Me: What’s it like when all four Michelini brothers get involved in making a wine?
Matías: Es un quilombo / We cause a commotion.
Especially when the preview is led by two of Argentina’s most innovative winemakers, and they show you around their brand-new pet project that opens this weekend.
The enologists in question are Matías Michelini and Gerardo ‘El Otro’ Michelini; and the project, Super Uco.
My green-eyed monster and I have been watching from the sidelines (Facebook) for a few months now, as various somms and winemakers hang out at Super Uco. But today it was my turn.
A family project – Matías and Gerardo are two of four Michelini brothers – gathers the whole clan, children, siblings and spouses. With a little under two hectares to their name, this micro project is located in the Winemakers’ Village at The Vines of Mendoza: neighbours include Abremundos led by Monteviejo’s Marcelo Pelleriti and his rockstar buddy and my former classmate Pedro Aznar; Santiago Achaval from Achaval Ferrer; and Revana Family Vineyards which I also visited today, among others.
It’s fair to say the Super Uco, a biodynamic winery, is perfectly formed: the bodega itself is circular with concentric vines. With two whites – Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling – planted goblet style and four reds – Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot – planted in a tall goblet, this small-scale vineyard gives the winemakers a chance to break some (more) rules and play around with varietals and fermentation.
With one horse (for the time being) creating compost, there’s also an organic, seasonal garden managed by Matías’ wife Cecilia. And it’s those seasonal ingredients such as pumpkin, tomatoes and aubergine that will make their way straight from the huerta into your Super Uco lunch, available from March 2015 booking in advance.
Home to several cement eggs and French oak barrels, the bros’ latest innovation are two sexy large-scale amphoras; think Roman-style wine storage vessels but massive. Tailor made for Super Uco, they can’t wait to see how their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc turns out. And neither can I.
That’s Matías, Gerardo and me snuggling up to an amphora.
As for tasting, well, mine was tailor made, much like the wine-making container, and the winningest part of this degustación was with the Michelinis. And with more than 50 labels to their collective name, anything could happen tasting wise.
Kicking off with their Eggo Blanc de Cal Sauvignon Blanc 2014, this was a lesson in Gualtallary’s terroir, home to their main winery, Zorzal. Fermented in a concrete egg by youngest bro Juampi, this was mineral freshness released into the wild with zingy grapefruit backed up by chalk. As awakening as a cold bucket of water but far more welcoming.
Jijiji (pronounced he-he-he) was up next. If you’ve ever been lured into a wine purchase by its label, then this co-fermented Malbec and Pinot Noir blend will come out winning, but on all accounts. Its crazy joker label might make light of of wine production, but what’s inside the bottle is deadly serious.
Bucking the regular elaborate production process, whole Pinot and Malbec grapes ferment together, again, in a cement egg. With marked acidity, this was bouncy cherry and that characteristic chalkiness for which the Michelinis’ Gualtallary wines are known.
Then came a classic example of wine-making rule bending. Torrontés Brutal 2013. White grape. Produced just like a red grape. Fermented with skins, seeds, the works. Its curious orange hue and syrupy honeyed nose is deceptive (a liar just like a dry Torrontés), taking you down the path of late harvest.
But its curious texture and refreshing acidity meant it was also meaty. One for wi-curious fans out there or to whip out in front of a wine snob.
Bonus track was an eight-handed red made by the four brothers. Calcáreo Malbec 2011, fermented in an cement egg then aged in second- and third-use barrels. Named after its limestone soil, classic aromas of plums and violets pervade with that now characteristic chalky, mineral nose and mouth. Playful, fruity, elegant yet contemporary all in one hit. Malbec, reloaded.
Super Uco is set to become a must on Uco Valley’s ever-expanding wine map. Be smart and book in advance. It will be superb.