Pushing the envelope is a new expression I learned from Santiago Achaval in one of the asados we usually host for our Private Vineyard Owners. Of course he was not giving me an English lesson but he was telling me about his newly planted vineyard in El Challao, Mendoza. I started to understand what he meant by this phraseâ€¦ but he offered me to visit his vineyard since being there it would be a much better explanation.
So this is it.Â I had the privilege to go with Santiago to his recently planted vineyard â€œPiedras Viejasâ€(old stones). This is an unprecedented vineyard planted at 1400 meters above sea level (4,593ft) in El Challao.
When we were heading to Piedras Viejas vineyard, I could not believe my eyes the beauty of the place. A completely different concept for Mendoza; a vineyard planted on slopes.
Mendoza is not only a very important wine region in the world but also very different from many other wine regions. I say so, because one of the first questions I am asked from our visitors and clients is about the fact that we do not grow our vineyard on slopes but on flat areas. The reason is simple: we are in a vast country, we have plenty of space, our mountains (The Andes) are really high, so grapes wouldnâ€™t be able to ripe well if we would plant vines on the Andes.
Mendoza has a great Terroir, dry weather, great temperature range between day and night, a great sun exposure, poor soils that make of our valleys a great place to grow vines. Yet, most of our soils are pretty similar. From alluvial origin, some of them more or less deep, with more or less rocks, but the composition is almost the same in most of them.
Santiago explains that for him it was a challenge to make a difference in our viticulture from a geological point of view. A soil with history is what he was looking for. So the wine could acquire a special character.
So determined in accomplishing his goal he found this unique site in our Mendocinean piedmont, just 30â€™ away from downtown.Â It is THE FIRST vineyard to be planted on the slopes of our pre mountain range in Mendoza, slopes with unique soils with more than 500 years of history. The soil composition varies according to the slope where the vineyard has been planted. We can appreciate chalky soils from lake and sea origin. Virgin soils with a great potential!
Santiago owns 20 has from which he has already planted 5. He waters the vineyard using a spring he found in this territory. He has a dripping system and he is building a reservoir to administrate better the water in the different time of the year.
The conduction system is also different from the conventional trellises system used in Mendoza. Because the plantation is on slopes he using the head vines system.
He has planted Malbec mainly. â€œI am focused on Malbec. It is Malbec the best grape we grow in Argentinaâ€ he says. Just taste any of his Fincas : Altamira, Bella vista or El Mirador and you will understand him perfectly.
His first crop will be ready in 2011, being the wine released no earlier than 2013.
He still doesnâ€™t know what will be the result. This is a risky but promising project!
This is not luck or simple coincide. This is passion and determination â€¦ My best wishes Santi!! I am sure it will be a great success!!!