almost 110 years in Mendoza, surviving economic, political and environmental difficulties along the way. What makes the winery so important is that Nicolas Catena was the first in the country to modernise his winery and aspire to make world-class wines by introducing oak barrels and premium techniques from Europe. As such Catena Zapata was a pioneer in the Argentine wine industry, and was more recently the first South American winery to receive a score of 90+ points in the American media (Wine Spectator). Points are pretty important to the brand as the welcome video shows. The current winery was built in 2002 to represent South America by being built to resemble a Mayan pyramid. Driving towards the building is a somewhat imposing experience, as is standing in the middle of it and looking up. The hospitality side of the business is the most sophisticated I have seen in South America, but has the benefit of selective visitation. Still family owned, you can tell the employees love working there, particularly as they are taken care of and given opportunities not always possible in corporate organisations. Catena Zapata now exports about 80% of their production, significantly higher than the national average of 30%. There are essentially three ranges in the portfolio; the Catena range, the Catena Alta range, and the icon range. Click here to read my notes from the tasting.

Click here to see more photos from Mendoza Day Five.

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