Sure, Mendoza boasts hundreds of wineries and, yes, it’s one of the world’s best wine destinations. But even the most famous labels can get a little dull sometimes. Here to liven up the wine world are three Mendoza wineries that are mixing things up with new flavors and techniques. They’ll be worth a stop for a tasting on your next visit, when you can see how much they stand out from the region’s more traditional bottles.
Youthful winemaker Alfredo Merlo started making wine in 2010, and MAAL Wines has since made a name for itself producing unusually acidic Malbecs. Merlo’s making wines to please himself (his tagline is “Malbec as Alfredo likes”), and the result is a very particular type of wine. The grapes are sourced from his vineyard in Luján de Cuyo, as well as from small specialty vineyards owned by his family and friends. His much-lauded Biutiful Malbec 2013 is un-oaked, with a burst of fruitiness that balances the acidity. Drink with a rare steak.
This Altamira winery is part of the Zuccardi empire, one of the heavy hitters in Mendoza. This new venture, though, is the first winery in Argentina to ferment all its wines in concrete. The idea here is to minimize the oakiness of the wines and emphasize the vineyards from which the grapes derive. Sebastián Zuccardi likes to say that he makes “mountain wines,” and the high-altitude terroir is reflected in the fresher, lighter Malbecs that Piedra Infinita is producing. Wine to try: the Zuccardi 2012 Finca Piedra Infinita Malbec, a fruity, minerally, moderately tannic wine with flavors of black pepper and fig.
Super Uco is a new project from superstar winemakers the Michelini brothers. The large Michelini family has been, individually and together, dominating the wine scene in the Uco Valley for years, but this new endeavor, a small biodynamic winery, is an affair that they’re all involved in one way or another. Rather than produce run-of-the-mill wines, Matías and Gerardo are experimenting with different varietals and aging techniques, including oversize amphoras and cement eggs. Wine to try: the Fratello 2012. “Fratello” is, appropriately, Italian for “brother,” and this highly collectable wine is a Syrah with a dash of Malbec, produced without chemical treatment and with notes of dark fruit and spice.
Nell McShane Wulfhart is based in Uruguay, and writes about South America for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @nellmwulfhart.