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Discovering Small-Production Argentine Gems Through Vida Wines

By January 11, 2019 No Comments

In 2017, purchases of Argentine wines in the United States totaled $322.3 million, making Argentina the sixth largest exporter of wine in America. Yet despite this significant number, it’s surprisingly difficult to find small-production Argentine wines at wine retailers and restaurants across the country.

Vida Wines

Set out to change that reality is Vida Wines, a new importer of high-quality, small-production Argentine wines rarely before seen in the United States. Founder & CEO Kendra Ferraro, created Vida Wines with the mission of bringing exciting wines to consumers searching for unique wines with compelling stories.

When chatting with Kendra about her efforts to establish Vida Wines, her passion for the wines she represents and commitment to the winemakers who produce them was obvious. Alongside her team of expert sommeliers, Kendra traveled throughout Argentina developing relationships with winemakers and blind-tasting thousands of wines from around the country only to select eight winemakers for the initial Vida Wines portfolio. While small in size, the Vida Wine portfolio is a dynamic and exciting representation of the diversity and innovation of today’s Argentine wine scene.

All winemakers in the Vida Wines portfolio leverage sustainable winemaking practices and focus on producing terroir-driven wines from a wide range of varietals including Bonarda, Pedro Ximenez, Chardonnay, Malbec and more. Many of the wineries are family-owned and 50% are women-run. I recently had the opportunity to not only taste a few wines from the portfolio but also interview two of the talented female winemakers who produced them.  After learning about their stories and tastings their wines, it became clear why Kendra is so passionate about these winemakers and their wines. These hidden gems deliver great value, compelling stories and are a refreshing alternative to the mass-produced Argentine options available in the US market today. Read more about them below, try the wines for yourself and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Know your winemaker, know your wine

Mercedes Díaz, Winemaker at Bodega Caelum

After several years of selling their grapes to nearby wineries, Mercedes Díaz, alongside her daughter Coti, son Hernán and lead enologist Giuseppe Franceschini, created Bodega Caelum in 2009. 

The name Caelum comes from the small constellation that can be seen from the southern hemisphere. It represents a chisel, the sculptor’s tool. As the chisel is to a sculptor, the hands are to the winemakers.

They produce 100% estate-grown wines in Mendoza and pride themselves in their attention to each and every detail in the vineyard and winery. They produce 70,000 bottles annually from an impressive array of international varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, and Pinot Noir. They also produce a red blend made up of 50% Montepulciano, 25% Cab Sauv, 15% Malbec, 10% Petit Syrah and the only Fiano in Mendoza.

They aim to produce terroir-driven wines that are refreshing, complex and balanced.

TVP Recommendations

Caelum Chardonnay 2018– This clean and crisp Chardonnay displays bright citrus, green, and tropical fruit aromas with a touch of minerality from its clay, limestone and rock soil. No oak was used in an effort to preserve its primary fruit aromas and flavors. On the palate this wine is, dry, light bodied with well-balanced acidity. All grapes were hand harvested. Only 4,000 bottles produced. Overall, a very good wine that will please fans of unoaked chardonnay or anyone simply looking for a refreshing easy-drinking white.

 

Caelum Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014–Aged 12 months in French oak, this Cabernet is deep ruby in color and displays ripe red fruit and herbaceous aromas with just a touch of oak. On the palate is well structured and a has a finish that keeps on giving. Next time you’re having a steak, pass on the Argentinian Malbec and give this wine a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Mariana Onofri, Winemaker at Onofri Wines

Mariana Onofri’s Alma Gemela, line which means soulmate in Spanish, was romantically selected to honor her life partner and husband, Adán. Together, they passionately believe in “the revival of the grape will lead to the revival of the region”.

In their portfolio they play with classic yet lesser known Argentinian varietals like Bonarda and Pedro Ximenez as well other varietals that are newer to Mendoza such as Teroldego, Carignan, Mourvedre, Marsanne and Roussanne. 

They follow organic winegrowing practices in the vineyards and focus on producing low alcohol, fresh, lighter skin contact, sincere, and easy drinking wines. They let the grapes speak for themselves, taking a minimal interventionalist approach in the winery and never using oak or over extracting. All grapes are meticulously hand harvested from their family’s vineyards in Lavalle, a region historically known for its bulk wine grape production. However, through sound vineyard management and strong attention to detail at every step of the winegrowing process, Mariana’s wines are proof that high-quality grapes and terroir driven wines can be produced in Lavalle. 

TVP Recommendations

Alma Gemela Pedro Ximenez 2018– If you’re wondering “who’s Pedro?” Pedro Ximenez is actually the name of a Spanish white grape responsible for some of the world’s sweetest fortified wines. This particular Argentine expression is dry and showcases the grapes citrus and herbal primary aromas and flavors of lemon, grapefruit orange peel and eucalyptus. Feeling adventurous or simply looking for a great value white wine? This wine is a winner.   

 

 

Alma Gemela Bonarda 2018 – Bonarda (aka Charbono or Douce Noir) is a widely planted black grape variety in Argentina. This expression opens with aromas of tart cherry and black tea followed by more subtle hints of floral and herbal aromas. On the palate its medium in body and acidity with well-integrated tannins. Coming in at a cool 12.8% alcohol content, this delicious wine is super approachable and gulpable.

 

Vida Wines are currently available Direct-to-Consumer on vida-wines.com and in fine restaurants, bars, and retail stores throughout New York and California.