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Achaval Ferrer: iconic Finca series ‘deserves to be in the pantheon of great global wines’

Premium Argentine wine estate Achaval Ferrer says its iconic Finca trio of single vineyard old vine Malbecs deserve to be in “the pantheon of great global wines”, as it mulls adding a fourth terroir-driven Malbec to it is ultra-premium fine wine range.

Speaking to the drinks business last week, winemaker Gustavo Rearte said although unable to go into details yet, the potential to launch a fourth Finca followed the winery’s acquisition of a new estate in 2019. So far, three vintages have been produced, with the team “very happy” with the latest one, making it likely that a fourth Finca will be released in two years.

“In a couple of years we will be announcing the launch of the fourth fincas – its coming from another appellation, from a property planted in 1923, with the same speech as the Fincas – it’s a malbec but with a different approach on the soil profile. We understand and are grateful that in in Mendoza, you can find these jewels and we are looking every year to find them,” he said.

There is, according to Rearte, strong demand for the new wave of terroir-driven wines from Argentina. Over the last twenty years, knowledge had grown, and a new generation of sommeliers and clients are looking into the New World and “finding a terroir experience,” according to Rearte.

“We think that the world is trying to find wines that give more knowledge of the Argentina terroir – and we’re lucky to have three of them,” he said.

The focus on terroir is very much in line with the founding principle of Achaval Ferrer, which was launched in 1998 with a vision to show that that Malbec “isn’t just a wine, it’s a description of different tasting notes depending on where you grow it,” Rearte explained – an Old World approach from a New World wine that was perhaps unusual in the late 1990s.

The trio of Fincas – Achaval Ferrer Finca Mirador, Achaval Ferrer Finca Bella Vista and Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira – are the pinnacle of the group’s wine, which “raise the bar very high” for Malbec, Rearte says.

As a result, Mercedes Castellani, marketing director at Tenute del Mondo Wine Group, argues that the Fincas “deserves a place in the great pantheon in the great wines of the world as global icons”, noting that if a restaurant that has a wine list that includes such icons as Almaviva, Screaming Eagle or Vega Sicilian, “should also have Finca”.

“We are trying to lead the Argentinian space,” she explains, noting that the team want to “prove the versality of the wines and that they deserve a place in the global pantheon of wines, not just Argentinian wines.”

The wines, which are released globally on the first Monday in April, are available with only very limited availability – the wines are made from low yielding, century-old vines that yield around 2.5 tonnes per hectare, meaning that it takes three vines to produce just one bottle, Rearte explains.

As a result, stocks are strictly allocated across countries and clients. For example, in 2019, just 4,220 bottles of the 2019 Achaval Ferrer Finca Mirador were produced, alongside 6,710 bottles of Achaval Ferrer Finca Bella Vista and 9,468 bottles of the 2019 Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira.

“We have three directors, one in America, one in Europe and one Asia, and they fight over it!” Rearte grins.

The difference of terroir

The wines, he says are created, and vinified in exactly the same way – and the difference is purely down to the terroir, which reflects the different soils, sites and altitudes of the three vineyards.

Finca Mirador lies to the east of Mendoza, at 700m above sea level on sandy, free-draining soils that are not only in the warmest part of Mendoza, but also receive a lot of sunlight. This expresses itself as a spicier Malbec with dark fruit and graphite aromas and “a unique freshness”, he says.

“It’s a very spicy in my opinion, which isn’t very common,” Rearte points out. “In general, when people think Malbec, they think floral and red fruit.”

Meanwhile Finca Bella Vista, the oldest property, which was planted in 1910, lies on the south side of the Mendoza river in Lujan de Cujo, at 900m above sea level. The ancient vines are planted on clay from a former river bed (Lujan de Cujo has been dry for the last 20 years, following the building of the Potrerillos Dam in the mountains) in  giving it a very floral, soft and silky character on the middle palate, Rearte explains,. The influence of the altitude with its its hot days  (as much as 32 degrees in the summer) and cool breeze from the mountains at night gives the vines plenty of time to recover, which means the final expression of the wines retains great freshness, Rearte notes.

Finally Finca Altamira – the wine that started it all – which was first produced as a commercial vintage in 1999. Although the 70 year-old-vines come from the youngest property (planted in 1950), it is the highest site of the three, at 1,100m above sea level. Situated on the east side of the Tunuyán River, the terroir is unique being a mixture of material with soil, clay, sand, minerals, stones, and volcanic ash, leading to a very complex wine.

As Rearte points out, there is an “intensity from the stone and mineral side, with aromas of black fruit, spice, with a freshness on the middle palate covered with graphite and chalk” coupled with great freshness from both the free-draining soils as well as the large diurnal difference due to its altitude.

“We’re teaching our clients  that you’re not only going to tasting Malbec, you are going to taste a product that is is delivering different aromas and tasting notes on the middle palate depending on where you’re growing the grapes,” he explains. “We are more than wine producers, we are grape producers because the wines are the result of the growing period of the grapes.”

Achaval Ferrer is available from Jeroboams Trade and Jeroboams Shops.

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