When I consider the wines of Argentina, I think of the three regions of Mendoza, including the Maipu Valley, Lujan de Cuyo, and Uco Valley, in addition to Salta. I thought I was well versed regarding Argentina’s wine regions until I discovered Pyros Wines, located in the relatively unknown region of Valle de Pedernal.
Valle De Pedernal
The Valle de Pedernal is located south of San Juan and north of Mendoza at the foot of the Andes and bordered by the “Cordillera Oriental” mountain range. The terroir is similar to France’s Burgundy, with its alluvial soil comprised of limestone and flint. The soils vary from sandy loam to silt loam, allowing for low yields in the vineyards. The vines planted at the top of the hillside consist of pure limestone, while those at the bottom of the Pedernal Valley combined rocks with finer soils
The cool, desert-like climate and high altitudes enhance the intensity of the grapes grown in the area. These conditions and breezes from the south provide for grapes with thicker skins and a longer ripening period. The result is wine with intensity, expressive aromas and flavors, good tannin, and high acidity.
Viticulture began in the area in the mid-1990s. Originally the land was open-field livestock farming. The Pyros Vineyard consists of 800 hectares, of which 200 hectares are planted with Malbec. In addition to Malbec, Pyros grows Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. The vineyards are farmed organically and harvested early.
Pedernal means flint in Spanish and refers to the flint found in the soil. Pyros means fire in ancient Greek. Native people of the area struck two flint stones together to light their fires. It is the stones and the native spirit that led to the naming of the winery Pyros. Pyros is a part of the Salentein Family Wines.
Mijndert Pon, the founder of Bodegas Salentein, discovered the untamed beauty of the Pedernal Valley in 2008, one year after Valle de Pedernal officially became a wine Geographic Indications, GI in Argentina. Pyros is one of six producers in the region.
Winemaker Paula González
Paula González grew up in Mendoza among her family’s small vineyards. She graduated from Universidad Juan Agustín Maza in Mendoza with a degree in Enology. Her career began at Graffigna, where she headed their premium wines from the Pedernal Valley. Paul also worked at Bodega Casarena in the Lujan de Cuyo region. She traveled to Spain to work at Comando G, a winery outside of Madrid. She joined Pyros in 2019, and today Paula is responsible for all the Pyros wines.
Paula also leads the way with experimental initiatives, “including the experimental micro-vinification efforts for the 2020 harvest, fermentation in wooden casks and barrels with indigenous yeasts, and implementing bio-protection winemaking.”
2021 Pyros Appellation Chardonnay: This Chardonnay ferments and ages in a combination of stainless steel and French oak for six months, followed by three months in the bottle. I found an elegant and fresh wine with aromas of orange blossoms accented with flavors of pear and apple.
2019 Pyros Appellation Malbec 2019: This Malbec sources grapes from different blocks in the vineyard. The wine ages 12 months in 2, 3, and 4-year-old French and American oak. Twenty percent of the wine ages in stainless steel. The wine then ages six months in the bottle. With dark fruit flavors, this wine expresses herbaceous and balsamic notes and Pyros’ entry-level Malbec.
2018 Single Vineyard Black No. 4 Malbec: The grapes are sourced from block No. 4 of Pyros’ Firestone estate. The wine ages 12 months in 1, 2, and 3-year-old French and American oak, with 10% aging in stainless steel. After the wine ages another 12 months in the bottle. I discovered a powerful yet rounded Malbec displaying dark fruit and spice.
2018 Pyros Limestone Hill Malbec: By far my favorite, the grapes come from the “Limestone Hill” plot. The wine ages in 1, 2, and 3-year-old oak, 50% French and 50% American oak, for 12 months, after which the wine ages another 12 months in bottle. With its silky tannins, this bold yet elegant wine showcases red fruits accented by herbs and floral notes. The wine is complex and speaks to the limestone soils of Pedernal Hill.
The Future of Pyros Wines
With Paula’s “goal to bring creativity and innovation to the challenge of making wine that reflects the ultimate expression of Pyros vineyards and the Pedernal Valley,” her exuberance invigorates these high-elevation wines.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer attended a hosted wine-tasting luncheon with Pyros Wines. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.