World Malbec Day has passed, but I cannot help but reminisce about my adventures in Argentina. My memories drift to my final day in Mendoza and the land of Malbec, where I discovered Familia Zuccardi. This winery combines all aspects of the Argentine wine industry, bringing them together in harmony with excellently balanced wines, gourmet dining, and sustainability. The winery unites all these features under one roof to form the third-largest company in Argentina and the only one run by a family.
The best way to describe Familia Zuccardi is that it is the Argentine version of Mondavi. This comparison comes about due to the size of the winery, its notoriety, and the type of tours presented to the consumer.
Alberto Zuccardi founded the winery in 1963. With a background in engineering and irrigation, he decided to plant a vineyard utilizing his innovations, hoping to entice other growers to use his techniques. Using underground channels and wells he was a forerunner in Argentine vineyard management. Little did he know that this would lead to his lifelong career in the wine industry.
Alberto passed the gauntlet down to his son Jose Alberto Zuccardi. His goals are still incorporated into this family business. They are creating the highest quality wines, being innovative, and maintaining harmony with the environment, which includes many sustainable practices.
Today Sebastián Zuccardi runs Familia Zuccardi. Miguel Zuccardi oversees the company’s Olive Oil production. Julie Zuccardi is in charge of the Visitors Center and the marvelous onsite restaurants.
Upon entering Zuccardi, you begin your visit in a barnlike structure that is an art gallery. Once a year, artists are invited to pick grapes and create a painting, which the Zuccardi family creates into a label that they place on 2 cases of wine.
Zuccardi’s vineyards are located in Vista Flores, Altamira, La Consulta, Maipú, and Santa Rosa. A percentage of these vineyards are organic certified, while all the vineyards incorporate sustainable practices.
Zuccardi has several different labels under which their wine is produced. Zuccardi, Santa Julia and Malamado. Under the Zuccardi label, there are several different tiers of wine, including entry-level, Series A, and Q, which stands for Quality. In the United States, we are most familiar with the Zuccardi series. Malamado is a line of fortified wines.
Innovation is key to Zuccardi not only for creating something new, but experimentation improves their existing lineup of wines. On my tour, we ventured into an area of the winery that they call the crazy room. Here the winery experiments with new varietals such as Greco, Verdejo, Caladoc, Ancellotta, and Fieno.
It was in this area of the winery that I discovered the Argentine form of the egg-shaped vat. Unlike the ones used in the United States, this is an upright concrete tank that has a conical egg-shaped head that creates a more constant movement causing a natural stirring effect on the wine because the lees are in continuous motion. In addition, it is thought that the moon influences this egg-shaped vessel, thereby concentrating the energy of the wine within. For some, this process adds more complexity and roundness to the wine.
Zuccardi Barrel Tasting
During my visit, we did barrel tastings that showed how the differences in terroir and vineyards locations affect the wine. We started with Bonarda from three different regions, Santa Rosa, which has deep sandy soil making the wine smooth and more velvety. Next the Altamira with large amounts of stone and limestone that added more brightness to the wine and we finished with Tupungato where I found the wine to be much greener.
Next was Malbec from four vineyards within a single region, the Uco Valley with different soils and elevations. In Vista Flores at 1000 feet and more lime in the soil, I found more florals and pepper. From La Consulta, the wines were smoother yet still peppery. Those from Altamira where the elevation was 1100 and a predominance of limestone exists, the wine displayed more acidity. Finally in Galtallary, the wine was thicker and richer due to the abundance of clay soils.
Our next barrel tasting was with Malbecs from different blocks in the Altamira Vineyard. Ten meters can make a huge difference. The first block was Super Calcareo, which is rockier; I found the wine rich, peppery, and fragrant. The Cacareo Arcilloso block had more clay in the soil producing a softer wine.
We finished this barrel tasting with three Cabernet Sauvignon samples. The first from the Super Calcareo, where the roots go deeper into the soil, the wine was balanced, fresher, and brighter with nice acidity. The wine from Calcareo Arcillosa was very balanced, and finally, the Cab from La Consulta was more complex, with richer color and flavors of mint and spice.
Lunch at Casa Del Visitante
It was lunch at Casa Del Visitante that blew me away, sticking forever in my mind and was the most pleasant ending to my trip, helping to make my 24-hour flight back to Los Angeles easier. It was, in my opinion, one of the best meals during my Argentine adventures.
The meal consisted of:
Orange caramelized baby carrots with Kumquat Sorbet
Trout fumet with fennel perfume,
Green Salad (cucumbers, avocado, lime, capers, and green olives
Pork Trotters Carpaccio, apple compote
Corn, coriander & lemon soup with Trout breaded in sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Grilled Pork Sirloin, quinoa risotto with caramelized tomatoes & mushrooms, tips of asparagus
Malamado Extra Dry and black pepper sorbet, cardamom infusion and false lemon caviar
Black olive cake filled with sweet corn, curry popcorn, and corn ice cream.
What I discovered enjoying the cuisine was the wines we sampled were excellent on their own merit, but with the food was even more outstanding.
There was the Torrontes Zuccardi’s Series A with its tropical fruits on the nose and flavors of citric fruits, apricots, and melon. All balanced with nice acidity.
The no oak Bonarda was light to medium in body with subtle fruits on the nose and very drinkable compared to most Bonardas.
The Zuccardi Q Chardonnay has 25% Viognier added. This wine was very crisp with flavors of grapefruit, nice acidity and hints of spice.
My notes on the Tempranillo were vague, but I found the Malbec very drinkable and fruit-forward with hints of raspberries.
The Malbec Rose was crisp, with flavors of stone fruit predominantly peaches.
It was fun trying the Alma 4 red sparkling wine made from Bonarda with its raspberry flavors.
Finally, there was the Malamado, the fortified wine made from Malbec. This sweet wine accents any dessert with wonderful aromas of black fruits.
While visiting Argentina, a tour, tasting, and lunch at Familia Zuccardi is a must. The total experience from superb cuisine to excellence in wine will leave you feeling this family-run winery is a true testament to the significance altitude and terroir play in the role of Argentine wine.