Un lugar en los Andes, high altitude malbec from Mendoza
I was visiting Mendoza, Argentina as part of my prize for winning the Argento/Bibendum Wine Contest back in March of this year. As you may recall, me and Niamh (Eatlikeagirl) made a guerilla winetasting video and won. Sadly, Niamh had to postpone her trip due to a family illness but I was game to carry on.
Part of the trip was a visit to an estancia which was certainly one of the highlights of the trip. I visited Estancia San Pablo on the hills flanking the Valle de Uco. Our host for the afternoon was Walter Scibilia-Campana, an enologist as well as owner of the estancia. Walter and his wife, Karinna have carved out a lovely little guesthouse in the foothills of the Andes and welcome guests to take part in horseback excursions into the mountains as well as spend a few days on a working estancia. Walter’s family are big cattle ranchers but Walter decided to break away from that tradition and went to the Univ. of Mendoza to study enology.
An interesting story about Walter´s history. Back when he was at the graduation ceremony from the University of Mendoza, he attended wearing the traditional Guacho dress of the region. The school authorities refused to give him his diploma saying he was not dressed appropriately. They told him, he could receive his diploma once he was dressed accordingly. Now, this did not sit will with Walter, who had worn traditional dress throughout his university career. He decided to sue the univeristy for discrimination and won! Rather then take the payout, Walter requested that the university pay for his wine master’s degree at Montpellier in France, which they did. After finishing at Montpellier, he went on to work for wineries in Bordeaux and California before settling in Mendoza to raise a family and wines.
Walter has planted vines at some of the highest if not the highest altitudes in Mendoza. His malbec vines are at 1700 metres as well as his pinot noir. The pinot is still small only planted a few years ago but the vineyard is in front of the estancia and Walter has ambitions for his pinot. If the malbec is anything to judge by, his pinot should be outstanding. I really liked the malbec. It’s called “Un lugar en los Andes” which translates as “A place in the Andes” but I think Walter is being modest. A fantastic malbec, with lots of character. What I enjoyed most about the malbec was that it managed to avoid the jammy and very ripe fruit flavours that are often found in Mendozan malbec. Walter attributes this to the altitude of the vines. There was also a subtle mineral tone that enhanced the blackberry and plum flavours of the wine. Smooth tannins and a long finish completed the wine.
As a sort of control, we had Argento’s Cabernet and Malbec to compare to Walter’s malbec. Walter served them up with his homemade salami, cured olives and freshly baked bread, it was still warm to the touch. Argento’s wines were much more of what I was expecting from Argentina. Big and full of fruit, these wines were fine by themselves or with a slice of salami. I preferred the cabernet sauvignon as I thought it was a bit more well balanced then the malbec but that may be unfair to compare a boutique, artisanal malbec to a wine produced by one of the biggest wineries in Mendoza.
We had plenty of time to enjoy the wine as we had lunch after a 2 hour horse ride through the foothills lead by Walter’s 5 year old (!) daughter, Delfina. I was extremely jealous of the way she handled her horse but she’s been riding them probably since before she could walk. Her little brother Matteu was not to be outdone and cried until Walter let him ride with us. And this from a 3 year old! I was slightly envious of the life these kids must lead.