Decanter wine awards 2020 Best in Show
Country: Argentina Region: Salta Vintage: 2018
Category: Red Wine Color: Red
Producer: Bodega Colomé
"Bodega Colomé was established in 1831 and is not only the oldest working winery in Argentina, but also the owner of the world's highest vineyard. Perhaps because of this great tradition, which is allied to the dynamism it displays today, Colomé was chosen by Tim Atkin as one of his 'First Growths' in the classification of Argentinian wineries he made for his 2016 Argentina Report.
The winery is located in the far north of Argentina in the Upper Calchaquí Valley and is thought to have been founded by the Spanish Governor of Salta, Nicolás Severo de Isasmendi y Echalar. In 1854, his daughter Ascensión, who was married to José Benjamín Dávalos, brought the first French pre-phylloxera Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon vines to Colomé. The three vineyards (with an area of four hectares each) were planted in the same year - the fruit from which is still used to make wines.
There are currently 140 hectares planted at altitudes of between 2,300 and 3,111 metres above sea level. The grapes are sourced from four vineyards: 'La Brava' (at 1,750 metres) in Cafayate, 'Colomé' (2,300 metres) surrounding the winery, 'El Arenal' (2,600 metres) and 'Altura Máxima' (3,111 metres). Both 'El Arenal' and 'Altura Máxima' are located in the Payogasta area. Grapes grown at high altitudes have thicker skins, in order to protect them from the intense ultraviolet rays. As a result, the wines have more colour, aroma, flavours and antioxidants from the increased phenolics. The altitude also contributes to a wide diurnal temperature range of more than 20°C. The warmth of the day ripens the grapes and the coolness of the night preserves acidity and fragrance.
Torrontés is the signature white variety of Argentina and is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission grape of Galicia. It thrives in Salta, where the climate is cooler. Colomé's Torrontés is grown using the pergola system at very low yields to ensure good concentration of aromas and flavours. Colomé Estate Malbec is hand harvested into small 12 kg boxes. Half of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation in French barrels and 100% of the wines are aged for 15 months in oak, both new and second use. Colomé's 'Auténtico' - a pure expression of Malbec - is sourced from their 90 year old vineyards at 2,300 metres above sea level. Fruit for the 'Altura Maxima' Malbec is sourced from a single vineyard of the same name which lies at 3000 metres above sea level and is widely considered to be the highest vineyard in the world. This powerfully aromatic and intense wine was recognised by Tim Atkin as the top Malbec coming out of the country."
Winemaker: Thibaut Delmotte
The high altitude of the Calchaqui Valley has a positive impact on the quality of the grapes as the more exposed the grapes are to the sun's ultraviolet rays, the better they are able to generate a thicker and darker skin to protect themselves. This leads to more colour and concentration of flavour building up in the grapes. The climate here is dry with very little rainfall, on average around 120mm per year. A large difference (20°C) between day and night aids the retention of natural acidity within the grapes. Soils are sandy with layers of gravel which aid drainage. The vineyards are all farmed biodynamically. Fruit for the Estate Malbec comes from vineyards at three different altitudes; La Brava Estate at 1,700 metres, Colomé Estate at 2,300 and El Arenal Estate at 2,600 metres.
Upon arrival at the winery, the grapes were hand sorted twice to ensure no green material or imperfect fruit entered the must. Fermentation was slow due to the altitude (lower oxygen) and followed by an extended maceration period of 25-30 days to extract good levels of colour and tannin. Malolactic fermentation occurred half in barrel and half in stainless steel tank. The wine aged for 15 months in French oak barrels of which 20% was new, 80% second fill.
Tasting Notes: Few wines caused more of a stir amongst our judges this year than this Tannat from the extreme high-altitude vineyards of Argentina's Salta. It wasn't the fact that it was an impenetrable midnight black in colour, nor was it the fact that the wine needs plenty of air and agitation to wake up its aromatic profile: both are common features of Tannat the world over. The real surprise was the drama and purity of its fruits, drenching the tongue and lifting aromatically in the mouth: this was a Tannat of ravishing chic and elegance, and a far cry from the sometimes burly and clumsy flavour presence Tannat shows elsewhere. No fan of Argentina's remarkable red wines should miss this." 98 pts Platinum Best in Show Decanter World Wine Awards 2020.