Altos las Hormigas Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda 2013
In 1995 Alberto Antonini, a well-known Tuscan winemaker, and Antonio Morescalchi, a young entrepreneur, took a trip to visit the burgeoning wine areas of South America. It only took one stop to find what they were looking for. They were immediately impressed by the vineyards thriving in the high altitude and dry climate of Mendoza, and were captivated by the whispered traditions and blend of cultures.
They returned to Tuscany powerfully impressed not only by the region, but also by the unexplored potential of Malbec, a grape that had a strong local tradition but was largely ignored and misunderstood. While the rest of the wine world saw Mendoza struggling to shed its bulk wine image, the two young Italians saw Mendoza as a place where traditional viticultural values and unblemished land could be reinvigorated with a modern winemaking approach and international experience. Instead of planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as many others were doing during the 1990s, the team decided to invest their confidence in Malbec. Today, Malbec is the varietal for which Argentina is best known.
Against all odds they cemented their vision to become Terroir Specialists Shortly after, two friends and business partners, also enthused by the idea, joined the venture: Attilio Pagli, a renowned Tuscan winemaker with two 100 point-scoring wines in his personal record and Carlos Vazquez, an Argentine Agronomist, who work for 20 years with the early Catena group, planting new varieties, developing previously unknown vineyard sites and contributing greatly to the qualitative change of Argentine viticulture early on.
With vineyards tretching along the eastern side of the Andes Mountains from Patagonia in the south to Salta in the north, Argentina is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic wine producing countries—and most important in South America.
Since the late 20th century vineyard investments, improved winery technology and a commitment to innovation have all contributed to the country’s burgeoning image as a producer of great wines at all price points. The climate here is diverse but generally continental and agreeable, with hot, dry summers and cold snowy winters—a positive, as snow melt from the Andes Mountains is used heavily to irrigate vineyards. Grapes very rarely have any difficulty achieving full ripeness.
Argentina’s famous Mendoza region, responsible for more than 70% of Argentina’s wine production, is further divided into several sub-regions, with Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley most noteworthy. Red wines dominate here, especially Malbec, the country’s star variety, while Chardonnay is the most successful white.
The province of San Juan is best known for blends of Bonarda and Syrah. Torrontés is a specialty of the La Rioja and Salta regions, the latter of which is also responsible for excellent Malbecs grown at very high elevation.
Bonarda is a name given to a handful of distinct grape varieties, mainly growing in Italy and in Argentina. In Lombardy’s Oltrepò Pavese and Emilia Romagna’s Colli Piacentini zones, the grape called Bonarda is actually Croatina. In Novara, Bonarda Novarese, often blended with Spanna (Nebbiolo), is actually Uva Rara. DNA profiling shows that most of the Bonarda in Argentina is actually identical to California’s Charbono—and Charbono is actually the Douce Noire grape from Savoie. Somm Secret—Bonarda Piemontese, an aromatic variety, is the only true Bonarda. Before phylloxera, it covered 30% of Piedmontese vineyard acreage.