Another Argentina - Part I

There are several newsletters that I have been meaning to send over the past year. Moving up the street and rolling out the new website may have set back my plans, but I'm finally getting to it! Highlighting my favorite Verdejo producers was on the list, rounding up a compendium of unfortified Palominos is definitely on the list (stay tuned!). I have also been meaning to put a spotlight on producers in Argentina who are working outside of the international, point-score model - in the Chambers Street ethos: Farming organically or biodynamically, hand-harvesting, fermenting with native yeast, and using less (whether it be new oak, or added sulfites, among many possible treatments or additions). Though not an exhaustive list, today's feature focuses on a few estates that have thoroughly impressed us, and represents a glimpse of Another Argentina. Part II will follow later this year, as there are many more producers worthy of mention!   -Eben Lillie

El Montañista


El Montanista is a new project from two of the most adventurous young producers in Argentina, who have already been making exciting wines from local varieties under the Cara Sur label. Nuria Añó Gargiulo and Francis​co (Pancho) Bugallo are avid mountain-climbers, and though the Cara Sur wines explore their passion for rare and under-recognized grape varieties of Argentina, taking them to different locales in search of Criolla and Moscatel Tinto, El Montañista is set in one place, on one vineyard, in the shadows of the mountains that they so love to climb. Located in the Calingasta Valley in the foothills of the Andes, the vineyard (called Paraje Hilario) is planted to a wacky mix of grape varieties, and ties their two passions together perfectly! The wines are deliciously affordable wines with a distinct sense of place.

To read more about their project, check out the article here from José Pastor Selections. Here is a short section about the vineyard: "Paraje Hilario is an almost unique snapshot of the valley's viticultural history. Farmed organically, grazed and fertilized by sheep, and trained in the parral system, it is a place out of time. The vines are still fed by the ancient acequia irrigation ditches, which carry water down from the glaciers of the high Andes. The vineyard's varieties - ancient colonial-period Spanish arrivals (Criolla Chica, a.k.a. Listán Prieto and Moscatel of Alexandria) and their offspring (Torrontes and others) are joined by old Piemonte grapes brought by waves of immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries (Bonarda, Freisa, and more)."

Finca Suárez
Finca Suárez is a family estate that is now in it's third generation (fourth if you count little Pedro!). Though I initially thought the wines were from a new producer pursuing new expressions in Argentina, it turns out that the first generation of the Suárez winemakers was an early champion of the famous Uco Valley who studied in Italy and Montpellier, France, and came back to Argentina to not only plant vines, but to educate others and study the soils and microclimates around Mendoza.
Leopoldo Suárez is considered one of the early experts in the region, and was an early director of the National School of Viticulture. His "Estudios Ampelográficos en la Provincia de Mendoza," (photo above) was published in 1911 and was the first comprehensive study of the potential of the region for viticulture. Many say that the Argentine wine scene would not be the same without his important contributions, both in recognizing the potential of Malbec on the calcareous soils and in pointing out the ideal areas for viticulture. He planted the white variety Sémillon and stated that it is "the best variety for white table wines in Mendoza." If you get a bottle of the Finca Suárez Semillon, planted by Leopoldo's grandson Jaunfa in a special plot in the deep south of the Uco valley, you'll probably agree! It's one of the most impressive whites I've ever tried from Argentina.
Like the other estates featured today, Finca Suárez wines are fermented with wild yeast from hand harvested grapes, with minimal additions of SO2. The Malbec, though deep and savory, is not over-extracted, and is refreshingly free of the flavors and aromas of new oak due to concrete aging. Their whites are balanced and lively, and their sparkling Chardonnay (unfortunately out of stock at the moment) is impressive... 100% Chardonnay and surprisingly complex and long for a Pet-Nat. 
To read more about their project, check out their beautiful website at
Bodega Chacra
Bodega Chacra is run by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, grandson of Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, the creator of Sassacaia. Yes Piero is wine royalty, but he could have decided to make wine anywhere, and in any way he wanted, and he chose the wilds of Patagonia, 9 hours south of Mendoza, and has been committed to a fully biodynamic approach from the beginning of the Bodega Chacra project. In fact, many of the vineyards are not treated with sulfur or even copper sulfate, which is extremely rare. Did we mention that the wines are also fantastic?! Their thoroughly informative and detailed website shares a wealth of knowledge and information about their approach and the Biodynamic preparations, with lovely imagery.
Their philosophy is very simple: "The ultimate principle we follow at Chacra is a conscientious respect for the natural environment. Our organic approach seeks to preserve biodiversity and natural resources, with the least intervention of man possible. This is why all biodynamic preparations we use for our vineyards are made from the plants and animals of the very estate."
Though Chacra does produce a Chardonnay through a collaboration with Roulot, we recently tasted the Pinot Noirs from the estate and want to focus specifically on these reds, as they are truly special. Mostly from vines planted in the first half of the 20th Century, the Bodega Chacra reds show the beauty and purity of Pinot Noir from the Río Negro Valley. 

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