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Argentine winery Pascual Toso looks to innovation

Argentine winery Pascual Toso is looking to innovation to boost its range of high end white wines as well as experimenting with oak ageing on its Cabernet Sauvignon.

Felipe Stahlschmidt

Speaking to db on a recent visit to London, chief winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt, who joined the company in November 2015, said the winery had established a new research and development facility in the last year in order to study its wines and improve them.

“Innovation is key – the important thing to find is because the market is not staying the same, it has changed, so we need to study, see how we’ve moved and also how our wines in the market,” he explained, adding that because Pascual Toso was a traditional winery, it was about evolving the style slowly.

“We don’t want a quick change, or to have the Pascual Toso consumer think it is too different,” he said, although noting this was in keeping with the winery’s self-avowed principles of “tradition, authenticity and innovation”.

The Mendoza-based bodega, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in April, is working to develop its Cabernet Sauvignon, working on micro-fermentations from different plots and different ageing techniques, as well as working with different coopers to see the effect of the different woods on its red wine. Stahlschmidt says overall it is decreasing the amount of oak to give less oak expression, while investigating different toasted styles to see the effect on its wines.

“What we are looking for is to fine an expression in the wine that doesn’t over the fruit flavour, so we can maintain and express the fruit flavour of the terroir, overlaid with oak flavours,” he told db. “We want that oak complexity, but we don’t want an oaky wine that doesn’t express fruit.”

He argued that the vineyards in Las Barrancas in Maipu were in the “best sites for Cabernet Sauvignon in Argentina” and gave an “excellent’ expression of the grape – and the winery is boosting production of Cabernet over the next three years, replanting around 10ha of old and less productive blocks, with a further 10ha devoted to Chardonnay, primarily destined for sparkling wine for the domestic market.

As well as its flourishing sparkling production, the winery is also looking to build its high-end white wines, particularly of Chardonnay and is investigating different clones as well as refining the fermentation. At the moment, white wines are only available in the entry and reserve level ranges, but not in its icon wines.

Currently, the company has four ranges – its Estate range which Stahlschmidt described as focusing on fresh fruit and natural acidity, the reserve Selected range which comprises a Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay, and the limited edition Alta wines,  which comprises the Alta Syrah and Malbec and its ‘icon’ blends, Cabernet-based Finca Pedregal and the super-premium Magdalena Toso, a blend of 70% Malbec and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Speaking about the potential for Argentina, Stahlschmidt said the country had built its reputation on varieties Carménère, Chardonnay and Malbec but the next step was to show the different regions in Argentina and how the wine is expressed there, as well as going back to traditional varieties of Argentina – such as Viogner, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot.

Cabernet Franc, he added, had the greatest potential  to become the most important variety in Argentine, with Italian and Spanish varieties such as Monastrell, Grenache, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo also showing promise.

“A lot of people wok with Bonarda, which is very good as a blender, but Cabernet Franc is becoming the most important variety and will become ‘the new Malbec’,” he said. “It will happen at some point but may take some time.”

The wine brand is imported and distributed in the UK by Kingsland Drinks.

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