Ok, I admit it. One of my favorite passions our driving passion is food, wine, and exploring how these are intrinsically tied to the local culture: the people, places, and nature.
With their principle dream of creating small quantity wines honoring the expression of both the varietal and the vineyard soils, Achaval Ferrer is “now firmly established as one of Argentina’s benchmark producers.”- Robert Parker
Last January, with great anticipation, we set off to visit Achával-Ferrer winery or ‘bodegas’ in Mendoza’s Uco Valley. The area presents the highest altitudes at which wines are produced in Mendoza province: up to 1,400 meters above sea level. A lush agricultural valley amid a parched desert, the valley floor is dotted by almond trees and gorgeous orchards. Achával-Ferrer is breathtaking- light brick walls, massive wooden doors and dark wood everywhere. A fantastic few hours touring the winery with knowledgeable guides and a barrel tasting make this one of Mendoza’s top visits.
Achával-Ferrer produces nearly 20,000 cases per year. Their three single-vineyard bottlings—Finca Altamira, Finca Bella Vista and Finca Mirador—have regularly earned classic scores on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale. They also make a varietal Malbec bottling, which was recently featured in Wine Spectator’s 2010 Top 100 wines, and a Malbec blend called Quimera.
At Achával-Ferrer, there’s a commitment to extreme quality as you can see from their gorgeous website (www.achaval-ferrer.com), promotional materials and labels, to the winery and beautiful grounds, to their agricultural and wine making practices. Winemaker Roberto Cipresso has created the bodega in his image, controlling all aspects and spending time in the vineyard so to ensure his harvest meets his requirements. “I dream up the wine, in the middle of the vineyard before I make it.” The beautiful Quimera blend changes from year to year depending on his whim and the instincts.
Malbec has become Argentina’s flagship wine – with good reason. Its velvety texture and opulent flavors have made it a worldwide favorite. Achával-Ferrer’s single vineyard Malbecs (Finca Bella Vista, Finca Altamira, and Finca Mirador) are wines made from grapes from three different vineyards. The first is the Mayor Drummond vineyard at 66 years of age located in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, 960 meters above sea level. The second is the La Consulta vineyard, in the Uco Valley (Valle de Uco in Spanish). which is higher elevation at 1060 meters but much younger vines at 12 years old. The third is the Medrano vineyard, which is the oldest at 86 years and the lowest altitude at 670 meters above sea level. It’s incredible that the flavor profiles of the wines are very different. If you you want to understand how wine from one piece of land could be so very different from another, try tasting these wines side-by-side to see the incredible difference!
We did a brief tour of the winery- you don’t hear about high-tech winemaking techniques. There is no messing with the grapes, they simply pick the grapes and let them “do their thing” in the fermentation tanks. We experienced the warmth and hospitality, the splendour of the breathtaking natural scenery, and the bodega’s unmatched personal service and attention to detail. Following our wine tour, we did our tasting outside on a gorgeous veranda overlooking the Mendoza river.
The first wine we tasted was a 2011 Malbec, typical of local Mendoza preferences. We were shocked by the bright cherry notes- almost like dessert cherry, but not sweet. I’ve never tasted a Malbec like before and that was the moment I knew this winery was going to live up to our expectations!
The second wine was their Quimera, a beautiful 2009, a complex red blend of malbec, cab sav, merlot, cab franc, and petit verdot. The third wine, Achával-Ferrer Malbec 2009 is a delicious wine with tons of fruit, a lot of depth, balance and elegance. Quimera’s soft tannins are round and supple. I can only imagine how much better it ill taste with age.
Our third and final tasting was their high end Finca Altamira, a single vineyard Malbec from the Uco Valley. This gorgeous, bold, highly tannic wine tasted like cherries, pepper and spice. Our tour guide described Finca Altamira as a “violent” wine made from vines grown in volcanic ash.
Stolichnaya Owner SPI Group recently bought a majority share in Achával-Ferrer. “All in all, I’m very happy. This increases Achával-Ferrer’s reach, while retaining its obsessive quality tradition. For now, my main occupation will be barreling down a fantastic 2011 harvest that will finish tomorrow with the last 4 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon. We feel that this will open us doors to prestigious on-premise accounts throughout the world, especially those that have not yet opened up their minds and wine-lists to Argentine wines,” said Achával.