Winemakers across Argentina are working hard to find ever more innovative ways to work with their soils, terroir and micro climates to make wines that are true to their sense of place, but also meet the needs and demands of their International markets. It is particularly the case at Graffigna where head winemaker, Fernando Mengoni, is working hard to bring freshness and purity of fruit to its range of award winning wines across different price levels. Here he explains the opportunities and potential there now are for ambitious Argentinian winemakers and producers.
At 150 years old Graffigna is the third oldest winery in Argentina. Which makes it quite a responsibility for head winemaker Fernando Mengoni to not only keep up to its high standards, but look to take it to new levels.
Can you tell us about your background and how you got into wine?
I am a native of Mendoza the most important wine region in Argentina and I chose the profession out of love and inheritance from my father, who worked in the sector for 40 years, and who passed on to me his knowledge and passion for wine.
How did you train and get your first experience as a winemaker?
I’m a graduate in oenology from University Juan Agustín Maza. I have worked for different vineyards in Mendoza, and in 2008 I began my first steps in the VSPT Wine Group, fulfilling different functions until 2019, when with the acquisition of Graffigna, the group appointed me as head winemaker of the winery.
What are you most proud of since you have been at Graffigna?
I have been able to bring my passion, through wines that strive to reflect character and quality from Argentina to the world.
You have just received 92 points from Decanter for your wine – can you explain what that means for you as a winemaker and for the winery?
Me and the whole team are very happy with the award obtained. This proves that hard work pays and that we are doing things right. To get 92 points for a wine which is sold in Sainsburys at £9 per bottle and £7.50 when on promotion is a very big achievement.
What have been the big changes you have seen in winemaking in Argentina during your career?
Argentine wine has been following a path in search of origin and deeper understanding of our place, for wines that more faithfully represent our soils and terroirs.
On the other hand, I think that new generation of winemakers are breaking paradigms, innovating with new winemaking techniques and new philosophies with the aim of bringing a better sense of place.
What changes have you looked to make and are making at Graffigna – and why are you making them?
Since I started working at Graffigna, we have been experimenting to bring more freshness, less toasted oak and higher sucrosity to express the genuineness of the variety in our wines. My goal is to continue producing very good quality Malbec in the premium segment, with wines that meet consumer expectations, easy to drink and understand, with a proposal that shows all the character of our brand.
What do you think makes Graffigna wines stand out and deserve to be tasted and taken seriously?
Graffigna wines are today over delivering quality for its price segment, with very good fruit expression. For example, our Malbec from Uco Valley is showcasing all its varietal expression and the potential of the origin. For consumers who wants to explore or taste a very genuine and typical Argentinian Malbec, Graffigna is today a very good choice.
You are in the Uco Valley – how important is the climate, soils and conditions there in terms of dictating the wines you can make?
Graffigna was founded in San Juan, and has a long history in Argentina´s winemaking scene as it is the third oldest winery in the country; in San Juan is our origin and Santiago Graffigna’s heritage lives through a museum which is highly valued by the community. But from an oenological point of view we are today producing in the Uco Valley, which is one of the finest viticultural regions, characterised by the climate influence of the Andes mountain range. This gives us special conditions to produce wines, such as:
- High altitude continental climate, with day/night temperature variation.
- High exposure to sunlight.
- Alluvial soils with ample heterogeneity and presence of rocky material.
- Broad aromatic profiles, ranging from menthol to floral, red fruit and black fruit notes, as well as excellent persistence on the palate.
What changes are you having to make due to climate change?
The main climate change in the Uco Valley is seen in the higher average temperature that generates an early grape ripening. This means that we have to harvest earlier than we used to. On the other hand, we are always looking to do things better and in a more sustainable way, as an example, this year we have been certified as a Sustainable Winery by Bodegas de Argentina.
What are your main export markets and what demands are you getting from buyers there in terms of the they wines they want to buy?
UK is our main market, followed by Canada and the US. We have been seeing lots of trends, such as low or zero alcohol, less sugar, new varieties and more concern for sustainability and organic productions.
In the UK, the Malbec trend is still forging ahead. In times of uncertainty, consumers are looking to buy well-known brands or wines they recognise and understand.
How is the 2022 harvest in terms of quality and volume?
The 2022 vintage was a particularly good one for Malbec, which was harvested mainly at fresh profiles, with fruity, floral and black fruit notes. Aromatic intensity was greater than in the previous season, and there was a very good polyphenolic balance. In general, the harvest will be remembered as one with a delay in beginning harvest and then acceleration towards the end, with low rainfall, and early and late frosts. This led to decreased yields.
We could get very good white wines with fruit character, and freshness and expressive red wines, with a concentrated fruit character.