Last night, wau! what a night!!
Well it was a wonderful opportunity, anyway, to taste 10 vintages vertically, all in one go that is, at one table on a chilly evening down here in the ass of the world. The wine in question comes from Mendoza. A few minutes heading south of Tunuyan, turn right at San Carlos village and drive towards the mountains, Los Andes, on the calle de ripio, and in the not too distant horizon you will see what looks like a large space ship having landed safely from out of space.
I have visited the place twice in the last ten years and both times the scenery literally took my breath away. O.Fournier is the name of Bodega, and the principal wine is labelled ALFA CRUX. The Bodega was founded by an ex Goldman-Sachs banker and is now in the capable, capitalist hands of some Canadian Real Estate Brokers. I could swear they bought the place for the architecture. I would have if I had the doe-ray-me. The proper address, for you GPS freaks, is El Cepillo, Pareditas, La Consulta, Chilecito, Mendoza.
The first commercial vintage produced was in 2001, and that is what we kicked off with last night. What made the evening even more special was that the Chief, head honcho winemaker, José Mario Spisso was flown over to guide us through the flight. Lucky us indeed, it was just a pity that after a few sips many people in the room found it more interesting to talk to each other than to actually listen to what the dear fellow was having to share, and say to us. Very rude of them indeed!
Now as you may or may not know, but the predominent grape in Alfa Crux is Tempranillo. There are 50 hectares grown on sight, at 1.100m.a.s.l. surrounded by 15 hectares of Merlot, 14 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, some Malbec (14 hectares) and a smidgen of Syrah (3 hectares), oh and one hectare of Sauvignon Blanc. I hope that puts you into the vinous picture a bit more, and here is the rest from the horses mouth, that I could hear over the din. José told us that the grapes are picked manually, by the company´s own workers, and placed in 18-kg. boxes, allowing the Bodega to control the quality of the grapes right from the vineyard to the juice in the bottle. The best grape clusters are selected at a long sorting table. Moreover, from the 2002 harvest, there is a second sorting table for the removal of stalks. The winery uses a crushing-destemming machine, with adjustable stainless steel rolls. Only half of the grapes are crushed. They fall inside the vats through gravity, only!, avoiding the use of pumps. The winery´s stainless steel vats are equipped with hot and cold water device to control the fermentations. And again since the 2002 harvest, the company has used dry ice for the cold maceration bit. They use a vertical hydraulic basket press with electronic pressure control for pressing the marc. And then the ageing process takes place in 225 litre barrels, 80 per cent are made of French oak and the rest of American oak. The barrels are stored in underground cellars, where the temperature and humidity are strictly controlled. The winery purchases barrels from the best coopers in France, apparently Spain too, but also of course the USA.
My favorite vintages of the night were: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010 which made me smile as they are also, mainly, good and great vintages in Bordeaux. However the only connection between the two really is that in these years, in Mendoza, they did actually use a higher percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend, rather than just the usual splash of Malbec, and or a little Merlot, Syrah. (I made a graph below for those that like this sort of thing)
At the end of the evening I chatted with the main man and suggested, for my palate anyway, that if he were to reduce the Malbec, the national grape?, content and increase the Cabernet Sauvignon in these good years that the wine comes across as a lot more classy. He raised an eyebrow, and said that he would consider it. Watch this space buggas!! The final point, which for me makes this wine an all round winner in many respects, even though I still don’t get on with Tempranillo, is that the wine is always bottled ‘Unfiltered’.
I like it!