ARGENTINA BY MICHEL ROLLAND
FROM EMOTIONS TO DISCOVERIES…!
It was the same on the road to Cafayate, crossing Cachi, Molinos, and these rivers falling down from the mountain where we had to wait for the flow of waters to can cross...
We had changed our guide in Salta: it was now Arnaldo son who drove us, a nice young man very proud of the region where his grandfather Etchart, from Bearn (France), had emigrated at the beginning of the century. We were in the Calchaquies Valleys crossing quebradas that were just out of the world..., with mountains at rock sculptured by the erosion in stone and sand castles, in tortured columns, and enormous candlesticks cactus looking like an army of soldiers guarding over as far as the top of crests (they most probably impressed the Spanish conquistadors!!)... overhanging rivers with sometimes green or arid and dry surroundings, and "tierras coloradas"covered with bushes of rustic thorny, with some houses of red or ochre cob, and villages with something of languid Far West...
Finally appeared Cafayate - nice small town in the feet of the Andean Precordillera, at 1 700 m a.s.l. - old barrels lining the road to indicate wineries, and finally… vines… in pergola!
Then, immediately after a narrow small bridge crossing the almost dry river, The Florida. It was the family house, adjoining the Bodega Etchart, where we were welcomed by Arnaldo and Eve, Sergio and Sofia and all their children: a real joyful tribe, on holidays during this March, 1988 summer. And friends, always many friends...
How not fall under this family’s spell and culture, with the wonderful cooker Mina’s excellent empanadas, proposed to us with a glass of white wine, almost Alsatian but exotic nose… we also discovered the torrontés!!
However, we were really far far away from our village and from our daughters!
We had some difficulties for communication, but Latin people among themselves find arguments, glances, body movements, expression to translate all the feelings with so many nuances as the language.
It was not exactly the same when I met all the winery and vineyard's team. So, I promised myself to learn quickly Spanish so as English, if I wanted to continue my young career of consultant..., professional exchanges, by interposed translator, are boring, and there is so much to learn from each others than communicating clearly is absolutely necessary.
And now, it was me who had to understand their expectations, their wines, their vineyards, their grounds and climate, but also people themselves with their own culture.
By the way, our Argentinean adventure began: a deep attraction to landscapes and viticulture; to the taste of things, a family and friendship story with the Etchart which will go on beyond the consulting for the family bodega.
Indeed, in 1998, while this one was sold to Pernod-Ricard, Arnaldo, Hebe and their son Marcos migrated to a small winery, grapes of which we already vinified for the excellent Etchart blend "Arnaldo B". It was right near Cafayate, by a difficult stony road: Yacochuya, a small wild vineyard of very old malbecs (some date 1915), hung on the mountain, at 2 030 m a.s.l., with an incredible view on the valley, a magic place of beauty and picturesque and a quality of exceptional flavour of fruits. We decided to join, creating a small winery, built in 1999 and where we shall make, the same year, the wine "Yacochuya" whose label quotes the famous cactus so picturesque of the surrounding landscape.
Photos - Top : Michel Rolland and Arnaldo Etchart in 1995. From top right to bottom / The road to Yacochuya / Diner with the family Etchart / Mima's empanadas in Yacochuya / Michel Rolland in Yacochuya climbing vines.