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Alberto Antonini, flying winemaker

“Less Malbec and more Argentina should be sold”

July 3, 2012 by Laura Saieg | in News, Opinions

The renowned international winemaker is in Mendoza tasting the wines that will be soon launched into the market and also the 2012 red wines in the tanks. The terroir defender points out that it is time that Argentina sold terroir instead of a commodity.

Alberto Antonini is in Mendoza where he is tasting wines of the wineries he assesses. During a tasting at Trivento winery, WineSur talked to the wine consultant about the quality and features of the soon-to-be-released wines.

Currently, this “flying winemaker” assesses wineries from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Bolivia. From the first day he landed, he put his shoulder to the wheel and started with the first company. “At Trivento, we are working, together with the winemakers Germán Di Césare and Maximiliano Ortiz, on the 2011 red blends and classifying 2012 reds and white blends that are ready to be appreciated.”

Furthermore, in this interview, he gives his opinion about this year’s harvest and the future of Malbec and Argentina as a world exporter.

What do you think of the 2012 harvest?

It is hard to give a full panorama right now. On the one hand, white wines are still developing, but they already show good structure and acidity. I do not work much with the white wines, though. At Trivento we just define Torrontés and Chardonnay wines, no more than that. Reds are the real reflection of Argentina.

So far, I can tell that this will be an interesting year, especially for the Malbec that is already unfolding an intense red fruit expression.

At the beginning of this year, due to the hot days during January and February, I was worried about an early harvest that would lead to a lack of complexity and elegance. In spite of that, March was better, and this brought about healthy grapes, wines with a delicious natural acidity, well-shaped, juicy tannins, nice colors and well-structured pieces of work.

This harvest is completely different to the 2011’s; it is similar to the 2009 harvest. However, wines still need to mature so as to reflect what this harvest will really produce.

What are your thoughts on the quality of red wines?

Argentina is able to produce excellent red wines, but it is important to understand that not all varieties are exceptional for this climate. Argentina owes its success to fresh, easy-to-drink wines. For example, I like the Cabernet Franc better than the Cabernet Sauvignon produced in Argentina. I believe this last one does not do very well here; it gives wines with dry and not very elegant tannins; they cannot compete against the great Cabernets of the world.

On the other hand, we have Bonarda. I am a great defender of this variety, I like it a lot and it is one of my favorites together with Malbec.

Bonarda has an interesting aromatic profile, characterized by species that present an easy-to-drink wine, with a lot of color and good structure. It goes well with food; it has good acidity and, mainly, character and personality.

Given the competition with other Malbec-producing countries, what should be the way forward?

I am European and, in my opinion, Argentina should not sell varieties, but terroirs; it should sell less Malbec and more Argentina. Selling grapes is a commodity; Malbec does not come solely from Argentina anymore, it is grown in other parts of the world. Argentina is a mature producer and should move on to the next stage. When we speak about high-end wines, it is pretty weak and superficial to sell just a variety; we need to sell a region, “Malbec from Altamira, Gualtallary, Vista Flores, etc.”

The discussion on low alcohol wines has broken out in the last year, and the world consumption trends seem to be moving that way. What is your opinion?

We need to be careful with this concept; wine is the expression of a region. If I wish to make wine in Mendoza, where there is an arid climate, high temperatures and poor rainfalls, it will be most certainly very different from a wine produced in a humid region.

This is why I believe we need to make real, authentic wines, true to their origin. From an industrial point of view, low alcohol wines can be produced in Mendoza, but a 12º authentic wine does not exist. When I come here, I come to find Argentina. We have to live with the diversity that the world is used to; we cannot unify.

Transalation: Rocio Acosta

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