Making egg wine at Zorzal Winery

Majestic Tupungato Volcano (21.555 ft.) oversees Uco Valley
First week of March, in a clear morning in wind-barren, rocky, sandy and dusty Gualtallary district in Uco Valley, Mendoza. Under hughe vistas of the snow capped Andes, feeling the crisp air in their nostrills, a small army of harvesters are hand picking clusters of dark small grapes.

Of all the terroirs of Argentina, and perhaps in the world, Gualtallary is considered a hidden gem. Altitude (vineyards climbing up to 5.000 ft.), a broad night /day temperature span, and more importantly, the soil. So poor, so rocky, that the vine´s roots had to dig deeper in search of humidity (drip irrigation is also a key here) and nutrients, where they find precious calcium carbonate coated stones, locally called white bones. These calcareous soils result in a minerality and fine, chalky tannins… the mouthfeel you might recognize from… perhaps… Barolo? Burgundy? Sancerre?

In this 175 acres estate that is still being planted, ancient bush style training system for the vines in some of the slopesides, a new, beautifully simple winery arises in the middle of the desert, a dream comed true for three mendocinean brothers.

Just harvested pinot noir grapes ready to go into cold maceration

Zorzal Winery is the brainchild of Gerardo Michelini. Once in the banking industry, and tired of economic up and downs, he began to envision this long term project along with his two oenologist brothers, Matias and Juan Pablo. They purchased the property in 2008, and the winery was ready to receive its first harvest in 2009.

Gravity feed stainless steel tanks
Welcome..., Juan Pablo Michelini greet us with a broad smile and extends a purple-stained hand for a warm shake. Excuse the mess... he says, we just got the pinot noir grapes in and we are about to start de-steming. After imparting instructions to some of his workers, he signals us to follow him..."when we decided to produce wine with my brothers, we needed to create an identity, a sort of DNA, in order to differentiate ourselves from the thousands of labels out there. We realized that this terroir was unique, so we wanted to reflect as much as we could of it in our wines!"

Therefore, bold, innovative, creative, somehow risky vinification techniques are applied to the whole process, and this results in unique, natural and exotic wines. Low intervention, the use of native yeast only, low fermenting temperatures, selected stems maceration and fermentation (diferent than whole bunch maceration/fermentation, were a percentage of the wine is fermented using the whole cluster, without separating the berries from the stems, what they do is to de-stem all the grapes, then go to the discarded stem pile and select a percentage of the ripest ones, and introduce them with the berries in the fermentation tank), white wines fermented with its skins, and the most distinct feature: very unique vats....

Egg wine: One of the innovations Zorzal uses are concrete egg-shaped, amphora styled vats, originally made in France and first introduced in Argentina by Michel Rolland. Juan Pablo and Matias needed a few to began with but could not afford the french ones, so the found a company that was brave enough to try to make a prototype for them. They provided the specs, and now these vats can be seen in other wineries as a trend.

The very first concrete egg vat made in Mendoza
Zorzal Lines:

Entry level line: 100% varietals with no oak intervention: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet, and Malbec Rosé.

Reserve Line: Pinot Noir, Malbec and Cabernet.

"Field Blend"Line: 50% Cab.-50%  Malbec fermented together, aaaaahhhhh, incredible wine!

Icon Line: Climax Malbec and Climax Blend.

In the kitchen, to be released: T5 Cab. Franc, that really surprised us by its finesse!, Eggo, a blend totaly fermented and aged in eggs, and a special sauvignion blanc.

Note: The famous, unique, Taransaud T5 is like the Ferrari of all french oak barrels. T5 is made from very tight grain French oak specially selected, seasoned in the open air for 5 years on limited series and quantities. Every T5 is produced and finished under the active control of a Master Cooper ‘Meilleur Ouvrier de France’ who signs each barrel.

Local artists began to decorate the eggs

The Michelini brothers, are part of a very young, innovative, powerful new generation of argentinian winemakers (along with Sebastian Zuccardi, Laureano Gomez, Alejandro Vigil, Alejandro Sejanovich, Marcelo Peleriti, and Luis Reginato) that the wine industry is in the watch for.

With Juan Pablo Michelini, while tapping the barrel cellar, like a kid showing his toys!

So no fancy tasting room, nor model like receptionist or award winning building, just a bunch of young, passionated, honest guys showing their talents! I highly recommend to give them a try!

Note: Zorzal is not open to the public, but visits and tastings could be arranged trough Rosell and Soler Premium Wine and Art Tours at pedrorosell@rosellsoler.com

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