ARGENTINA BY MICHEL ROLLAND
THE OTHER ADVENTURE… “THE” PROJECT…
“To love is not a quickly done work” (Marie Noël – Chant de la merci)
Meanwhile, and during every trip, we had crossed other regions of Argentina: from the Tropic to Patagonia, with in the middle, along the Andes, the biggest wine area: Mendoza. Other landscape, other latitude, other expression of grape variety in general, of malbec in particular. I consulted at Bodegas Trapiche, then Norton, Fabre Montmayou, Salentein...
The more I spent time in this country, the more I wanted to understand it, to be an actor there, to live there. So did Dany.
We could say about Argentina: "The landscapes were as a bow which played on my (our) soul" (Stendhal - Henry Brulard's life).
I spoke with so passion about the quality of life and the potential of wines that some came there and settled down. One, in particular, very close friend, Jean Michel Arcaute, came fervently to live there.
Thus, so seduced by the gravelly and not very fertile grounds and by the continental, semi-desert climate of these high plateaus of the Uco Valley, Southern Mendoza, we wanted to establish a real wine project there; to discover a place which takes the name of "terroir", to plant our own vineyard, to create from A to Z, with all that I had learnt about this ground and the wines which it made, resources and potential which we guessed...
So, we set us our heart on the lands of Vista-Florès, but not an average project of hundred of hectares as imagined originally, no, Jean Michel had discovered 800 hectares and made me measure them... We went frankly, with burst of passion and certainly a quite young unconsciousness. We divided up the land in seven plots - thus seven investors to find. And it was made. A unique in the world project and much more ambitious than my first idea, but on our enthusiasm scale, and Jean Michel, as I, we had a lot.
So was born, in 1999, the Clos de los Siete Campo - to be planted and structured - a new life to be given to these dry lands and thousands-years’ stones of the Andean Precordillera, under the protective eye and the majestic profile of peaks at more than 6 000 m a.s.l. as the Cordon del Plata or the Tupungato, and on the immense millennium groundwaters whith an excellent minerality, which will allow irrigation.
“Work boils” (Fervet Opus) said Virgil, speaking about the feverish bees’ activity in the beehive. It was the case !!
Regrettably, Jean Michel died accidentally in 2001, before was produced the first wine of Clos de los Siete: the 2002 vintage.
Practically at the same time and a few steps away from there, we bought Val de Flores's small vineyard: these 10 ha of old malbecs, I already knew about them. Indeed, Bodega Trapiche bought grapes, every year, to make the vintage which I signed jointly with Angel Mendoza: "Iscay". Thus, we took advantage of our good luck when I knew that the winery was for sale.
Obviously, since, it changed its look: old transplanted olive trees, rosebushes, reserve of water naturally landscaped decorate this "garden", cultivated as such, where the notion of ecosystem takes all its sense.
The first vintages of Val de Flores will be vinified, so as Clos de los Siete, in the only winery of the Campo: Catherine Péré-Vergé’s one who was the pioneer and the first one to believe in the project of these two crazy friends that we were, Jean Michel and I.
Then, as time goes by, each of the partners built his cellar, and ourselves, the last ones, shall see the result of a ten years experience on this soil by finalizing (or almost!) the Bodega Rolland, to vinify the 2010 vintage there. To date thus, five wineries-mushrooms appear from this vineyards’ vastness, the surface of which corresponds to Pomerol Appellation… but contrary to the bad thoughts of some, I do not make some Pomerol wine in Argentina!!
Each one planted the grape varieties which he considered interesting, with condition to respect the percentage of malbec: minimum 50 % - Because it’s even so the grape variety king, down here or… from uplands (at an altitude of 1 100 metres!).
At the same time as the production of the wine of the group, each one also makes, under his own name, the cuvées of his estate: for us, it’s "Mariflor" - the highest plot turn to the Andes.
This country called me, welcomed us, respected me, listened to me, heighten me, and, from north to south, from Cafayate to Neuquen, along this vertebral column that are The Andes, made me discover the real expressions of the malbec and of many others grape varieties, in diversity, the originality that each area brings thanks to its specificities of soils, climate, altitude and latitude.There were plenty others strong moments, in Argentina, during these last 23 years:- In 2000, the creation of the Mendoza laboratory (in Lujan de Cuyo) in association with Pascal Chatonnet and Gabriela Celeste,
- The writing of the book “Wines and wineries from Argentina”, with Enrique Chrabolowski: 1st edition in 2003, 2nd in 2006 and 3rd edition in 2008, for which I did some exceptional tastings revealing spectacular evolutions towards quality and a real identity of the products which this country can generate.
- The increasing charm and the exuberant life of Buenos Aires: a colourful city with its rhythms, cultures...
- And also, the discovery of other landscapes or amazing natural sights like the Lago Argentino and the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia or the Iguaçu falls, snows and forest of Bariloche, magnificent hilly landscapes: lakes and deserts or the Entre Ríos plains where abound ducks...
- Finally horse, polo, tango, art, gastronomy, meat...
It’s also an exceptional human experience, shared with Dany and later with the children, a fabulous slice of life with people we love: friends from the country, assistants, partners… undoubtedly a second homeland!
"Patria est ubicumque is bene" (Everywhere you fell well, this is homeland) Cicero.
Photos - Top : Bodega Rolland. From top right to bottom / Jean-Michel Arcaute (right) / The Clos de los Siete / Michel Rolland and Enrique Chrabolowski / La Bocca neighborhood of Buenos AIres / La Bocca, Buenos AIres / The family Rolland.