The SOMM Journal

December 2014/January 2015

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Page 39 of 119

40 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2014/2015 { the punch-down } Age-Worthy Malbec SANTIAGO ACHÁVAL'S SINGLE-VINEYARD MALBECS DEFY A COMMON MISCONCEPTION ABOUT THE AGEABILITY OF ARGENTINA'S PREMIER VARIETAL { the punch-down } WITH 25 VINTAGES UNDER HIS BELT, winemaker Santiago Achával is inter- ested in only one conversation: the dia- logue between man and his vineyard. The way he sees it, man proposes something, and the vineyard reacts—there's another proposal and there's another reaction and that is the fruit of the dialogue. Jonathan Cristaldi: You've said there are two defining moments in a wine's life—what are they? Santiago Achával: The harvest date and the press date. We drop green bunches before harvest to focus all the energy of our young grapes—we don't want any "tiredness." Next, the press date is just as critical—wine is a duet between fruit and minerality. Don't make the mistake of focusing on tannins. Press a day early rather than an hour late. For you, where does the "wine- making" begin? These wines are 90 percent made in the vineyard—I don't know how to make great wine without great grapes. Our process is tending to our yeasts—and in that sense you are there just to help avoid mistakes, knowing inspiration strikes when it comes time to blend different blocks—asking what is going to be the blend of Altamira? You make Altamira to drink now, but also to age—describe the production process. We natural yeast–ferment, and if need be use a "neutral workhorse" to finish the fermentation. There's no extended maceration or cold soaks, and the wine is not racked off the fine lees. We believe barrels should not be an ingredient—the barrel is the breathing tool. Grapes with a lot of structure and texture and density need to breathe. When your breathing need is lower, go with an older barrel, because the pours are clogged. The Finca wines are seamless, with vibrant acid structure, and you attribute this to the natural acids of the grapes? There are many different kinds of natural acidity. In music, harmonics provide differ- ences and character over just one main note. When you add in acidity [by acidification] back into a wine, you are only adding the main note and you are losing the harmonics. Q: Q: Q: Q: interviews and ruminations with beverage industry pros by Jonathan Cristaldi Achával-Ferrer's flagship wine, Finca Altamira, is a single- vineyard Malbec, produced from vines over 80 years old, planted on their own roots in the La Consulta region of the Uco Valley, Mendoza. Roughly 14 acres of vines are planted between 3,400 and 5,580 feet. A vertical tasting of four vintages proved the wine to be outstand- ing, with the potential for aging 20 to 30 years. Finca Altamira 2012 Beautiful dark ruby color; full-bodied, bright blackberry and ripe plum, blast of raspberry, brilliantly fine-grained tannins, smoky, meaty and savory spice on a persistent finish. Finca Altamira 2009 Gorgeous, full-bodied and bright offering gener- ous red fruit characters, violet notes, spice and a superb balance between grip and mouthwatering acidity. Finca Altamira 2006 Opulent from the get-go, with those riper black fruit and plum notes lifted into refined red fruit just over the edge of ripeness, complex spice and mineral character unfolds into ethereal espresso and toffee notes—utterly seamless through and through. Finca Altamira 2000 A persis- tence of dark ruby colored cores in previous vintages are just beginning to break at the rims, along with a loosening of supremely firm tannins, giving way to stewed berries, meatier and smokier notes rounded out by tobacco spice and a lovely, lengthy finish. VERTICAL TASTING Career Highlights: 1989: Santiago Achával earns his MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business and graduates in the top ten percent of his class. Stanford is where Achával first discovers his love of wine. 1998: Achával, along with Manuel Ferrer, Roberto Cipresso and Tiziano Siviero, establishes Achával-Ferrer Winery. 1999: Achával completes his first harvest at the winery. 2003: The Finca line of wines starts receiving critical acclaim as some of the best wines from South America. Note: Achával also produces Hand of God Wines (Argentina) and The Farm Winery (Paso Robles, CA). Santiago Achával of Achával -Ferrer sits behind a shining lineup of his single- vineyard Malbecs from Argentina.

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