Argentina's greatest winemaker targets UK independents

27 May, 2015

Uco Valley producer Bodegas Salentein is targeting the UK independent trade after celebrating the 40th harvest of its legendary chief winemaker.

Jose Galante has been described as “Argentina’s greatest winemaker of our times” by wine consultant Paul Hobbs, and after witnessing the Uco Valley’s improvement over 40 vintages he believes the it can now compete with any wine region in the world.

He said: “The Uco Valley has a special terroir for growing grapes. It offers unique weather conditions in a perfectly isolated area, making it a clearly identifiable land that is truly different from other regions.  It is a paradise for winemakers.

“I look at where we are now – not finished, but closer to our ambition to make Argentina the leading country in global winemaking – and I think of all the people who have made this possible and are still working towards this goal today. 

“Seeing younger people involved in driving the image of Argentina’s wine is very inspiring. They are restless, energetic and always looking for a way forward but most importantly, they share my passion for keeping an open mind and challenging preconceptions.

“Argentina’s viticulture and oenology are almost unique in the world and we have to conduct our own research and develop our own knowledge. This is what sets us apart and allows us to take advantage of these special terroirs. I see it every day at Bodegas Salentein and I am certain that the younger generations of winemakers will continue to help us support the development of our craft for many years.”

Bodegas Salentein’s wines are sold at Majestic and some grocers, but it is now working with distributor Catalyst to push its fine wines into the independent trade.

The reds in its luxury portfolio include a Syrah retailing at £20, Malbecs selling for £27 to £35 and a Grand Vu blend of 73% Malbec and 27% Cabernet that retails at £60, while its Chardonnay retails at £27.

The producer feels these fine wines need passionate independent wine merchants to hand sell them to UK shoppers.

Matias Bauza Moreno, luxury portfolio manager, told OLN: “For the off-trade we are working with Catalyst and trying to push these high-end wines and get them into more independents.”

Moreno said the team is passionate about showing off the other great varietals Argentina has to offer, aside from Malbec.

“Malbec is a great way to get in the door but now it’s time to show what Argentina can do,” he said. “There are a couple of big players that are also moving in this direction. Nobody has to explain that Malbec is perfect in Mendoza, but we are trying to do other things, not just Malbec, making a Cabernet Sauvignon and making blends with Malbec.”

The winery is trying to create a new AOC in the Uco Valley – the San Pablo GI – as it feels this will help it compete with the likes of Burgundy on the global stage.

Along with three other producers, Salentein has grown grapes – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – in San Pablo for more than a decade, and Galante said it is perfect for winemaking.

“The level of the juice is amazing,” he told OLN. “I have made wines across Mendoza but I have never had juice like this. It has the perfect balance of sugar and acidity.

“In a place like Argentina it’s hard to make these varietals [Pinot Noir and Chardonnay]. Only when you have high altitude is it possible.”

Galante is confident they will receive GI status in the next two years following negotiations with bodies Instituto National de Viniviticultura and Inter and the local university.

Moreno added: “The humidity provides nice conditions for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the altitude is very, very important. This sort of micro-diverse region in the New World is important to produce certain varietals that are world class. I don’t want a Chardonnay like Burgundy.

“I want it to be of the same level of quality but different, because the terroir is different. We need the AOC to prove it came from a really small place.

“People know Burgundy and want to find Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that is exciting but different.”

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