Altocedro (old cedars) is a wonderful Argentine property located in La Consulta in the Uco Valley in southern Mendoza. We're writing about it here because we happen to have a stack of three of their fine reds in the store right now (hint, hint). This boutique winery uses hand harvested, terroir-driven, sustainably farmed fruit in an ultra-modern gravity flow facility that then turns to concrete fermentation tanks before oak aging. Classy.
At 33 degrees latitude La Consulta is the wine growing district where Altocedro is located. The Uco Valley begins about an hour's drive south of the city of Mendoza and extends for about forty-five miles southward. It is about fifteen miles wide. What sets La Consulta apart from the larger valley and the even larger Mendoza appellation is its altitude of 3,772 feet above sea level. At that elevation the air and water are pristine and the long growing season there offers fully two hundred fifty days of sunshine. The climate is hot and dry and the wines are all organic by default since at that elevation there are no pests!
The Tunuyan River is the essential element that makes this region a destination for wine industry professionals and connoisseurs alike. Mendoza, for all practical purposes, is a desert with a stony, sandy surface over alluvial soils of clay and rock. Drainage is optimal in such soils that are obviously the result of erosion from the Andes. Similarly the river is melt from the mountains.
Wine making here began as early as the 1500s when Spanish settlers brought vine cuttings from Chile. Three hundred years later Malbec and other vinifera vines were brought from France. Then in the 1980's Nicholas Catena from that great wine making family furthered the science by blending wines from plantings at different altitudes (to 5,000 ft!) to delineate the existing microclimates.
Now here are today's vocabulary words: diurnal effect or thermal amplitude, which mean pretty much the same thing as far as I can tell. Both terms refer to the desired dramatic temperature swing from afternoon highs to pre-dawn lows that wine makers love. Why is that so important? Because in order for grapes to achieve the desired balance of high sugars and acids (phenolic ripeness) a pronounced swing is necessary. For Mendocino grapes that means deep color, intense floral aromas, and rich flavors.
And that's why the great reds of Altocedro should be your next purchase!
Please join us in a tasting of Altocedro reds and others this Thursday the 17th starting at 5pm. The following Thursday, by the way, features Quinton Lucia of WX Brands with a presentation of the wines of Jamieson Ranch of Napa Valley.