Founded in 1975 by Bernardo Weinert, a Brazilian businessman of German origin, Cavas de Weinert has gone on to become one of highest-acclaimed wineries in Argentina. Bernardo invested heavily from the start, determined to make a top-quality wine in the best way possible, and this ethos persists to this day.
His red wines are noticeable for being aged 2-5 years, and sometimes longer, in old foudres in a deep, cool, granite cellar. Over time the brash fruit softens, mellows and develops the tertiary aromas of leather, tobacco and cedar. These wines have a certain similarity to other long-aged wines like traditional Riojas and Lebanon's Château Musar.
After exhaustive research and study, Bernardo chose to establish his estate at at Lujan de Cuyo, one of the areas best known for top-quality wines in Argentina's famous Mendoza province. The climate here is ideal for viticulture, with low levels of frost, hail and wind, plenty of sunshine, and a good water supply both from the surrounding rivers and from melting snow high up in the nearby Andes mountains.
There are 40 hectares of vines in total, which lie at over 850 metres above sea level. The mineral-rich soils here - a mixture of alluvial rock and sand - are particularly suited to the French varieties Bernardo chose to plant between 1986 and 1992. These consist of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, gamay, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, and of course there is plenty of malbec, the grape most associated with Argentine wines. When necessary, Weinert also sources some of its fruit from other small producers with which it has long-term relationships.
Weinert are famous for their 1977 vintage, made by the famous winemaker Raoul de la Mota. It was their first vintage and the reason why it was so good was because, as the cellar was not finished, Bernardo had to delay the harvest and the extra ripening made a great wine. Today much of the success of the wines is due to winemaker Hubert Weber. He is Swiss, with a Germanic sense of order and an Italian passion for wine. After the grapes have been harvested by hand, fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled cement tanks, and the wines are then aged in French oak foudres (large oak barrels) in Weinert's underground cellars, which benefit from ideal levels of humidity and temperature.
Part of the style of Weinert's red wines is a mature, sometimes slightly more or less animally character. Part of this comes from a yeast called brettanomyces. In small concentrations it adds an interesting and appealing 'farmyard' character, but in excess it can spoil a wine. This yeast character is carefully controlled by Hubert to be present but not dominant.
The best-known wine is Cavas de Weinert, a blend made only in the best years from 40% malbec, 40% cabernet and 20% merlot aged about 3-4 years in foudres. Its younger sibling is Carrascal, made from a similar blend but aged for less time. There are other single-varietal wines released: merlot, cabernet sauvignon and malbec. The top wines are called Estrella, meaning 'star', which explains the star on the label. These are wines from the very best vintages, kept 3-10 years in foudres, and released when ready for drinking.