- Tasting Notes & Technical Details
Friends and business partners Alberto Antonini and Antonio Morescalchi have come a long way since they were impressed by Mendoza’s vineyards on their first visit in 1995. They have gone from being youthful interlopers to one of the country’s leading producers, as well as being pioneers of a more elegant style of Malbec.
Alberto and Antonio work very closely with Pedro Parra (widely regarded as the South American expert on soil and vineyard mapping) in order to identify the best locations to grow their grapes. Digging and probing each corner of Mendoza, they have discovered outstanding sites and aim to reveal their distinct characters through their wines. From Luján de Cuyo they obtain fine tannins, concentration and a dark purple colour, whereas the calcareous, high-altitude sites of Vistaflores, Altamira and Gualtallary each bring distinctive perfumes and mouth-filling textures.
A biodynamic approach in the vineyard, as well as minimal intervention in the winery – including indigenous yeasts, a move from oak to concrete for the Malbec Clásico as well as the use of large, neutral oak for ageing the single vineyard wines – are practices dictated by Altos Las Hormigas’ philosophy to ensure the wine stays true to its place of origin. Their combined wealth of experience as a winemaking team, as well as their never-ending experimentation and desire to produce the best wines that Argentina can offer, has made Altos Las Hormigas a Malbec specialist, with a reputation as one of the country’s top producers of this variety.
The ‘Colonia Las Liebres’ Bonarda Clasica is certified organic and is juicy with soft tannins. The Mendoza Tinto, a blend of Bonarda, Malbec and a small amount of Semillon, is their interpretation of the classic Mendoza red blend that existed before winemakers started focusing on single varietals. The Malbec Clásico is a fresh, fruity yet elegant Malbec made primarily from grapes grown at their Luján de Cuyo estate on silty soils. The ‘Terroir’ Luján de Cuyo comes from an organic vineyard with limestone soils and aims to show a different expression of Malbec from the traditional Luján region, where predominantly alluvial and clay soils tend to produce wines with more weight and structure. Their other wines are made exclusively from fruit sourced from selected sites in the Uco Valley. The ‘Terroir’ Uco Valley Malbec perfectly combines Uco Valley florality with stunning purity of fruit. The Malbec Reserve offers more depth and complexity, as it is sourced from distinguished calcareous terraces and has spent 18 months ageing in 3,500 litre untoasted foudres, followed by six months in bottle.
Altos Las Hormigas also produce two single-vineyard Malbecs from the renowned Uco Valley appellations of Altamira and Gualtallary. The Altamira vineyard lies at 1,200 metres above sea level and the Gualtallary vineyard at 1,300 metres above sea level. The ‘Appellation Altamira’ Malbec is a more elegant and aromatic style whereas the ‘Appellation Gualtallary’ Malbec is rounder and more powerful with great concentration. These two wines highlight the diversity within the Uco Valley, and at the same time demonstrate why Tim Atkin MW now regards Altos Las Hormigas as one of his ‘First Growths’ in the classification he created for his annual Argentina Report.
90% of the grapes are sourced from high-trellised vineyards in Luján de Cuyo, which sit at 800 metres above sea level, which gives the wine its fruit-forward character. The remaining 10% come from Jardín Altamira vineyard in the Uco Valley, at 1200 meters elevation. The vineyards in Mendoza have been selected for their soil and impeccable drainage, which avoids excess vigour and green characteristics. The vineyards in Luján de Cuyo are made up of 100% alluvial soil, which are formed from old river beds and have consistent layering and high quality profiles. Yields are ten tonnes per hectare.
The 2021 vintage was challenged by hot weather. most of January registered temperatures above 30ºC, which required careful vineyard management to protect the vines from heat damage. February was much cooler, and the harvest was brought forward in order to pick the grapes at their optimum ripeness.
The wine was vinified in 300 hectolitre stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature for a duration of ten days, with daily rack and return to achieve a gentle extraction of the precious berry aromas. The wine is aged in concrete tanks, and received no oak treatment, in order to preserve freshness and represent a pure expression of the Bonarda grape.
Deep ruby in colour, aromas of freshly picked black cherries and blueberries are complemented by hints of mint, dried herbs and black olives. The palate has a rich, round mouthfeel and is accompanied by expressive fruit flavours, well-balanced acidity and a delicate finish.