Winemaking in the Uco Valley is not for the faint of heart. Mountains soar up to 4,800 feet in altitude, and the rugged terrain challenges you with every step. But it is this extreme terroir that creates Zuccardi’s complex and layered wines.
Setting His Sights—and Sites—High
After studying winemaking in both hemispheres, third-generation winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi brought his knowledge back to the family estate in the Uco Valley, located within the Mendoza region of Argentina. His global travels reinforced his notion that their vineyards were some of the most dynamic in the world, and there was much more potential to unlock. Upon his return, he created the Research and Development Team, which conducted the most comprehensive studies ever done of the Uco Valley terroir. Satellite imagery, electromagnetic conductivity, and manual soil digs all led to the creation of six singular estate vineyards. Together, they form a constellation of breathtaking sites.
Extreme Terroir Unlocking the Secrets of the Terroir
The Uco Valley is considered the uppermost limit for viticulture in all of Mendoza, and the team’s research revealed how exactly this impacts grape growing. Temperatures at the various high altitudes are very cool, but the interplay with consistent sun exposure ensures grapes develop full physiological ripeness. The slow maturation builds exquisite complexity and once the sun sets, large diurnal shifts help retain the natural acidity in the fruit.
From the studies, detailed information about the nuanced soils came to light. Understanding the diversity played a key role in establishing vineyards, as well as selecting the varieties to cultivate in each site. Deposits from either the Tunuyán or Las Tunas River create the heterogeneous alluvial soils of Zuccardi’s vineyards. In the Piedra Infinita vineyard alone, for example, 12 different soil types can be identified. All vineyards contain abundant levels of calcium carbonate, the main component in limestone soils. It creates fruit with good acidity levels and imparts freshness to all of the wines. Sandy topsoils cover several vineyards, while large stones might rest in the subsoils. Both allow for excellent drainage. Walking mere feet might yield parcels of gravel and caliche. The complex makeup of each vineyard allows Zuccardi to push the boundaries of creativity with their winemaking.
Majestic Mountain Wines Utilizing the Research in the Cellar
Not only do these findings drive many of the viticultural decisions, they also carry into the cellar and aid the winemaking team in selecting the best techniques to showcase the varieties and the terroir.
The vineyard for the Fósil Chardonnay, located in San Pablo, sits at 4,590 feet in altitude and less than a thousand feet from the beginning of the Andes mountains. The extreme altitude, wind, and calcareous soils contribute to a distinctive mountain Chardonnay with lively acidity and structure. Seventy percent of the wine is aged in concrete vessels and the rest in oak barrels. The nose is redolent of spiced apple and butterscotch, while the palate is juicy and luscious with peaches and baked apple flavors.
Zuccardi Paraje Altamira Concreto Malbec highlights Paraje Altamira’s calcareous soils. Grapes from select parcels are fermented whole cluster, both as a nod to traditional winemaking techniques and to bring out the texture imparted by the terroir. By using concrete for the vinification and aging vessels, Zuccardi ensures no oak mars the perfect aromatic and flavor expressions of the terroir. Red fruits and herbal tones sing harmoniously with the laser beam of minerality that emanates from the core of this wine.
The José Zuccardi Malbec honors Sebastian’s father and the innovative spirit of the estate. What started as a blend of Malbec and Tempranillo—created by José—evolved and the Malbec is instead now kissed with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit comes from Paraje Altamira (3,608 ft in elevation) and Gualtallary (4,035 ft). Calcium carbonate in the soils yields fruit with bright acidity and an elegant minerality. After being fermented with native yeasts, the wine ages in oak foudres, and is bottled unfiltered. Fine and ripe tannins give structure to this elegant wine.
To learn more about Zuccardi’s extreme vineyards and mountain wines, click here.