Thursday, 17 March 2011
Out to Hervé and Diane Fabre's vineyard in the hills. Looks classic Bordeaux (not surprising; that's where they came from) very neat vine rows with roses at the end.
One small but critical difference; the irrigation channels cut in the earth. No irrigation - no vineyard. In fact, no Mendoza at all. This is a high altitude desert. Only the four rivers that flow down from the Andes here, allow Mendoza to exist.
Hervé was the first outsider to spot the potential for quality in the mass of very ordinary wines that were all Argentina made for its thirsty home market. It did not export.
He, being Bordelais, recognised the Malbec and thought he could do great things, so bought an old vineyard. They said he was mad. (Normal; only mad people do great things in wine). Right now he seems to win all the awards. It’s nice to chat in French.
Diane has set up a chef friend to cook a typical Asado - barbecue - for Kit and Co to film. They give me an apron and a knife. I immediately cut my finger so that's that idea ruined.
Immaculate barrel hall - Grand Cru style - immaculate tasting.
As we eat our final meat feast (don't want to see another thick, juicy steak for a least a month, I just crave beans on toast) we are serenaded Argentine style. Songs of the grape harvesters.
The evening event - the final event; José Alberto Zuccardi - the most dynamic and innovative wine producer of all in Mendoza - and maybe anywhere - drives us out to his winery talking passionately all the way. His car must have autopilot.
He and Sebastien, his eldest, run an immaculate operation that is working round the clock bringing in harvest. They have four separate cellars here: roughly Good, Better, Best and Wildly Experimental. I really liked the last one. We have to send JMS and Henry here; so many clever ideas!
They have 37 new grape varieties planted here, being micro-vinified and assessed. They are not betting their future on Malbec alone. They also have a cracking restaurant (makes them the most-visited winery of all). Again, super-creative chefs finding out what they can do with plants from the desert and mountains. Very 'Eco'.
And so considerate not to give us more steak!
We are joined for dinner by our Patagonian winemakers; Schroeder (a 600k drive) and a few others. Our Thomas has A LOT of friends here! And with them has made Argentina a huge success for us.
Merry, noisy evening. Our last here, sadly.
Now it’s the airport and back to Santiago, (then us to London, Tom to Sydney). We'd rather drive but time has run out for us.
It’s just Kit and Co taking their minibus over and doing some more filming. Doyle, Gareth and Kit have been very good. So young, but so professional. Always telling me I am performing well. Proof of that is in the films. Judge for yourself here.
The Amazing Anne was last to leave the party – she was showing no signs of flagging as we left. At one a.m. But I know she left our hotel at 4 a.m. And is now in Buenos Aires.
The Laithwaites couldn't do any of these trips without Anne; plans them, sets up everything with the producers, does PR, solves crises, points the film crew at the right things, and is my memory - my portable hard-drive. Onetime Head Buyer, Anne is now the guardian of our long Company Story … which is important to us.
But it always worries me she never sleeps.
Goodbye and thanks Argentina, I'll be back asap. Meantime I'll drink a lot more of your lovely wines.
Posted by Tony Laithwaite at 4:19:00 pm