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Doña Paula to launch desert Riesling

Doña Paula is due to launch a Riesling grown in the high desert conditions of Argentina’s Uco Valley.

Doña Paula’s Alluvia estate, 1300m up in the Uco Valley

The producer’s Estate Riesling 2013 comes from a 4-hectare plot at its Finca Alluvia property, which lies in the sub-region of Gualtallary, 1,350m above sea level and receives on average 200mm of rain a year.

The company, which is part of Chile’s Santa Rita Estates, began planting this sandy, rocky site in 2007, with Malbec the main focus alongside a smaller amount of Chardonnay. While the rockiest, poorest soils are planted with bush vine Malbec, the majority, including the Riesling, are planted on a vertical trellis system.

Although the rainfall in Gualtallary is similar to Yakima Valley in Washington State, itself a significant producer of Riesling, the altitude is around 1,000m higher with very poor quality soil. Other Riesling centres such as the Rheingau in Germany and Clare Valley in Australia receive more than double Gualtallary’s levels of rainfall.

A small number of other producers in Argentina are also making Riesling, although in rather different conditions. Luigi Bosca produces the variety in Luján de Cuyo, while Humberto Canale makes Riesling around 1,000 kilometres further the south in Patagonia.

Describing Riesling as “a variety we are just starting to know”, Doña Paula’s agronomist Martin Kaiser explained that it had taken four harvests to achieve a commercially viable wine. Even so, the inaugural release is just 2,000 cases. These are set to be distributed towards the end of the year across the producer’s “key markets”, including the UK through agent Hallgarten Druitt, with an RRP of around £10 per bottle.

The Riesling project arose from Doña Paula’s experimental collection of 21 different varieties in the warmer, lower region of Luján de Cuyo. Studies here have helped the team to identify other potential Argentine stars such as Cabernet Franc, which head winemaker David Bonomi suggested could work well up in the Uco Valley, despite uninspiring results down in Luján de Cuyo.

Similarly, Kaiser reported that elsewhere in Mendoza “Riesling was very sensitive to rot, but here in Gualtallary there is no problem.”

Explaining his commitment to making this variety work in the extreme conditions of Gualtallary, Kaiser admitted it was “challenging.” However, he added: “It is an aromatic variety but not so rustic or wild as Sauvignon Blanc and a little more sophisticated. And it makes something a little more special than Chardonnay.”

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