The SOMM Journal

June / July 2017

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Page 99 of 124

{ }  99 A Site-Specific Mission Achaval Ferrer, established by partners Santiago Achával, Manuel Ferrer, Roberto Cipresso and Tiziano Siviero in 1998, has been a constant leader in the wine region, and the winery continues to advance their viticulture and winemaking practices in pur - suit of the finest site-specific Malbec wines. It was the tattered and ignored Altamira vine- yard—which now produces Finca Altamira, the flagship of the Achaval Ferrer lineup— that catapulted the vision of the budding winery: to showcase the highest-quality Malbec from only the highest-quality vine - yards by "making the wine" in the vineyard. Since the beginning, the winemaking team has believed that 90 percent of what goes into making a wine happens in the vineyard; the remaining ten percent is just trying not to mess it up. While scouring the Mendoza region for a superior site for grape growing, preferably north-facing, the founding partners happened upon the sad and forgotten Altamira vineyard and dis - covered that the fruit, no matter the condi- tion of the vineyard, tasted amazing. They purchased the vineyard a few days later, harvested the grapes and later gained the first international acclaim for the Mendoza region with the wine produced from that dilapidated vineyard. Implementing rigorous viticulture improvements, the Achaval Ferrer team has taken that vineyard, and its others, to an impeccable production output. Their yields are crazy low, plausibly the reason for the complexity found here in a varietal that can often be altogether simple. Unparalleled for the price-point, Achaval Ferrer produces just 14 hectoliters of wine per hectare for its Finca, or single-vineyard, wines. For a reference point, French law pro - hibits high yields in reputable regions, and in practice most quality vineyards produce lower yields than demanded; Grand Cru La Romanée in Burgundy typically yields 24 hectoliters per hectare, while Château Palmer, a respectable classified growth in Bordeaux, yields approximately 20 hecto - liters per hectare; cult Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley may fall even lower into the 10–12 hectoliters per hectare zone, largely due to ripeness, but they also com - mand exorbitant prices for their sacrifice. In order to achieve this low-yielding feat, the winery thoughtfully prunes, shoot-thins, green-harvests and pays close attention throughout the year. Attaining the level of concentration and complexity for which they aim demands diligence in the vineyard, and sacrificial fruit proves paramount. Many of the vines also are old and ungrafted; these characteristics not only aid in the intensity of the wines, but also assist in minimizing vintage variation and extending aging potential. Unique Winemaking Achaval Ferrer has actively advanced their winemaking practices as well. They pride themselves on higher-temperature fermentations in light of stronger anthocy- anin extraction and more seamless tannin integration. With an eight- to twelve-day fermentation—no cold-soak, no extended maceration—the wine gains its vibrant color from the 94-degree Fahrenheit fer - mentation temperature, and they practice remontage, or pumping -over the wine, for 15 hours per day. They insist that malolactic fermentation begin in the tank, making it easier to complete once it transfers to barrel. They have recently implemented 160-liter barrels in the prospect that the smaller barrels provide a perfect balance for the fruit and the oak. The production team at Achaval Ferrer includes Manuel Louzada, Chief Winemaker for Achaval Ferrer and Arínzano and CEO of Tenute del Mondo, the Wine Division of SPI Group, Winemaker Gustavo Rearte and Agronomist Leopoldo Gomez. Louzada, originally from Portugal, has worked for a The Achaval Ferrer winery facility is about to undergo a major renovation, improving the facilities and adding illustrious space for visitors. Gustavo Rearte, a mild-mannered, highly intelligent, passionate winemaker. COURTESY OF ACHAVAL FERRER PHOTO: ALLYSON GORSUCH Concentration

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