The Apex of Argentine Wine
“I dream up the wine, in the middle of the vineyard before I make it.” – Roberto Cipresso
While Achaval Ferrer sits enviably high up on the pyramid of international wine standard, the science and philosophy that put it there are humbly rooted in the ground. The Mendoza winery was the first in Argentina to score a rating of 96 points with the prestigious Wine Spectator, and it went on to make their Top 100 Wine List of the world (2010 edition). Despite such big accolades, Achaval Ferrer Winery is actually one of the smallest in Mendoza, the region where two thirds of Argentina´s wine is produced. “Low yields, significant thermal gradients (warm days, cool nights), poor alluvial soils, low rainfall, high altitude and the pure Andes irrigation water, all work together to mature grapes that can be transformed into complex, deep and structured wines.” They say.
It is soberingly obvious that passion is the driving force behind the team who produce Achaval Ferrer wines, and this is evident not just in the exceptional quality, but the minimal quantity. “We want them to show a sense of place, of the land that gave them birth. The road to this goal is very low yields.” The vineyards produce on average just 800 kilos of grapes per acre, working out to be around 1 bottle per vine. This is because Cipresso uses techniques such as cluster thinning, which prevents rotting and allows each grape important access to direct sunlight, though reduces the yield of a vine from approximately 5 kilos to between 1 and 1½ kilos. Irrigation is also strategically reduced between the months of December and January, which decreases the grape diameter and thus increases the relationship between the skin and the pulp, giving the wine more notable aromas and flavors. “[Also], we harvest only until mid-morning for the grapes to be very cool when they arrive in the winery.”
“Our dream of establishing Achaval-Ferrer was realized in 1998 based on two solid principles: the search for quality in all of our products and the respect for the terroir. From then on, we gathered that the potential wine quality in Argentina could reach levels according to the extreme personality of its soil, the opulent solar irradiation and the rarity of old vineyards on native rootstock, almost exclusive in the actual wine world.” The construction of the winery was finished in 2006 and is situated inside the Finca Bella Vista (Beautiful View Farm) estate, close to the dry river bed of the Mendoza River in Lujan de Cuyo. It is rarely open to mainstream tourism and visits are hard to get, especially in the high season. Nevertheless, as with the wine itself, it is well worth a try.