A sentimental journey

The story behind La Primera Revancha Mendoza Chenin Blanc in the words of the winemaker, Roberto de la Mota

When I visited Roberto de la Mota of Mendel in Mendoza, Argentina, he told me the background to this new wine. It is a lovely story, so I thought it worth sharing in Roberto's own words as he explains the sentimental, and qualitative, reasons why he wanted to make this chenin blanc, an unusual variety in Argentina nowadays.

Vineyards in Mendoza: the Andes form a spectacular backdrop throughout the region and provide essential meltwater for vines Vineyards in Mendoza: the Andes form a spectacular backdrop throughout the region and provide essential meltwater for vines
Roberto de la Mota, pleased and proud to be making chenin again Roberto de la Mota, pleased and proud to be making chenin again

'I wanted to vinify chenin blanc because I had made this wine with my father. The variety used to be very important and was traditional in the Mendoza region, but now it is almost completely abandoned. It's a similar story to that of semillon, another variety we have championed.

The quest for a vineyard

'I was hunting older chenin blanc vineyards for some years. The reason was because the local research institute made a massal selection (the traditional way of propagating vines by taking cuttings from old plants) in the 1980s to look into yields. Why? Because the old selection of chenin suffered from coulure (poor fruit-set) and production was small. The result? They created a monster with huge yields but really bad quality. And probably that was the reason why this variety was abandoned.

Practically abandoned now, chenin blanc grapes were once traditional in Mendoza Practically abandoned now, chenin blanc grapes were once traditional in Mendoza

'Finally, in September 2015, I had an extremely good surprise! I found the old chenin blanc vineyard that I had worked with in my first job at Cavas de Weinert in 1985. When I arrived at the winery my father and Mr Weinert asked me to harvest one chenin vineyard owned (at that time) by Mr Nico Marchiori. I thought that this vineyard, planted in the 1940s, didn't exist anymore, so I had a great surprise to find out that not all the vines had been re-grafted with malbec and syrah and that seven hectares of chenin blanc remained.

'The vineyard is situated in Agrelo, about 20 miles south of Mendoza, at 1,000m altitude. Soil here is deep and silty with a little clay, but the age of the vineyard means that it has very good balance.

Finally, making the wine

The bodega at Mendel The bodega at Mendel

'Grapes for the 2015 vintage were harvested with good ripeness in spite of a really rainy summer. It was whole-bunch pressed and fermented 80% in stainless steel tank and 20% in aged and new French oak (Taransaud) barrels with the traditional technique with bâtonnage (stirring of the lees). The wine was then aged for six months and we continued with bâtonnage during just the first month.

'I used practically the same technique that I usually employ when I make our Mendel Semillon. I think that fermenting a portion in barrels gives roundness and complexity to the wine.

'Volume for this first vintage of the wine was small (just 3,600 bottles), but I am planning to make double this quantity in the next vintage.'

Where to go next?

> The art of the asado

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