The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Uco Valley – the future of Mendoza ~ Saturday, March 3rd, 2012
A glimpse of the excitement:
A gigantic swath of land about 80 kilometres south of the city of Mendoza, many have written at length on the potential of the Uco Valley. Is it the future of winegrowing in Argentina, the nation’s ‘new Napa,’ as some have so grandiosely proclaimed it?
As food for thought, consider the following. The Uco Valley, or the Valle de Uco, now covers over 20,000 hectares of vines, much of it at altitudes between 1,000-1,700 metres. The highest of these are located in the sub-region of Tupungato, and many of the finest Argentinean winegrowers, as well as overseas investors, have begun planting ferociously here. Other subregions, or departments, of the Uco Valley include Gualtayary, Tunuyán, Vista Flores, La Consulta, and San Carlos.
The attraction of the Uco Valley, like many other up-and-coming winegrowing regions in Argentina, is largely due to the overall elevation of the area, a critical factor in the cultivation of vines throughout much of the country; as most places, semi-desert in composition, would be otherwise too arid and hot for the production of fine wines in this part of the world. In this extremely dry climate, growers are also attracted to conditions that offer the greatest temperature variations between night and day. For winemakers, the resulting wines are great in colour depth and flavour, both appealing traits to many modern enthusiasts, especially in North America, as well as collectors.
As mentioned before, the Uco Valley is a very large area, around 100 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide, most of which is surrounded by hills and mountains—think of the majestic Andes Mountains to the west.
Of irrigation, as most vineyards are not dry-farmed (though this may change over time), most water is sourced from the Tunuyán and (smaller) Las Tunas Rivers, as well as from local wells and reservoirs. Indeed, irrigation throughout the valley is essential, as most parts only receive less than 300 millimetres of annual rainfall. Not surprisingly for an area so vast, soil compositions are remarkably varied, though Decanter contributor Anthony Rose reports that most are “geologically young at 30,000 years old,” and that “the main constituents are alluvial sandy loam containing sand, clay, gravel and rounded pebbles; and colluvial, rocky soils” (The New World’s Most Exciting New Terroirs, 5 June 2009, http://www.decanter.com). Thus, even at the beginning of 2012, winegrowers remain continually in the process of determining how best to exploit such a varying, promising terroir.
As for the wineries themselves, much has already been accomplished, with top establishments investing extraordinary sums of money to build the best facilities possible. Top names? Here’s a short list: Andeluna Cellars, Cheval des Andes, Clos de los Siete, O. Fournier, Monteviejo and Salentein. No doubt there will be others over the next several years. The future holds much potential.