miércoles, 5 de noviembre de 2014

We are from here. Let’s be free.
In the last few years I wonder how much we interfere in the identity of a wine when we make it, when we age it, or even worse, when we manage the vineyard. I’m convinced that our interference is pretty big or irreversible, so much that most of the wines have to do with the whimsical interpretation of the winemakers’ ideas, styles of the house, and other situations related to identities or characters that have nothing to do with the terroir.
This year I visited several winemaking regions, I talked to producers, I tasted wines, I visited vineyards, wineries, I interacted with owners and winemakers. Every approach was especially interesting to me. Everyone coincides with the interpretation of the terroir, the character of the place, the sum of the climate, men and soil in this countless interaction. The thing is that it was very difficult for me to identify the vineyard in its majority, from wine and from men. For the first time I understood wine globalization, something I had been hearing for a long time. There are plenty of similar wines.

Yes. Wines don’t necessarily have to have an equality of tastes.  Actually they have a common thread dominated by extraction, huge common concentrations, the excessive and dominant use of wood that transforms wine into a mixture of cinnamon, vanilla, and coconut. The big amount of volatile acidity increases the aromas, making wines extremely intense.  I will call them ‘steroid wines’, since they give a lot when you drink them, but they leave a feeling of emptiness when you finish the glass. The lack of identity decorated by a countless amount of make- up, and ornaments that cover what we call terroir.
I think that I find this as a reflection of our society blinded by lights, driven by the noise, lack of depth, and the unnecessary search for acknowledgements given by billboards and a lot of media exposition. Right! It’s just that in the end, wines are the reflection of society. They are made by its members, but they should escape from them.

We have to be more committed to the profound idea of free wines, wines that inspire us, wines that defeat the fear of being ordinary as any of us and give pleasure because of the company and not because of the garlands and neon lights.
We should not let ourselves be reached by everyday things that can divert us, in the end we should follow our intuition about what is wrong and what is right. In the end, it is this feeling of work that must rule, not only to produce free wines, but also to nurture the moral bases for the ones that work and are committed to this activity. So that they can be free, be able to educate, to eat, and to have health in a dignified way.

Wines have to be the identity of the place from where its grapes come from. We should not let mundane things corrupt our spirit, our heart, our work. Let’s be free men. Let’s make free wines.

sábado, 23 de marzo de 2013

Beyond the surface (my definition of terroir)

In the last few days I have been thinking about the terroir or more specifically in the definition of terroir. In many senses is said to be the climate – soil interaction with men included in the system. In many cases only refers to the soil or climate as key factors. The man is relegated and sometimes it is difficult to understand why it is incorporated to this definition.

As time goes by I started thinking that actually the main part of what we call terroir is the man. In Mendoza, where I live and unless some really weird situation (¿Tsunami? The land sinks and disappears. I am exiled), I think I will die here. The man is a fundamental part or the base of existence of any crop; otherwise we would still be a great desert, where life exists only on the banks of natural channels.

The Huarpes, ancient inhabitants of Cuyo, of whom there are pre – Hispanic records and were part of the Incan dominium, they understood that they needed to develop and use direct water efficiently for irrigation, in areas close to the actual city used derivatives performed by them of the channel called Cacique Guaymallen (ditch for Cuyanos). In this way, they manage to grow and survive in these inhospitable places. The water network that they designed is a big part of the hydrologic network that we have nowadays.

On the other hand, the earliest records of vine cultivation are confusing. However we will say that at least in Argentina date from 1556. The priest Juan Cedrón cultivated in Santiago del Estero Moscatel and grapes of the country to use it in the masses. In this way the viticulture was developed until the presidency of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, where the first European varietal wines were vinified. Surely the Malbec was among them. We speak of the years 1860-1870.

What do I mean with this? Basically when we cultivate a vineyard we produce drastic changes and almost irreversible. When we say, “here we will plant a vineyard”, it includes a lot of events that will change forever that place. First dismantle and eradicate a large number of species as well as move the fauna to other places. We set up for irrigation water networks.

We intervene so much that we change the landscape, plants and animals. Returning to the beginning, how important is man in the definition of terroir in viticulture? I would say 90 percent or more. It is so influential that manages to change the behavior of the vine, originally a creeper, and force it to vegetate six months and sleep the other six.

Todo cambia by Mercedes Sosa on Grooveshark

Thus, when we speak about terroir we actually talk about how a particular culture of man is transforming a landscape, using climatic and soil resources and not backwards. This definition of terroir, I am sure it will be extended in the future when we can be sincere about that wine exists because man exists. And that is the most natural thing about this beverage, used to open the hearts and relieve the sorrows.

martes, 17 de julio de 2012

Lets Shine…

11 Years ago was my first trip to Napa.  I remember I was asked at a wine cellar if our language was Portuguese and if Rio was our capital. Few people knew about Malbec and even less imagined that there was Cabernet Sauvignon planted in Argentina.
On that occasion I travelled with Alejandro Sejanovich, we stopped at Carneros, the house of Lee Hudson, such an amazing place. Lee had something like 2000 acres that he had bought in the early 80s.  His brother was devoted to the real estate activity and was tempted in this adventure. He bought the acre at about USD$3000 today it’s valued at more than USD$300,000.Surrounded by vineyards and forests of cork oaks the place was a paradise, the people who cared for the vineyard were devoted to growing pumpkins, watermelons and tomatoes for competitions!I remember a pumpkin that weighed more than 500 kg…
I also attended my first Harvest Festival outside of Mendoza, basically joined by enologists, wine growers, and operators and under the melody of a Mariachi we started drinking and eating.During those times we were excited, full of ideas and testing and trying everything to find new discoveries.
I truly believe that a large part of the 98 points achieved inthe 2004 vintage was due to that trip, it was like a confirmation that all what we thought wasn’t that bad. Today, I don’t know if I am very worried about those scores, but in those times I can assure you they wouldn’t let me sleep.
My first visit to Joseph Phelps, to the Caymus vineyards of tocalon , was amazing.  In the famous wine tasting rooms, by presenting your personal card, you had everything served for free…and that perfect world of Napa where today I think is a real estate business because otherwise it cannot be explain that fairy tale perfection.

I would like to make a special mention to Nicolas Catena who called me prior to this trip and told me with wise words of someone who knows of this to enjoy the opportunity to see and try the best of that region, not to get lost in the sea, and to focus on the Cabernet and its flavor…you have the opportunity to change everything he told me, and the truth is that he gave me that opportunity.
Also Laura Catena to whom I owe not only the cracks that had suffered her car (my apologies for that) but the contacts and most importantly the budget … but well, for some reason the company it is what it is.
Something noteworthy at the end of the trip is that I met with Luis Reginato who was also on a business trip, we have two funny anecdotes: one is that we drank so much that we both forgot where we parked our car in San Francisco, imagine how complicated it was to find the car!. The other, we saw that a lot of people were running around, one man with a fire extinguisher, as there was a car 30 meters away wrapped in flames, meanwhile we were just drinking wine… I will never forget how relaxed we were with the situation!

During the trip I reread Don Sabato, almost perplexed of its reinventions in the same book, its form negative in giving me hope… sure I was into the tragic heroes and tombs… while listening to the lyrics “a brillar mi amor”  (“let it shine my love”)… I remember the first Los Redondos concert I attended at Huracán in the mid 90s.  

La Bestia Pop by Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota on Grooveshark

Returning to current times… two years ago I travelled to the first international symposium of Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa… on that occasion they gave lessons of Bordeaux , the terroir of Napa, the geology, and vertical tastings of the great wines of France and Napa.
This year Catena Zapata Winery was invited to talk about the Cabernet Sauvignon in Argentina, it was a great surprise and we felt so proud, mostly because we remembered that just 11 years ago they knew nothing about us.

They put us in a very important level, as half of the day was completely dedicated to Argentina, the people that were participating were the most influential in the world of wines of premium level.  There you could find Opus One, Palmer,Staglin, Margoux ,Antinori, Marquez of Carrascal, with technical, commercial, and marketing people, as well as the owners of the wineries.

The main lines of discussion were very similar to which we had heard in the Argentina Wine Awards: the levels of alcohol, the use of oak,zoning, the understanding of each zone, and vine growing statistics in each zone. At first it was a big surprise but after I realized that everything revolved around the same topic: human intervention.  The final objectives: at the end the tasting of different vintages of these great wines, the technical explanations and the philosophy of cultivation and processing dominated the talks.

The day came along for us to give our presentation and show several different Cabernet Sauvignon regions of Mendoza, also to discuss the Catena Alta of 2005 and Nicolás Catena Zapata 2009.  Even though we know our wines had risen to the occasion, we felt the need to test them with the panel of experts.  The test was really unexpected and received a great reception by the participants.  We spent the entire morning answering specific questions about our country and viticulture.

Thinking more about my experience in this Second International Symposium of Cabernet Sauvignon, I note several points that I'd like to share for further discussions regarding our future as a region.  Of course this is a humble view from someone who has not been in this profession for very long, although it has been all my own life.

·         The best-scored vintages from Bordeaux had higher alcohol contents: a Cot Esturnel reached a level of 14.6 while the less-praised wines had alcohol levels of 13 or less.  This is especially interesting as we are going taking the opposite approach with our wines.  Part of my philosophy is to lower the alcohol levels. This is not my opinion, simply what I observed at the Symposium.

·         The highest-scored vintages, a good example would be 2000, didn’t evolve as a large number of participants expected, on the other hand vintages that were previously referred to as average, like 1998, presented an incredible elegance and authenticity of terroir.

·         Argentine wines are already at the level of the so-called first class.  That is the reason of the title: Let’s shine…

·         Our production costs are very similar, but the average price of a case in the United States is 5 to 10 times greater than ours, this will bring us serious problems in the future.

·         There is a strong excitement for natural, organic wines, with low human intervention.  Argentina could be very well positioned for this due to our weather characteristics.

·         And yes… everyone is talking about the regions … .is it the beginning of the end of the varieties? I don't know, but apparently all are paying attention to the area more than to the varietal.

Now, I do not believe in the low or high of the alcohol, I do believe in the intervention of the man almost as a dogma, from the moment that we introduce this monocultive we are setting aside much of what is natural, but if it is necessary an ethic based on being the most dapper in our intervention, do not damage what the vine delivered to us with so much work, we have to be more natural, hence arises what we might call natural wines.

I don't like the wines that are prepared to a client or consumer, I think that basically they don’t trust in themselves and take a role or character that in first place it is not natural.

I don’t believe in high or low oak, I believe in the intervention marked by respect for  the fruit, not by calling it in some other way, at levels that do not necessarily have to do with a balance sheet drawn by the concentration due to the over extraction that in any case can greatly affect to what we call wine and real sustainability.

I don’t believe in varieties and regions, if I do believe in the man within a society that defines its environment with its culture, if something of this is drawn, I mean, that is doesn’t belong, is all a lie, that although the consumer it is not interested, who makes the wine should care about this because of his conscience and dreams.  I am not saying that the money does not matter, I am saying that the wine should be an obligation to be worthy in win it. I don’t know to what some call honest wine, natural, typical… but what I do understand is that our intervention must protect this drink that we consider nourishment and in my case the only thing I could do in this world, it’s the only thing I know how to do.

lunes, 26 de marzo de 2012

We are reaching the point where the harvest picks up speed. Adrenalin takes over a major part of the blood. After all these years, every moment still has that feeling of first love. Fears are always the same. Decisions are made more slowly, and with time one adapts and becomes more comfortable
with the structures. In past years I was not this same way, which made me realize one thing: I have more freedom.
These days I’ve been listening to a lot of concerns about the level of alcohol in a wine. I inadvertently brought up initial thoughts and hypotheses that are somewhat related. The yield per plant depends on the quality. At first, I started to link the soil tendency to quality. My thoughts were that deep and fertile soils gave poor quality, while shallow soils were the solution for our top wines. With time, this theory became
more complex. The level of complexity was so high that it completely changed the hypothesis, including my thoughts about alcohol levels and concentration.
So, it was logic that dictated I had to resolve parameters practically and mathematically. The theory had become: "lower yield, higher quality". Simple,but with great diversity in meanings. In practice, we worked with large numbers of plots and a variety of yields in different areas. The results? As varied as the plots. None of the results were concrete in three years, until we began to adjust each area and sub-area to the optimum yields. OPTIMAL? What for? From that simple question I stopped cluster thinning, stopped throwing more grapes to the floor, and found a new respect for what nature has to offer. Over time, I found that everything was linked to common sense. If the plant has a higher yield, we will harvest later. If
the plant has a lower yield, we will harvest earlier! Yes, of course it is simple logic, but it is not as easy as it seems. These days I am reading "The curious case of the dog in the night-time" by Mark Haddon. It is a
plausible novel that helps us better understand ourselves, and the flavors of a great sense of humor...  recommended.
In the end, the simplicity of things depends merely on simple variables that can be defined by mathematics, but even more so with what we call common sense. Variability is the only real tool proven to be consistent
over time. A lot of variation within the year, and little in between years, is a statistical definition but it always works... short and to the point, and will not deceive us. The yield is about the relationship with the
environment and not the whims of a journalist.
Something fun from the week... A meeting with Denmark importer Christian Philipson, a movie character that always give me the chance to taste great wines, and also allowed me find Guigal and their “La La’s”, fine wines of personality and love. (www.guigal.com)
Another highlight of the week… There are few hours where I get to visit “In Vino Veritas” to record our radio doodles. (www.facebook.com/InVinoVeritasTv) Strong on emotion, spirit feeder, and recreational harvester: our guest, Nadia Harón. Someone who turned the routine of cooking into Art. I always recommend her two restaurants, as well as the wines from her family winery O Fournier. Fun program, but with more critical aspects to the system, where I find space for my complaints, particularly of safety, and the need to be involved as a citizen so that we can also contribute to the solutions.

Paloma by Los Visitantes on Grooveshark

(Pause, curtain falls, it changes the pace and ... )

The malbec began to enter the warehouse, quality promise, promise is a questionworth ... not to spoil it. We will see as follows ...