Top-quality wines in the world-famous Mendoza wine-growing region
Bodegas Mendel is a relatively new Argentine winery that was founded in 2003 by architect Anabelle Sielecki and winemaker Roberto de la Mota. It consists of an original 15 acres that date back to 1926 along with some newly acquired properties (that the company leases) in different sections of Mendoza.
The partnership formed by Sielecki and de la Mota has proven to be incredibly successful. The pair chose the best blocks from their original (ancient) vineyards and has blended them with equally successful blocks from their newer vineyard acquisitions.
For the record, Mendel is the first name of Anabelle Sielecki’s father. He came to Argentina and became successful in a number of different businesses. Mendel Sielecki loved the finer things in life and was a devotee of fine wines. Anabelle has honored her father by seeking perfection in her and Roberto de la Mota’s wines.
Roberto de la Mota’s reputation is simply that he consistently makes wines of classic structure, elegance and finesse, unlike the hulking, over-plush, over-oaked wines that some modern Argentine producers have popularized.
Roberto de la Mota - Winemaker
Son of legendary Argentine winemaker Raul de la Mota, Roberto has been making wines for almost four decades. De la Mota graduated from the School Technico Agraria Michel Pouget in Mendoza in 1979 with a Bachelor of Agricultural Technical and Oenologist degree. He apprenticed under his father at Bodegas Weinert and also worked for the legendary French enologist Emile Peynaud in Bordeaux. He was also winemaker for the prestigious Bodegas Chandon and headed their joint venture with Chateau Cheval Blanc that was called Cheval de los Andes. The project began more than a decade ago and was met with great critical acclaim and success.
Now 54, de la Mota is partially paralyzed from a car accident, but shows no signs of slowing down. He is well known for introducing the Mendel Semillon, the only serious Semillon produced in Argentina.
Argentina’s highly successful grape growing region is centered on the City of Mendoza, in the country’s north-central section. It’s location in the eastern foothills of the great Andes Mountains provides Mendoza with almost ideal growing conditions and makes the country one of South America’s leading wine producers, along with neighboring Chile.
Nearly two thirds of Argentina’s wines are produced here in addition to a larger percentage of the country’s highest quality wines. Elevations for the vineyards are from 2,800 feet up to 5,000 feet, and are among the highest in the wine producing world. Soil composition throughout the entire region is mostly alluvial in nature, composed of loose sand over clay. A number of mountain rivers, fueled by glacial runoff in the Andes, provide excellent water for the vineyards that are also supplied by thousands of boreholes scattered throughout the region. Mendoza has several sub-regions, including the Lujan de Cuyo Region (the region’s first appellation, so honored in 1993), that is highly esteemed for its plantings of Argentina’s most successful red grape, the Malbec.
History of Argentine Wines
Like many wine producing countries, Argentina can trace its wines back many centuries. The first plantings were recorded around 1550, when Spanish colonizers rooted the first vitis vinifera vines in the country. Aided by the favorable weather conditions of the Andes Mountains, the vines quickly spread to a number of areas throughout the country. An influx of European immigrants during the 19th Century brought new winemaking techniques and additional grape varietals to the existing vineyards.
By the start of the 20th Century, more than 500,000 acres were planted, mostly for local consumption. Large production plants were located in key areas that provided crucial consumption areas with a plentiful supply of Argentine wine. Introduction of soft drinks and beer into the country caused the local wine consumption market to collapse in the 1970’s. By the early 1990’s, a new era for the Argentine wine industry was formalized. Small quantities of high caliber wines were produced, with an eye toward export and the high end of local consumption.
As in many other countries, this format has proven to be an enormous success. Smallish, boutique-like wineries have won their place in international competitions with quality wines that accurately reflect the terroir of their individual locations. Argentina has quickly become the largest exporter of wine in South America, and its southern hemisphere location’s growing season (October through February) gives it a head start on European and American growing competitors. It is also a country devoid of the feared phylloxera, the pest that has devastated the vineyards of both Europe and the United States.
The turn of this century found more than 1,500 wineries in Argentina, with many of these in the smaller, boutique categories. More care in farming (reducing the yield for higher quality) procedures and strict attention to modern winemaking techniques have made Argentina a main player on the international wine scene.
Even though there was a major influx of foreign investment (particularly from France and the United States), a high number of these new wineries are owned by Argentine citizens. This is an important factor and ensures that additional wineries will be forthcoming based on the success of locally owned wineries and vineyards.
Part of this accumulated success should be given to the international acceptance of the Malbec grape that has reached its zenith in Argentina. Nowhere else on the planet does this Bordeaux varietal thrive as it does in Argentina, and its scores and accolades have continued to mount with each passing vintage.
Argentine wineries have been smart to recognize this and additional plantings of Malbec will assure of a continued supply of top quality fruit in the future. To say that the future looks rosy (red) for Argentine wines is somewhat ludicrous, for the future for this beautiful part of the world in now. Argentina’s wines will continue to grow in quality and popularity as more and more of these small wineries test the international market.
This International Series selection is happy to introduce some of these fine Argentine wines for your consideration. We trust your palate will enjoy them as much as we enjoy the chance to show you some new, truly formidable wines.