The Vines of Mendoza

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Amanda Barnes is a British journalist who makes her own bread and butter by drinking wine around the country. Actually, she spends her bread and butter on wine.

Getting the Dirt from Zorzal


In one of the most anticipated Winemaker’s Nights of the season, Zorzal winery came to The Vines Tasting Room to show some of their wines from Gualtallary.

One of the newest and most exciting regions in the New World, Gualtallary is a region high in the Uco Valley with a very particular terroir with a high calcareous content, which is why Bodega Zorzal chose to only specialize in this region.

Using minimal impact winemaking methods, winemaker Juan Pablo Michelini explained how they work with cement eggs in order to get more lees contact and allow the wine to have more characteristics from the place. Juan Pablo presented the Eggo line, a premium line that uses only cement eggs with no oak influence.

The Wines 

Eggo, Blanc de Cal, Sauvignon Blanc, 2014
This wine is not your usual New World Sauvignon Blanc, it doesn’t have any of the showy, hedonistic aromas that many people associated with this part of the world, but rather takes an Old World focus on a fresh, textural and mineral wine. The nose is attractive with a steely elegance, but it is really the mouth that makes this a very special wine for Mendoza: a mouth-watering acidity and a subtly aromatic, refreshing finish.

Eggo, Filoso Pinot Noir 2014
This Pinot has a light and fresh fruity nose with a hint of rose, and a slight gun flint mouth with a long and fresh finish. Using 100% carbonic maceration, this wine is made by putting the entire bunch in the tank (and not just the grapes). The result is a fresh, aromatic and chewy wine but with smooth tannins. 

Tinto de Tiza, 2013
A blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon this is a much darker and earthier wine in character and aroma - with gun flint, chalk, a subtle black pepper and a whiff of violet - although it is predominantly Malbec (over 90%) you might never guess… The mouth and finish is lingering and long with some darker fruit characters and a bit of forest floor. The trademark Michelini freshness is certainly there though!

Eggo Franco, 2014 
At its first public release, this new Cabernet Franc is not quite in the market yet and we had a unique chance to try it. Dark, peppery and mineral this is a very direct wine that shows the beautiful qualities of the new hero on Mendoza’s wine scene: Cabernet Franc. While there are many premium Cabernet Francs arriving on the scene, this is possibly the only premium Cab Franc in the market without any oak influence. This wine proves how you can make a profound wine without any oak. Pure fruit and terroir… (with quite a lot of egg!)

Each wine costs $250pesos.

The Questions

How did you first find out about Gualtallery? 

When my oldest brother Girardo came back to Argentina (after living in Spain in 5 years) he sold everything: his house, his car and everything… and Matias [the middle brother] told him to come to Gualtallery to come here to buy the land! We have some relations in Tupungato that have a lot of hectares of land in Gualtallery and Girardo bought the 70 hectares. 
How has Gualtallery changed since you first bought your vineyards there in 2005? 

It has changed a lot! [Insert big hand gestures!] Since we bought the land people with a lot of money started buying and planting vines. Today I think it is one of the best regions… people all over the world think about Gualtallery, and are speaking about Gualtallery now. I think that people are tasting Gualtallery in the glass and they are realizing that the wine from there is - I don’t want to say better - but different and tasty!

Why did you just present the Eggo line tonight?

Because I want to show the region. And I think Eggo is the line to show that with minimum intervention with the character and texture to keep the wine in the bottle for many years. To show that we can make that kind of wine without oak.

Do you think oak covers the character of ‘terroir’ or a wine? 

I think if you use oak in a wrong way, yes. If you put any kind of wine in the same barrel you are doing the wrong thing because you have to pair the barrel with the wine. If you have a wine with strong tannins and structure you can put it in a new barrel and nothing will happen, the barrel will intervene a little bit and not kill the wine or terroir. But if you put a Pinot Noir in American Oak with heavy toast for example you will not feel anything - you will feel vanilla, chocolate, oak… not the wine.

Why do you call your wines Eggo? 

Because of the eggs, and our ego for the eggs!

What do you most like about using cement eggs to make wine?

I saw that the wine aged in the egg. Micro-vinification is good, and every micro-vinification is good. But the wine aging in the egg day by day grows not just in the nose but the character of the soil and the terroir - the mouth gets bigger and bigger. I think the egg maximizes the expression of terroir without any toast and intervention from wood taken from another terroir.

How would you describe your brothers?

Free! A lot of freedom in their souls. They want to be themselves and they are living what they want. Without any influences.

And how do you think they would describe you?

The same way. I think that’s why the three of us are working together very happily. 

But my best idea of my life is more than wine, it is to have a family. A family to show people that my wife and I be happy with a big family in a complex world. After that, I am a winemaker making wines.

How many children do you have?

3 so far… And we’re trying for more!

Amanda Barnes is a British wine journalist living in Mendoza and enjoying the heights of Gualtallery with every glass.
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