Warm and dry conditions prevailed during spring and early summer so that we became concerned the vines might be affected by drought. Luckily we had a brief torrential downpour in February which set the dry streams gurgling merrily and replenished the groundwater reserves. The rest of the summer was excellent. Although we had humid conditions in late autumn we had earlier removed some leaves from the fruiting zone to allow good ventilation so the crop ripened beautifully and remained perfectly healthy.
The Vineyard and vines
The vines, which are 25 years old, grow on their own roots in well drained, stony soil on a series of north facing, gradually descending terraces. The site is warm during the day but cool at night, resulting in good ripening while retaining the berries’ natural acids. Our main variety of chardonnay, known locally as Mendoza, typically produces light crops of small berries and hence tends to make concentrated wines.
Harvesting and winemaking
We used traditional Burgundian techniques in making this chardonnay. After picking, the fruit was gently pressed and the juice put into barrels without clarification. There it had a spontaneous primary fermentation by the grapes’ own yeasts. We used large barrels, puncheons, made by artisan French coopers, to avoid excessive extraction of oak flavours. Only 30% of these were new. When the fermentation was finished the barrels were topped and the wine left on its deposit of yeast lees (sur lie) to mature in the cool of the cellar. In the summer after harvest, when the cellar warmed, the wine underwent natural secondary or malo-lactic fermentation. While each puncheon started this fermentation, the exact extent to which it was allowed to progress was determined by regular tasting of all the barrels. When it was felt an optimal balance had been achieved this fermentation was stopped. After a year it was removed from the puncheons and put into tank where it remained on light lees for a further 8 months to allow it time to integrate prior to bottling. This Virtuoso was made from a small selection of the barrels which we felt best reflected the season and the terroir.
There is a core of aromas and flavours derived from the fruit, giving impressions of lemons, limes, peaches, greengages and loquats. These are interwoven with savoury nuances of barbequed sweet corn, grilled bacon, wood-smoke and toast. The emphasis on the palate is one of harmony and balance. The wine has restrained concentration and power but there is also elegance and finesse. A seam of minerality and tangy acidity flow through the palate, helping to draw out its lingering after-taste. While ready to drink on release, with careful cellaring it should become more complex and integrated over the next 5 or 6 years and last a decade or more.
Download Tasting Notes