Even after the seemingly endless 26-hour journey from London Heathrow to Argentina’s Mendoza Valley, the group was buzzing with excitement as our convoy of trucks set off first thing in the morning to head deep into the Uco Valley. It was here that we lived, breathed, and drank in all that is the Zuccardi family’s incredibly ambitious vision. This is an estate pushing towards the future in the most positive, boundary-defying way possible – a model antithesis of progress for progress’s sake. Innovation is the word, in the most authentic and worthwhile sense of it.

The nuance of site and soil

Picture this: the imposing Andes mountains, kaleidoscope-coloured vineyards, Sebastian Zuccardi, his right-hand man and viticulturist Martin Di Stefano, and our band of UK trade. It was here that Sebastian and Martin explained how they are able to achieve the level of transparency and precision that Zuccardi aim to reveal in their wines, with the aid of stones plucked directly from each of their vineyard sites, detailed topographic mountain maps and even by jumping directly into the soil pits that have been dug in order to reveal the vast complexity of the soils within each of their many plots.

However, there could be no better learning aid than actually tasting the wines from the vineyard which surrounded us, as exemplified by examining the Fosil Chardonnay hailing from San Pablo against the Botanico Chardonnay from Gualtallary. While each of these vineyards are located within the Uco Valley and both wines are vinified in nearly the exact same manner, down to Zuccardi’s trademark mix of concrete tanks and old 500-litre barrels, it was remarkable to see the distinct nuances between each glass. These were truly a testament to the purity and expression of place that Zuccardi are achieving in their wines.

One step ahead

Thanks to a commercial boom in the 1990s, Argentinian Malbec has become a formidable brand of its own, appreciated worldwide as a robust and plummy wine, which can be enjoyed at the pub or with a juicy steak. However, many in Mendoza could see that Malbec had so much more potential than the clichéd role it had been pigeon-holed into, and Sebastian Zuccardi, the third generation at the helm of the Zuccardi estate, set about to challenge it. Sebastian first launched his plans for intensive research, development and expansion into the Uco Valley back in 2005 and by 2016, he had completed works on his state-of-the-art Bodega Piedra Infinita winery in the Paraje Altamira, now home to their finest micro-cuvées sites, the Supercal and Gravascal amongst others.

Sebastian’s commitment to innovation has led to pivotal changes in Zuccardi’s wines over the last decade, as he has aimed to pare back anything that might interfere with the purest expression of the grape and the site from which it’s grown. Today their range has been transformed into a refined and elegant range of Malbec, Chardonnay, Syrah, Semillon and even a stunning Pinot Noir grown at a staggering 1700m altitude, the highest vineyard in the Uco Valley.

The team at Zuccardi have proven time and time again that they are not satisfied with settling for the status quo. Their willingness to embrace new techniques and technology has yielded remarkable results which left our palettes electrified and suitcases stuffed with bottles, notes and, if you’ll forgive the romanticism, inspiration for a future-forward wine industry.

Two highlights, newly released

There were two absolute standouts during our Buying and Sales Directors’ week of arduous tastings. Both will appeal to anyone who looking to expand their knowledge of Argentinian wines, or those just looking for a noteworthy new discovery to add to their cellars.

Zuccardi’s Aluvional Malbec is a thrilling testament to the level of innovation taking place in Mendoza, and they have truly hit their stride with the 2018 vintage which has earned a top score of 98 points from Luis Gutierrez (The Wine Advocate). Thanks to Zuccardi’s careful selection across the complex alluvial soils of the Uco Valley’s prized Gualtallary region, Gutierrez praises it as “A superb mineral Gualtallary with contained ripeness and wildness”. Joaquin Hidalgo (Vinous) also admires how “The finish is pure fruit, achieving excellent balance between energy and depth.” This is a wine which does a great service in helping to redefine the finesse and elegance that the Malbec grape is capable of, and is one which massively overdelivers at £49 per bottle IB.

For those looking for something entirely new to add to their repertoire, may we point you to the tiny production 2019 Zuccardi Finca Los Membrillos Semillon. This is a grape which rarely takes centre stage as a single varietal wine, but which absolutely thrives in the Uco Valley where it has a surprisingly long history. The single vineyard Los Membrillos Semillon was tasted on the team’s very first night in Mendoza and a ripple of excitement went through the travel weary crowd as we marvelled at the gorgeous texture and zippy acidity that paired so beautifully with the assortment of vegetables fresh from the parrilla. James Suckling is the first to have reviewed it, awarding it 95 points; “Full-bodied and tense on the palate with a mineral allure to the center-palate. Lots of texture and substance. Long and nervy finish.” We have managed to secure a small parcel of this miniscule production, available for the first time in the UK. 

Following on from our trip, we have specially curated a list of wines handpicked after our eight days of tasting through the best that Argentina and Chile have to offer. Explore the rest of the wines and more, below.