Precision work : Studies concerning Malbec terroir lead Argentina to Cahors

Thursday March 27 2014 by Vitisphere


Founded in Mendoza in late 1995 by a group of Italian-Chilean investors, Bodega Altos las Hormigas is a long-standing player in the cultivation of Argentine Malbec. Setting its sights, from the outset, on the North-American market, this company is a real pioneer, searching for the ideal terroir to achieve the best expression of Malbec. The winery has also been conducting an extensive study into terroir (on its 206 hectares of vines, including 40 of Malbec) since 2008. The driving force behind this project is Chilean, Pedro Parra, a terroir and precision viticulture specialist, who studied in France (Paris and Montpellier). This research inevitably led the company to the birthplace of Malbec: Cahors. “Our objective, when we came, was to discover the origins of Malbec” recalls Antonio Morescalchi (vice-president of Bodega Altos las Hormigas), “we are still surprised by the Cahors terroir”, in particular by the high content of “limestone, all over the plateau and hills”. With this discovery of a forgotten terroir they also fell in love with wines with a “very powerful and elegant style”.  This lead to an observation that still amazes Antonio Morescalchi : “very little work has been done to highlight the different terroirs present in Cahors!”

With these findings in mind, the group of Italian-Chilean technicians repeated the visits, tastings and studies (in particular with soil pits). Gradually a project for the co-construction of a range of terroir wines took shape (“even purer and cleaner, with balance and texture”), destined for the North-American market, with local winemakers working with the support of soil and oenological experts. “Nobody expected that the same people who had invested in Argentina would now be investing in Cahors,” enthuses Jérémy Arnaud, the marketing director of the Union Interprofessionnel des Vins de Cahors. He sees both a confirmation of “the marketing strategy of complementarity, and not of direct competition between Argentina and Cahors” and an unexpected turn of events: “we sent out a grape variety as a plant, and it was sent back to us as a marketing tool”. When they returned in January 2014, these investors finally selected three Cahors wine domaines: Château les Croisille, Métairie Grande du Thérons and Domaine du Prince. The manager of this latter property, Didier Jouves, still remembers meeting with “Malbec-loving Italians, very open people who fell in love with our top cuvée, unoaked. This year we are going to work in partnership with their oenologist, who will oversee the parcel selection and vinification in order to meet their order for made-to-measure wines.” 


[Source: Vitisphere; Photo: Leonardo Erazo in an Argentine soil pit (Bodega Altos las Hormigas)]


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