Pi: Coast is key to Argentina’s wine future

Planting vineyards close to the coast will help unlock further winemaking potential in Argentina according to one of the country’s most respected winemakers.

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to London, Daniel Pi, chief winemaker at Trapiche, revealed details of a vineyard project in Buenos Aires.

“We’re developing a coastal vineyard close to the Atlantic Ocean in Buenos Aires where we planted 12 hectares of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc in 2009 as an experiment.

“The cool climate coastal thing is very trendy right now and we want to be in on the action. The wines are going to be unlike anything that has come out of Argentina so far as they have a real coastal influence, so have wonderful minerality,” he said.

“Our Sauvignon Blanc is about to be bottled and I’m really excited about it. We haven’t decided on a name yet. The idea down the line is to make a traditional method sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Pinot grown on the site,” he added.

One of Trapiche's single vineyard Malbecs

One of Trapiche’s single vineyard Malbecs

Trapiche’s owner, Grupo Peñaflor, is keen to expand the estate’s sparkling wine output and recently snapped up a small scale sparkling wine operation, Viñedos y Bodega Suter, in San Rafael from which to make the fizz.

“We make around 200,000 bottles of charmat method sparkling wine at the moment from Chardonnay and Semillon with a touch of Malbec but the goal is to up our production to one million bottles and develop a Trapiche-branded traditional method sparkling wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,” Pi told db.

With plantings of Malbec increasing across the wine world, Pi believes that it is more important than ever for Argentinan winemakers to reinforce their status as the “kings of Malbec.”

“With Chile having recently developed an interest in planting Malbec, I predict that the same thing is going to happen with it that happened for Australian Shiraz – everyone is going to try and jump on the bandwagon and do it, but people will remember Argentina as the first and hopefully the best,” Pi told db.

“The next step for Argentina is to really explore our terroirs and make terroir-driven Malbec that speaks of the specific site from which it came. You can certainly get a sense of place from Malbec.

“We need to move Malbec away from being a commodity in Argentina to a high quality product. Single vineyard examples are a great way to do this. The character of the grape changes from region to region, with Cafayate, San Juan and Mendoza all producing  discernibly different styles,” he added.

In terms of regions to watch for Malbec, Pi singled out Chañar Punco in Catamarca, Pedernal in San Juan and Los Arboles and Altamira in Mendoza.

Malbec aside, Pi believes Cabernet Sauvignon is one to watch in Argentina.

“I believe in Cabernet’s future in Argentina, especially at the top end. In truth, I think Argentinian Cabernet has better ageing potential than Argentinian Malbec,” he revealed.

“The terroir can certainly be detected in Argentinian Cabernet – in Maipu you get more cassis and riper tannins and in the Uco Valley you have firmer tannins and more spice,” he added.

In terms of white grapes, Pi believes Chardonnay has more potential in Argentina than flagship white Torrontes.

“We have a lot of calcareous soil and Chardonnay is responding very well to it, though Argentinian Chardonnay remains a tough sell, especially at higher price points,” Pi admitted.

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