Nature and Men combine their efforts to produce outstanding wine
LTU Wines is a amalgamation of the first letter of six last names, all principals in the boutique winery called LTU. Tomas Larrain, Julio Lasmartres, Mario Toso, Ricardo Toso, Alfonso Undurraga and Cristobal Undurraga have combined the families’ over 500 years of winemaking experience to produce wines that are exceptional in nature that reflect their extraordinary vineyard in the La Consulta growing area of Argentina’s Uco Valley.
When considering the origins of this remarkable winery, the pedigrees of the six owners speak for themselves. Tomas Larrain is a third generation viticulturist who was part of vineyard life before he could walk. Following in the footsteps of his father who was considered a wine visionary in Argentina, Larrain is a close friend of the other principals in LTU Wines. Juilo Lesmatres’ mother owned the successful winery Neito, which was one of the first Argentine wines exported to the United States decades ago. Mario and Ricardo Toso are descendants of legendary Don Pascual Toso, Argentina’s most prominent wine figure more than a century ago.
Alfonso and Cristobal Undurraga are from Chile’s first family of wine who were the pioneers of the Chilean wine industry. Vina Undurraga was the first Chilean wine exported to the United States in 1903. The six friends got together to produce the finest bottles of Malbec, Argentina’s premiere varietal.
LTU wines are not produced every year, but only when the group feels that “Nature and Men combine their efforts to produce outstanding wine. “
Argentina sees rapid growth and modernization
Even though Argentina can trace its wine history back more than five centuries to Spanish Jesuits, it is only recently that the country’s wines have risen in statue to compete at the international level.
The reason for this is a single grape varietal - the much chastised Bordeaux grape called the Malbec. Malbec is susceptible to many plant ailments and that fact has diminished the vine's popularity.
Truth is, Malbec in Bordeaux is mostly used as a blender to achieve color or fruit density. Standing on its own, the wine has never achieved a large following except in the area around Cahors in France.
But in the middle of the 19th century, French agronomist Miguel Aime Pouget brought the first cuttings to the South American country and the rest is history.
For some reason, Malbec absolutely thrives in Argentina, and particularly in the Mendoza grape growing region. The grapes there produce intense wines with plum and berry-like flavors with a velvety finish. The Malbec has found particular attainment in the United States where American palates have discovered a pleasing varietal friend in the Bordeaux grape.
Perhaps the key to Malbec’s success is the fact that most Argentine plantings are at high altitudes and the vines seem resistant to many of the impediments of its French cousin. It is also less tannic and smoother to one’s palate.
A number of international wine entities have taken a position and purchased land in the Mendoza region and the number is steadily growing. French, Italian, Chilean and American wineries are taking advantage of the huge explosion of interest in Malbec.
Today, Argentina is the world’s fifth largest producer of wine, most of which is consumed within the country itself. But exports have risen sharply in the past decade with a decided percentage of high end varietals leading the way.
Enotourism is also up in Argentina, whose cuisine is well suited to its wines. Many wineries offer wine dinners that provide comparisons of different wines with diverse foods.
Argentina also benefits from the fact it enjoys a growing season directly opposite from Europe and the United States. Bud break occurs in October and the harvest generally begins in February, a time when competing vineyards elsewhere are completely dormant. This advantage translates into a retail advantage when annual varietals are first introduced.
The future of the Argentine wine industry is extremely bright. Growers have reduced yields to respectable levels and better wines have resulted. The fact that Argentine vines have never felt the power of the phylloxera pest is unique in the grape-growing world. Most Argentine vineyards are planted on ungrafted rootstock, a factor that impedes potential phylloxera infiltration. Also, the high proportion of sand in the soil and the relative isolation of Argentina are also cited as possible reasons for the country’s resistance to the pest.
There are more than 1,250 wineries operating in Argentina, a number of which are small, boutique-style operations that produce extremely high quality wines. The six largest wineries account for 70% of the market, and about 84% of the wine sold in Argentina is red.
Wine Regions of Argentina
Known as the land of contrasts, Argentina offers one of the most diverse groups of wine growing regions in the world. From the high summits of the Andes, to the broad valleys and sloping plaints, from the lush forests and absolutely arid deserts, to the glaciers and waterfalls, Argentina is home to any landscape you can imagine - and thus, a multitude of wine growing possibilities.
This wealth of natural ecosystems, paired with the unusually high average altitude, and wide range of temperatures, give Argentine wines their unique identity and quality. The most popular wine growing region is Mendoza, from which this month's International Series wines were produced.
The Flag of Argentina
The history of Argentina's flag dates back to 1812 when it was designed by revolutionary military leader Manual Belgrano. The white middle band is said to represent silver (the country was named Argentina after the Latin word 'Argentum,' meaning silver, thinking the region contained vast amounts of the metal). The blue bands represent the sky, the waters of Argentina's Rio de la Plata, or the blue used by the Spanish royal house of Bourbon on their coat of arms. In the center of the flag is a national emblem, a sun symbol named 'el sol de mayo' (the sun of May), after Argentina's May revolution that lead to the nation's independence from Spain. The symbol also pays homage to the Incan Sun God Inti, as the ancient Incas worshipped the sun and its life giving power.
Cristobal Undurraga - Winemaker
A fifth generation winemaker from Chile’s first family of wine professionals, Cristobal 'Toti' Undurraga is a graduate of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. His degree is in Agricultural Engineering and Enology. He has worldwide experience including stints at Châteaux Margaux in France, Rosemont Estates in Australia and Franciscan Estates in Napa Valley.
Since all the principals in LTU are noted winemakers, it is significant that Cristobal Undurraga was chosen to be winemaker. Toti’s focus has always been on high quality, terroir-oriented wines. His distinctive style can be defined as one that looks for elegance, freshness and balance. He presently lives in his native Chile at his biodynamic estate in Alto Colchagua that is called Los Lingues Estate.