François Lurton: New World wines don’t need to age

François Lurton believes that wines from the warmer parts of the New World don’t necessarily need to age due to their different levels of ripeness and tannin structure.

François Lurton.

Speaking to the drinks business at a tasting showcasing the wines from his Argentine estate, Bodega Piedra Negra, Lurton revealed that many in the wine world, in particular the French, have too much of a focus on ageing potential.

“There are very few people that can both afford good bottles of wine and are New World orientated. They have been taught that wine should be aged in a cellar before drinking,” he explained.

“People are not used to the taste,” he added, referring to the immediate approachability and fruit-forward ripeness that tends to define New World wine.

“It is like green tea. I only drink Japanese green tea, so when I drink Chinese green tea, it isn’t the same and I don’t like it. Once you get into a habit you don’t want to change it,” said Lurton.

Lorenzo Pasquini, technical manager of Cheval des Andes has previously been quoted by the drinks business, stating that it is “only a matter of time” before Argentina begins to produce wines with true ageing potential.

However, Francois Lurton believes the ageing process of New World and Old World (or cool climate and warm climate) wines should not be compared.

“The wines produced are very different, it is like comparing classical music with rock and roll,” he said.

Whereas the tannins in Old World wines often need time to mellow and become riper and more complex, New World wines don’t need to age, according to Lurton.

Different winemaking processes

Lurton also detailed how the wines were influenced by the different climate, terroir and winemaking practices in Argentina.

“In the northern hemisphere there is less light whereas he have more in Chile and Argentina,” he said.

“We are more conscious of the importance of the canopy. In Argentina we maintain the canopy at a height of between one metre and one and a half metres. In Europe it averages at less than one metre.”

He also highlighted how attitudes were changing, siting a growing appreciation and knowledge of terroir and echoing the sentiments of Ernesto Bajda, winemaker at Catena Zapata.

“In the past, winemakers in the New World believed vinification was more important than the grapes themselves. Within the last five to 10 years, and especially in Argentina, there is more of a sense of the true notion of terroir,” he said.

“Few producers were sensitive to the idea of yields, that was very much a French concept. This is why the Argentinians have preferred to use the Argentine strain of Malbec rather than the French Côt, which is less productive.”

The importance of acidity

Gran Lurton Cabernet Sauvignon 2001.

Despite his claim that New World wines do not need to age, the tasting demonstrated that Lurton’s wines were certainly capable of doing so.

Alongside samples of the recent 2017 vintage – a very good year, according to Lurton, that had resulted in an early harvest and good levels of both ripeness and acidity – we sampled the 2001 Gran Lurton Cabernet Sauvignon.

Lurton’s priority is achieving good natural acidity in his wines and this was reflected in the 2001. Revealing signs of development on the nose with notes of pencil shavings, violets and smoke, on the palate, it was still notably fresh.

This is achieved with a combination of altitude, strict control of yields and blending – Lurton has added between five and 15% Malbec to his Cabernet Sauvignon since 2001 to make it “more Argentinian.” Using both Argentinian Malbec and the more acidic Côt also helps to achieve balance.

At his Chacayes plot he plants 20,000 vines per hectare compared to an average in the Médoc of 10,000 per hectare.

New appellations

At last week’s tasting, Lurton also revealed that three new appellations were being created in the Uco Valley: Gualtallary, Los Chacayes and Altamira.

Lurton is the owner of ‘Chacayes’ but has allowed others growing grapes in the area to use the term ‘Los Chacayes.’

He stressed that, unlike the French appellation system, there are no special rules that winemakers have to abide by, “it is just to say ‘we are from this area,’” he confirmed.

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