It is 10:00 AM and I shiver in my short sleeved shirt. I wander down a row of vines five feet wide and pick a small Malbec grape off a 60 year old vine and put it in my mouth. The flesh is sweet while the seeds and skins are tannic and bitter. Another week and this cluster will be in the de-stemmer.
The vineyard makes the Afincado line of wines from Terrazas de los Andes. I half expected to see terraces like those found in the Duoro or the Rhine given the name of the winery but the name derives from the different altitudes of the different vineyards. The vineyard where I am standing is at about 3,500 feet while the Chardonnay vineyard lies slightly higher and the Cabernet Sauvignon slightly lower.
“Thermal amplitude” is the phrase of the day, a phrase that refers to the range between the day’s high and low temperatures. Although we felt this high-high and low-low phenomenon in Cafayate too, it is probably in the 60s now and the high is forecast in the 80s. I dressed for that high but am regretting it now. It’s a desert here in Mendoza and the vineyards are only possible because of the vital water from snow melt from the Andes. And the wine is only possible thanks to the “thermal amplitude” since the grapes need the cool evenings to recover from the heat of the day.
Terrazas rests under the Chandon umbrella. Chandon has had a presence in Argentina since the 1950s and has built up a dominant share of the domestic market of sparkling wines to the tune of 95 percent market share. In fact, if you were wondering how to say “sparkling wine” in Argentina apparenly it is simply “Chandon.” Now that’s a way that any bubbly producer would love to finesse the perpetual struggle over the names sparkling wine and Champagne.
I head inside for a tasting—and some warmth.