The Star that became a LEGEND!

The Star “Estrella” that became a LEGEND! or was it, The Legend that became a $TAR!

The year 1977 and the harvest marked the first vintage for Bodega Weinert in Mendoza under the stewardship of Bernardo C. Weinert. Thanks to last week’s La Nation newspaper article in Buenos Aires we have been reminded of something of a local vinous legend.

The 1977 Malbec Estrella, was vinified by Don Raúl de la Motta. The other wine, the blend, or what is known as Gran Vino 1977 was blended from three HUGE FOUDRES full of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon by a Swiss winemaker (and clock-mender) called Jean Crettenand along with the helping hand of de la Motta. They never kept records of what the Cuvee was, but when they tasted the final blend along with the straight Malbec both Crettenand and De La Motta, agreed that ‘This wine will be a star’.

They kept the 1977 Malbec Estrella in these barrels for 19 years and when it finally went onto the market it changed the view of many international wine critics (and Argentine ones of course) on what is today the flagship Argy variety, Malbec!

There are many great Argentine wines made today from Malbec, but none have the aura of living legend that “Estrella 77″ has. The wine was made 55 years ago by Brazilian businessman, Weinert, in love with Argentine wine and bearing the signature of one of the most important winemakers in Argentine viticulture, and only 250 bottles remain in the cellar, this was back in 2015, which are now sold at up to $2,000 (Ds) a bottle, on today’s fine wine market.

Collectors, for their part, treasure these bottles of Weinert Malbec Estrella 1977 in their cellars, and from time to time one of them is released when one of its owners dies or is forced to part with the Estrella as someone who sells a family gem. But, what is special about this iconic wine that went on sale in 1996 with no less than 19 years of aging in barrels?

‘The Estrella 77 was the first Argentine wine with the Malbec variety on the label and with years of evolution known to the world’ says Pablo Rivero, sommelier and owner of the Don Julio restaurant, whose cellar contains 3 bottles of the wine. ‘Until it’s appearance, we did not believe that an Argentine Malbec could evolve so well, and the Estrella 77 generated the first sign that showed that it was possible, helping to establish Malbec as an Argentine flagship wine’

Today, no one doubts the potential that Malbec has to give rise (or is that taking the rise?) to wines with great aging potential. However, this good reputation is something recent: just a few decades ago Malbec was considered a minor strain, useful for giving color and fruit to red blends, but not much else. Until then, the noble local red was Cabernet Sauvignon.

“It is the wine that helped us show sommeliers, tasters and experts? from around the world that Argentine Malbec could also be a long-aging wine”

But if back in 1977 no one trusted Malbec, so what on earth led to the creation of Estrella 77?

Who tells us the story is Iduna Weinert, the lovely daughter of Bernardo C. Weinert, the founder. Her father was a Brazilian businessman in the transportation sector who frequently visited Mendoza, and on those visits he fell in love with Argentine wine and, in particular, with a monumental neoclassical building located in Carrodilla, Luján de Cuyo, where he decided to base his winery.

“In the mid 1970s, my father came into contact with Don Raúl de la Mota, a winemaker closely linked to a traditional French school of winemaking, and they decided to jointly carry out the project of producing wines with a very Argentine identity, but capable of competing with the great wines of the world”, says Iduna, who days ago reviewed the history of this wine in a tasting held at a Palermo wine cellar in which the Estrella 77 was tasted.

“Don Raúl was a great defender of the Malbec grape, which at that time was not considered a noble grape,” she adds.

An exceptional vintage!
The 1977 vintage was exceptional, recalled Iduna, both in quality and volume. It was the first of the winery to open a reconstructed building equipped with the highest technology of the time, and with a key element that would make the identity of the wines, and especially that of Estrella 77. “My father had bought a collection of 233 barrels to wineries such as Giol and El Globo. At that time, large barrels were used a lot for aging wine, not [smaller] barrels as became common later.”

“The Estrella 77 was made with grapes from Luján de Cuyo, from an old Malbec vineyard that was in Chacras de Coria and that no longer exists today,” recalls Roberto de la Mota (son), now the winemaker at Mendel Wines, who was 17 years old at the time and often visited his father in the winery. “The result was very good, because my father had selected the grape very well and produced it very precisely, with aging in barrels of 2,500 and 6,000 liters. My dad especially loved the 6,000 litre ones, because there the wine reached a very good balance.”

I have been lucky enough to try the wine on several occasions and somewhat like other 1980s & 1990s wine from the region, they simply and magically just live on. Old Claret style.

Two of my scribbled down tasting notes (twice over the last 15yrs) for 1977 Melbec “Estrella” Bodega y Cavas de Weinert

1) This is a very fine wine, fully mature, sweet, savoury, plummy spiceness, medium to full body, dark garnet color and still with good length.
2) I was expecting something mediocre, but on inspection the dark ruby with amber at the edge followed by flavourfullness of hints of blackcurrant, oaky spiciness, supple and with good length. Fully mature, but just seems to go on, and on.

The latter was at a dinner in the cellars of Don Julio (2016) and the former at an older Argy-wine tasting (2013) in Buenos Aires.

Prices & availability from our bonded cellars:

1977 Gran Vino Bodega y Cavas de Weinert @ GBP875bt (2 bottles avail)
1977 Malbec “Estrella” Bodega y Cavas de Weinert @ GBP875bt (2 bottles avail)
1977 Malbec Bodega y Cavas de Weinert @ GBP750bt (3 bottles avail)

Offered per bottle Under Bond ex LCB VT, subject to remaining unsold.

Link to the original May 2022 article in LA NACION (: en zee Spaneesh)