Since 1999, Karim Mussi has been crafting sublime wines in the La Consulta region of the Uco Valley in Argentina. Mussi believes in terroir and seeks to bring out the the distinct nature of the vineyard and it’s original old-vine rootstocks in his finished wines. He has adhered to sustainable farming methods since the winery’s inception, takes a minimalist approach in the cellar and utilizes indigenous yeasts, in 100 year-old concrete vats, during fermentation. Altocedro’s work helped establish the La Consulta region, which was awarded one of the few Argentinean “Geographic Indication” Appellations in 2019. La Consulta vineyards sit as high as 1700m, allowing for plenty of sunlight, limited rainfall (particularly during the growing season) and huge diurnal temperature drops in the evenings to maintain acidity. The wines deliver purity of fruit, varietal character, balancing acidity and, in the case of the reds, silky, but apparent tannic structure. There is a touch of saline minerality on the finish to these that is the hallmark of high-altitude wines.
With its near-dessert conditions, extreme elevation and wide diurnal shift, grape vines have proven to thrive in various regions of Argentina. With plantings dating back to the 1920s, the fruit from Uco Valley was originally used to add colour and acidity to the wines of warmer areas until winemakers in the 1990s saw larger potential for the region. Today, Uco Valley is producing some of the most influential wines of Argentina. The valley, which runs north to south, is 70 KM long and 40 KM at its widest in the south. It is capped by desert conditions, with cold winds blowing in from Patagonia. At its north end, hills reach 1400 metres+. To the east, the region runs into a series of gorges and dry riverbeds.
In terms of soil types, Uco Valley is more varied than many other Argentine wine regions. In the South, you will find sand and sandy loam while the northern portion of the valley is made up of more alluvial with outcrops of limestone. Campo de Los Andes, Alto Vista Flores and Los Arboles—the three vineyards from where this Malbec is sourced—range between 900-1200 metres above sea level with an average annual temperature of 14°C (57°F).
This thick-skinned, full-bodied grape has made its home in the foothills of the Andes. Owning more than 75% of the world’s planted Malbec, Argentina is known for having reinvigorated the variety, which has been returned to the list of the top 18 noble grapes. Originally from the South-West of France, Malbec was primarily used as a blending grape in Bordeaux, with most of its vines planted in the region of Cahors. Malbec found its way to Mendoza in 1868, after a French botanist planted it by order of the mayor.
The Alandes project represents a “laissez-faire’ philosophy of winemaking. After hand harvesting, the wine is transported to the old winery where it is fermented in small concrete vats with indigenous yeasts. 70% of the wine is aged in small French barrels for 10 months.
This full-bodied Malbec is wise beyond its years. Full of dried berries, cocoa, leather and gravel, the fruit is beautifully integrated, dancing between bright acidity and soft, supple tannins.