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Finca Ferrer: Freixenet’s passion in the Uco Valley

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Finca Ferrer is the highest of the Freixenet family’s wineries in the world – and the most dramatic.

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Finca Ferrer: Freixenet’s passion in the Uco Valley

It sits against the backdrop of the Andes and the snow-capped peaks of Tupungato and its little brother Tupungatito. When José Ferrer Sala found the property in 2003, it was virgin land, but he recognised something remarkable in the soils, climate and unspoilt purity of the environment of Gualtallary.

Gualtallary (pronounced Whal-ta-jharee) is in the Tupungato zone of the Uco Valley. In a very short time, it has established itself as one of the great sites for wine in South America – it’s no wonder that Finca Ferrer’s neighbours include other famous Argentinian wine names. In fewer than two decades, Ferrer Sala’s confidence in the region has been proved. Gualtallary produces exceptional wines, and Finca Ferrer has won several international accolades. The combination of European experience with an exciting new terroir is continuing to produce inspiring results.

The estate

Finca Ferrer is a 317ha single estate at more than 1,300m altitude, about a 90-minute drive from Mendoza city. A key to the quality of the wines is the calcium carbonate in the soil. Digging calicatas (exploratory holes) across the site revealed the estate has higher than average deposits of chalk. Using the ‘degree day’ system to measure temperatures, the estate lies between Winkler II and III – essentially between a Bordeaux climate and a Rhône one, benefiting from significant influence of the Andes.

During the day, the sun is bright (with more than 300 sunny days a year) and the solar intensity encourages photosynthesis. As the sun goes down the vineyard is cooled by the evening winds, and overnight temperatures drop as much as 20°C. This large diurnal temperature difference ensures long, even ripening, building complexity in the grapes. The region is arid, with just 14cm of rain a year.

Both soil and climate enable sustainable farming, with low or no input of pesticides. Since phylloxera does not exist in these sandy, rocky, alluvial soils, this is one of the world’s increasingly scarce places where it’s possible to discover wines made from vines on their own rootstocks.

The estate’s vines are between seven and 14 years old. The varieties planted are Malbec, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo, Chardonnay. (The Finca Ferrer Torrontés is grown in vineyards to the north, in Cafayate.)

The winemaker

Winemaker Daniel Ekkert. Credit: Tim Atkin

The new head winemaker at Finca Ferrer is Daniel Ekkert. He took on the role in summer 2018 after working for two years alongside his predecessor José Antonio Montilla, in launching the award-winning portfolio. Montilla has now returned to his native Spain to develop new projects within the Ferrer Family properties.

Ekkert is Argentinian born and bred, and has experience working in the South of France before returning to bodegas in Argentina. He confesses he’s ‘very excited to be taking on sole responsibility for an estate which is still in its infancy and has its best quality years very much ahead of it’.

The flavours of Finca Ferrer

The estate wines are produced in a pyramid of styles. The Acordéon range is the ideal place to start. The four varietal wines – Malbec, Syrah, Torrontés and Chardonnay – express the vivid typicity of their origins, and have proved favourites with Decanter World Wine Awards judges. The 2016 Acordéon Malbec (above, left to right, 1) was Highly Recommended in the Decanter panel tasting (October 2017) of Malbecs from the region with 93 points, while the 2015 vintage won a DWWA 2016 Platinum for Best Malbec over £15.

The Acordéon Syrah’s spicy charm makes it a fine match for steak, and barbecued chicken; the Acordéon Chardonnay is an unoaked, fresh style; and the Acordéon Torrontés (2) – which won DWWA Gold in 2016 with the 2015 vintage and 90 points in Tim Atkin MW’s Argentina 2017 special report with the 2017 vintage – shows the variety’s aromatic intensity. All are available from Ocado.com at £11.99.

Stepping up the pyramid, look out for the Finca Ferrer Malbec 2014, (3) 14.5%, £16.99 Waitrosecellar.com (DWWA Commended 2017).  It’s a finely balanced expression of this favourite variety, plump with silky plum fruit.

Next in line is Doscumbres, (4) the icon blend, of Malbec, Syrah, Tannat and – in a nod to the Spanish origins of the family – Tempranillo (the 2012 vintage won DWWA Silver in 2016).  Cumbre means summit, and the wine is named after the two snow-capped peaks. Top of the tier, and only recently launched is the 1310 Collection. The name refers to the 1,310m altitude of the vineyard. There is a 2016 Chardonnay and a 2015 Pinot Noir, both exclusively available from Waitrosecellar.com for £29). They are two outstanding wines – award-winners in their year of release. Quantities produced are tiny and the whole approach is of hand selection and scrupulous attention.

It’s no surprise to learn that José Ferrer Sala was first drawn to this cool-climate site for its potential to make sparkling wine. The Chardonnay Block c2 2016 (5) (DWWA Bronze 2018 and 94 points in Tim Atkin MW’s Argentina 2017 special report) has a thrilling freshness. So too does the Pinot Noir Block a1 2015 (6) (95 points in Tim Atkin MW’s Argentina 2017 special report), which aims to build a reputation for the variety in Gualtallary.

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