Argentina must ditch industrial approach

Argentine winemakers need to ditch their industrial approach to winemaking in order to move forward and thrive, according to one key estate owner.

Juan

Juan Pelizzatti. Photo credit: Colin Hampden-White

Speaking to the drinks business in Mendoza recently, Juan Pelizzatti, co-owner of Chakana in Lujan de Cuyo, said: “The Argentine wine industry is maturing and getting to the point where it is ready to produce its most interesting results.

“The problem is that Argentina still has an industrial approach to agriculture, which doesn’t work in viticulture.

While some in the trade believe it to be of little relevance to consumers, Pelizzatti feels it is important for Argentina to talk terroir and regionality going forward.

“We need to talk regionality in order to promote Argentina on a higher quality level – it’s not good to be perceived as nothing more than an ocean of Malbec.

“We’ve been terroir mapping with soil expert Pedro Parra in order to seek out the best areas to plant Malbec at high altitude, which is delivering interesting results,” he said.

“Now it’s our job to communicate why certain areas are better than others,” he added.

In terms of regions, Pelizzatti feels that Altamira in Mendoza is the best chance Argentina has to talk about terroir.

“The soils in Altamira contain calcium carbonate so there’s a lovely mineral element in the wines,” he told db.

Looking ahead, Pelizzatti believes the next big challenge for Argentina is how to successfully age its wines.

“At Chakana, we’re using less new French oak by the year. We’ve been cheated by the French with our oak in recent years – they send us their worst stuff, but we’re catching on to it,” he said.

Pelizzatti has made the decision to discontinue Chakana’s single varietal Sauvignon Blanc as he feels the world doesn’t need another one on the market.

“Chile and New Zealand already do better Sauvignons than us at attractive price points and we can’t compete with them on that front.

“Plus, I don’t think our soils are best suited to Sauvignon Blanc anyway, so I’ve decided to scrap the wine and use the Sauvignon we make as part of our white blend.

“Even though we were selling more of our Sauvignon than our Torrontés in the UK, I took the decision looking at the wider global picture,” he revealed.

Chakana is currently in the process of converting all of its vines to biodynamics, and Pelizzatti is “very happy” with the results so far.

“Since we converted, our grapes ripen more successfully and easily. We’re due to be organically certified in 2015 and will seek biodynamic certification after that,” he said.

Founded in 2002, the Chakana estate comprises 150 hectares and exports 90% of its wines abroad, with the US being its top export market. The Chakana range is distributed in the UK by Fells.

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