Located at 900 meters (2,953 feet) above sea level and 5 kilometers (3 miles) to the northeast of Luján de Cuyo is the Lunlunta zone. The soil is alluvial in origin, composed of clays, stones and limestone deposited many centuries ago by the Mendoza River. The springtime is long and the summers hot during the day and quite cool at night. This diurnal variation permits a long period of ripening allowing the grapes to slowly develop aroma, color and flavor while maintaining a good level of acidity. This arid zone that receives less than 200 millimeters (8 inches) of precipitation annually must rely on the snow-melt of the Andes mountains for irrigation.
From time to time we encounter a wine that makes us scratch our head and say, “huh?”. This was my reaction when I first heard about Viña Alicia’s Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo is the emblematic grape of the Piedmont region of Italy, responsible for the famous wines of Barbaresco and Barolo. The grape produces wines high in alcohol, acidity and tannin. These are wines difficult to appreciate in their youth, but with some years in the bottle become jewels that shine with notes of rose petal, strawberry, truffle and forest floor. These examples from Piedmont typically have a ruby color in their youth that quickly changes to brick.
Viña Alicia’s San Alberto vineyard is planted with ten hectares (25 acres) of forty year-old vines brought by the Italian ancestors of the owner of the winery. At an impressive density of 11,300 vines per hectare, the vines are forced to seek their nutrients in the depths of the soil, producing wines with a notable mineral character. Rodrigo Arizu, winemaker at the family’s winery, believes that due to differences in climate and soil the Nebbiolo planted here produces a wine distinct from their brothers in Piedmont. Indeed, Piedmont is known for its cool and foggy climate. My tasting notes confirm characteristics typical of the grape, but others quite distinct.
Surprisingly deep red-purple in color. More typical characteristics on the nose: red cherry, cherry syrup, rose petals, tar, soy sauce and a note of umami. High levels of alcohol and acidity typical of the grape, but with the opulence typical of the new world.
- Winery: Viña Alicia
- Wine: Colección de Familia Nebbiolo
- Vintage: 2005
- Country: Argentina
- Appellation: Lunlunta, Mendoza
- Type: dry red wine
- Composition: 100% Nebbiolo
- Ageing: Twelve months in 50% new barrels and 50% used barrels
- Alcohol: 15.0%
- Format: 750 ml
- Closure: Natural cork
- Serving temperature: 16° – 17°C. (61° – 63°F.)
- Optimum consumption: through 2015
- Pairing: Dishes with mushrooms, especially braised beef with mushrooms, and with roasted game birds.
- Website: http://www.vinaalicia.com/