Sunday
March 26, 2017

Wining on

Monday, March 20, 2017

Harvest 2017 with Matías Riccitelli Wines

By Sorrel Moseley-Williams
For The Herald
MENDOZA —­ When Matías Riccitelli took on a half-built winery in Las Compuertas in 2013, he literally had to put the roof on it. But, he says, he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Born in Cafayate, Salta, winemaking DNA runs through his veins (dad Jorge is head oenology honcho at Bodega Norton) and Matías himself has a prestigious CV. In charge of affairs at Fabre Montmayou for 10 years from the tender age of 22, in 2009 he started his own eponymous side project; hard work and determination meant he was able to turn it into a bricks-and-mortar operation four years later.
Matías says: “By 2012 I had enough volume going to set up a winery project and heard about an unfinished bodega. So, I rented the space, completed construction and to be honest, even if I’d started it from scratch myself, it would look exactly like this.”
Located along dusty Callejón De La Reta — which is becoming a bit of a trendy winery street given that it’s also home to vineyards belonging to Cheval des Andes, Alta Vista and Manos Negras among others — Las Compuertas is a traditional district within Luján de Cuyo with a little more elevation (a little under 1,100 metres above sea level) than other corners of Malbec heartland. Naturally, there’s a view of the Andes to enjoy from the winery’s elevated tasting deck.
While the structure itself is relatively simple, the lofty, airy space houses an array of cool winemaking tools of the trade from underground concrete pools to stainless steel tanks, open-top fermentation tanks, French oak barrels that come in a variety of sizes as well as concrete eggs.
“It’s like a supermarket,” Matías jokes, “there’s a bit of everything here.”
A young oenologist, up to his knees in Pinot Noir grapes, rhythmically stomps away inside a 1,000-litre wooden cubita (barrel) to a blaring soundtrack reverberating round the winery.
And if you’re familiar with some of Matías’ lines — such as Hey! Malbec that sports a wino superhero on the label and Riccitelli & Father, a Malbec-Cabernet Franc collaboration made with Jorge — this set-up is exactly how you’d imagine it to be: bright, buzzing, fun, dynamic. What goes on in the winery honestly translates to the bottle.
With 20 hectares of almost century-old vines under management (which he rents) and buying in from producers in Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley, 12 days ago Matías had just about wrapped up 2017’s white vintage.
“We only have the higher-altitude white vineyards to harvest, but 85 percent of the whites are picked; all the rosé has been done and the quality is incredible. A frost early on in the vintage didn’t help us so there’s low quantities of Chardonnay and Malbec. But, we’ve started everything a bit earlier and it’s going to be a very good quality vintage,” he says.
And, as a leader of Argentine winemaking innovation, naturally 2017 will bring about some new goodies. Matías says: “I’m waiting for some amphorae to arrive from Italy and the idea is to make some fun reds in them. I’m going to try something I’ve been thinking about for a while, wine that doesn’t receive any intervention.
“Then, in May I’ll release Blanco de la Casa and Tinto de la Casa. The white blend is 40 percent Sémillon, 40 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 20 percent Chardonnay.” And it’s a cracking number, offering up the former’s structure, freshness and acidity from the Loire Valley’s favourite white and fruit from the latter.
As for the Tinto, it’s a geographical blend, co-fermenting Malbec from Las Compuertas and Gualtallary in Uco Valley in larger barrels then aged in the same vessel for 12 months. Serious wine with a jovial face.
Looking out over the long-productive vines, a blue shipping container is curiously out of place on the verdant lawn. Matías obviously has another cool plan up his sleeve for 2017: “The aim is to open a restaurant in it in spring,” he smiles.                                     w

Blanco de la Casa 2016 and Tinto de la Casa 2016, on sale from May.
Reservations required for wine tasting at Matías Riccitelli Wines via www.matiasriccitelli.com
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