Anthony Rose: 'The American critic Robert Parker called Weinert Malbec South America’s only outstanding wine'

Occasionally, a wine has an impact that takes it into the realm of legend. The 1977 Cavas de Weinert Malbec is such a wine. Three years after Juan Domingo Péron's death, the volume of cheap wine drunk in Argentina rivalled that of France and the notion of quality was as alien a concept as political stability. Made from old malbec vines, in large new oak barrels, this wine was impressively powerful. It was the creation of Raúl de la Mota, then in the twilight of an illustrious career. Born in 1918, de la Mota was strongly influenced by Bordeaux's eminent Professor Émile Peynaud after the latter's visit to Argentina for the French wine company Calvet. In the 1980s, the American critic Robert Parker called Weinert South America's only outstanding wine.

Most of the substantial quantity made, 150,000 litres, has either been blended or drunk, but last month, Raúl's son Roberto brought one of his last bottles up from the cellar. It was a bespoke bottling for the celebrated Argentinian chef, Francis Mallmann, and it came in bright green. "I hated the 7-Up green," says Roberto, who worked with his father for eight years at Weinert. "The bottler told me he'd change the colour when the wine industry bought more wine bottles than he sold 7-Up." Still very much alive, with the leathery maturity of a fine Bordeaux, it lived up to its reputation. Later bottlings are indeed dark green.

With the Arizu winery as his playground, Roberto de la Mota grew up with the scent of fermenting wine in his nostrils. He studied wine in Mendoza and France, but it was his father who "instilled in me the value of understanding the French passion for terroir and quality". The crisis of the 1980s, when some 40,000 hectares of malbec were uprooted, impelled Argentina to turn to exporting. De la Mota played his part by importing French grape varieties barely known in Argentina such as viognier, petit verdot and cabernet franc. As irrigation changed from traditional flood to modern drip, he introduced plants resistant to vineyard pests.

In 1994, Roberto went to work for Moët et Chandon's Argentinian outpost, developing a new wine, Terrazas de los Andes, based on the high altitude of their Andean vineyards. With Château Cheval Blanc's Pierre Lurton, he helped to create Cheval de los Andes, before leaving to set up his own winery, Mendel, in Mendoza's Mayor Drummond district.

"It was like a dream. I was in the vineyard and in the winery with small tanks, putting wine in barrels. No more pressure on volume – quality only." A car accident in 2007 that left him paralysed failed to dent his enthusiasm for making top-quality malbec.

Latterly, Roberto has created an approachably fresh, barbecue-friendly malbec, the 2009 Lunta, around £10, House of Townend (01482 638888), and a delightfully lemony, Graves-like dry white, the 2010 Mendel Semillon, £9.95, The Wine Society. From a vineyard planted in 1928 surrounding the winery, his signature red, the 2008 Mendel Malbec, £17.99, buy 2 = £14.99, Majestic, shows sweet black cherry aromatics and black-fruit richness moderated by a damsony bite, while the 2007, around £17.95, Jeroboams, House of Townend, is similarly dark-fruited, if softer. In its power and potential for longevity, the violet-scented and cherry-rich 2007 Mendel Unus, a malbec/cabernet sauvignon blend, £30.75, Jeroboams, is a fitting tribute to his father's inspiration.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory