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By: Gabriela Malizia
Since some time ago, critics have been paying more attention to wines made from old vineyards and, especially, to those called “single vineyards”. In Argentina, at least a dozen wines use this name, which praises the special features of each terroir.
“Individuals with their own personality,” this is how winemakers and agronomists label some examples of old vineyards, which are able to generate excellent wines from their notable internal balance and the adaptation to the soil and terroir.
In Argentina, there are 106,300 hectares with over-25-year-old vineyards, which stand for 47.32% of the cultivated surface with vineyards, according to the data provided by the National Institute of Viticulture in 2009. Unlike Australia, the country with the greatest surface of old vineyards in the world, Argentina never suffered “phyloxera”, a plague that attacks the vine and destroyed thousand hectares in the 19th century.
Although “single vineyard” does not mean the same as old vineyard -single vineyard comes from a unique vineyard-, in practice, many high quality wines come from these 50-year-old vineyards in average. Some examples are Felipe Villafañe, La Consulta, 57 years old; the line Tres Fincas from Achaval Ferrer, Finca Bella Vista (1910), Finca Mirador (1921) and Finca Altamira (1024), as well as Cobos and Bramare “single vineyard” from Viña Cobos in Luján (1950).
But who better than Daniel Pi, who opened Trapiche’s programme Single Vineyard in 2003, to explain the subtle distinction: “Single vineyard is a wine made of grapes coming from a certain vineyard, which is not necessarily very old, though the grapes from old vineyards are, like men, more tame and easily deliver a better quality grape, more adapted to the place conditions.”
The fashion in single vineyard production started in Argentina in the last five years, stimulated mainly by the success of Malbec and other Argentinian varietals in foreign markets.
At present, there are at least one dozen of brands with the name “single vineyard” in Argentina and there are even more on the way. This information is pointed out by an article published in La Mañana de Neuquén, which highlights “the first Serenade, Temis and Alizarine Single Vineyard launched with the 2004 harvest by the winery Alta Vista; Finca Perdriel by Norton, Barrel Selected by Familia Schroeder and Fin by the winery Fin del Mundo”. This concept of “single vineyard” is also used by wineries such as Finca La Anita, Mendel, Poesía, Catena Zapata and Nieto Senetiner, among others.
The age advantages
Daniel Pi really appreciates the adaptation of the old vineyard to the terroir since he experienced with different age vineyards (José Blanco, Agrelo, 15 years old; Pedro González, El Cepillo, 16 years old and Felipe Villafañe, La Consulta, 57 years old) for the three wines 2003 Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard.
“I think that the special features are granted by the balance naturally achieved by an old vineyard related to its fruit, foliage and root area, as well as the adaptation to the terroir throughout the years, considering the physiological aspect of the vineyard.”
Pi explains that this balance is granted, in a way, by the successive replanting using individuals more adapted to the ecosystem, “which generates a homogeneous population and, eventually, a relation winegrower-vineyard that results in a natural synergy focused on quality.”
Andrea Marchiori, owner and winemaker at Viña Cobos emphasizes both old and single vineyards. Among the most renowned Argentinian wines, this winery includes Cobos Nico, a blend Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec coming from Marchiori Vineyard (USD 200), Cobos Malbec from a single plot in Marchiori Vineyard, (USD 175), apart from Bramare Malbec, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Rebon Vineyard (between USD 80 and USD 55).
“Some of the special features of these vineyards are greater balance and stability, facing adverse climatic conditions and achieving better ripeness of each grape,” Marchiori highlights. Besides she makes clear that low production and greater concentration are “not the only condition of an old vineyard, but of a suitable management.” Anyway, Marchiori admits that in old vineyards this is more naturally achieved.
Manuel Ferrer Minetti, vicepresident of Achaval Ferrer, explains the reason for Tres Fincas wines: “We make three different varietals from the same vineyard as the weather allows. In order to explain the differences from one wine and another, English-spakers invented the concept single vineyard, since every wine has special features that make it unique.”
“In Tres Fincas we find three different altitudes, from three different places similar in ages. From the same vinification process, winemaker and agronomic standards result three different wines according to the region where they come from. In order to reinforce this idea, we have removed the Malbec mention from the label of this line; since we want that the name stands for the respect for the place where the fruit comes from: La Consulta, Perdriel or Medrano”.
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