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Introducing Pyros Wines: Limestone character of the Pedernal Valley

Promotional feature.

One man’s vision to showcase the exceptional fruit grown in the limestone and flint soils of Argentina’s Pedernal Valley was quickly realised in Pyros and its range of award-winning wines

Pyros began as the dream of a remarkably visionary man: Myndert Pon. He loved Argentina deeply, and he threw himself into the goal of creating wines that capture the essence of a region, a culture and its people. The region must be remarkable, the culture must be authentic and the people must both participate in the process and share in the success.

He was an early pioneer with Bodegas Salentein in the Uco Valley, where he created some of the top wines in the leading premium wine region of Argentina, surrounded by a world-class collection of Argentine art. His two daughters and his son share that vision moving forward. But he also saw enormous potential just to the north, in the neighbouring province of San Juan.

The story of his quest to create these wines is the story of Pyros and the Pedernal Valley.

The Place: Valle de Pedernal

The story of Pyros begins in a single plot of vineyards in the Pedernal Valley of San Juan Province, a new appellation in Argentina. It is a story that combines the basic elements of the ancients into a single expression of outstanding character.

The Pedernal Valley is an isolated rock-bound canyon in the foothills of the towering Andes. The nearest town, nearly 28km away, has only 500 inhabitants, and there are only two more towns within 65km. What stands out is the solitude and serenity. Despite the harsh conditions, wildlife abounds, and the men working the vineyard often see hares and hawks, foxes and vicunas, even an occasional condor passes overhead. They all talk of the impressive sense of silence in this rare, rocky valley, only one twentieth the size of the more famous Uco Valley to the south. The water and air are astonishingly clean and clear. The world-famous astronomical observatory El Leoncito Astronomical Complex is only 40km away.

Earth: limestone at its heart

Pedernal Valley is one of the few places where flint, a dense quartz found in limestone, occurs in the world of wine, and for wine, limestone is the Holy Grail. Only 7% of the Earth’s surface is limestone, and flint makes up only a tiny percentage of that. In the search for the perfect wine from San Juan, the grapes from Pedernal always stood out, and the team quickly pounced to explore the area more completely. One place, laying at the slope of the Pedernal Hill that gave the valley its name (pedernal is the Spanish word for flint), is the best of all. That is Pyros vineyard, the only vineyard in Argentina planted over limestone soils of geological origin.

Pyros limestone

The vineyard

The Pyros vineyard is the source of a unique collection of wines exclusively from the Pedernal Valley. The vineyard lies over the southern slope of the Pedernal Hill and is the only vineyard in Argentina planted on limestone soils of geological origin. Thanks to this unique location, Pyros vineyards enjoy a gentle breeze from the Andes that encourages healthy vine growth and limits all pests.

Altitude: 1,400m above sea level
Vineyards planted: 80ha of Malbec
Year of planting: 2008
Plantation density: 5,000 plants/ha
Vineyards planted: 0.5ha Chardonnay – Dijon clones 95 & 76 – ungrafted
Vineyards planted: 0.5ha Cabernet Franc – clones 331 & 210 – ungrafted
Year of planting: 2019
Plantation density: 6,250 plants/ha
Trellising system: VSP Guyot

Wind: the climate of the Andes

Only a very small percentage of the world’s wine comes from limestone soils, and there are no other such vineyards at an elevation of 1,400m above sea level. Here the heat of the San Juan plains dissipates in the cool breezes that flow fresh from the Andes, and the bright sunshine and dry air ripen the grapes to perfection, concentrating flavour and complex character. The dry air means that vines grow without pests or diseases so often associated with a more humid climate. It is a paradise for wine grapes, creating wines with intense colour, great varietal character, expressive aromas, and the elegance and structure that shows both character and lineage.

Water: the essence of purity

In every Andean vineyard, the source of water is key. In the Pyros vineyard of Pedernal, the water begins as snow high in the Andes, and gently filters down to the hard flint bedrock of the vineyard itself. It provides an ample water supply in this arid region, and the team uses the latest drip systems to deliver it to the vines, driving the roots deep into the limestone soil, concentrating flavours while managing vine vigour and maintaining elegance. The secret to growing great grapes is to keep them in balance with the environment, and water is the key in the Pedernal Valley.

Fire: the driving force for quality

Without passion there can be no great wines, and Pyros is no exception. Just as the native peoples used the flint of Pedernal Valley to make fire for millennia, so the winemaking team at Pyros is driven to make great wines with the grapes grown here. The goal is to make stunning wines with more intense colour, greater expression of aromas and flavours, superbly elegant tannic structure and great natural acidity – wines that are both deeply expressive and exhibit good ageing potential. They proudly take their place among the great wines from limestone soils, with elegance, style and finesse. Top scores from some of the most demanding critics in the world support this claim.

Gustavo Matocq and his team

Gustavo Matocq (middle) with Leo Neila (left) and Fernando Atencio (right) from his team

The people

As all great wine begins in the vineyard, viticulturalist Gustavo Matocq must lead the way. Matocq is a native son of San Juan, but during the course of his career he has been awarded degrees by both the University of Buenos Aires and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Montpellier in France. This local boy adds to his international reputation each year with articles published in leading journals and he also holds a teaching position at the University of Cuyo in Mendoza. It was Matocq’s job to explore his native province and find the very best places to grow grapes capable of making world-class wines.

Matocq is aided by a deeply dedicated farming team at Pyros, headed by farm manager Fernando Javier Atencio. The third generation of his native San Juan family to follow a career in viticulture, Atencio brings both passion and enthusiasm to Pyros. He knows every inch of San Juan and he emphatically champions Pedernal and Pyros. In fact, he is such a fan of the property that he often takes his family there for a picnic on his day off – enjoying the stunning scenery, the fascinating wildlife and the astonishing silence. And as they enjoy the fire and food of an asado in the evening, the nighttime sky sparkles with a clarity found nowhere else.

To make the wine from these grapes, winemaker Paula González takes charge. Like Matocq, Gonzalez’s role in Argentina goes beyond making great wine. She was given a single task for Pyros: take the very best of the Pedernal vineyard and make it into a wine that can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with the very best wines in the world.

Giving an added perspective in this quest, Californian winemaker Paul Hobbs acts as a consultant. Hobbs’ track record of making amazing wines has taken him to many different parts of the globe, and he brings an additional palate and passion to the team that makes Pyros. Hobbs studied at UC Davis in California, and his experience since then includes seven years at Robert Mondavi Winery and Opus One, as well as a stint as winemaker for Simi Winery. Robert Parker has twice named Hobbs Winemaker of the Year for his phenomenal focus on quality.

Paula Gonzalez

Paula González, winemaker

What does ‘Pyros’ mean?

The soil of the Pedernal valley has silica stones known as flint, that gave the valley its name. Striking these stones against each other creates a shower of sparks that, according to the local legends, was used by the aboriginal people of the region to light their fires. The stones, their flame and spirit give rise to the name Pyros, which means fire. Created in its honour, Pyros is a wine deeply rooted in its unique terroir, destined to bring the history of the Pedernal Valley to life.

The wines

Pyros Blend 2014

Pyros Special Blend

Brings the three grape varieties of the Pedernal Valley into balance, combining them into a single unforgettable experience. Untamed and exquisite.

It is made with the best Malbec grapes from selected rows of our Pyros vineyard (where the soil is extremely rocky, mainly of limestone with some flint and schist) and selected rows of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from selected vineyards in the upper reaches of Pedernal Valley.

Blend: 70% Malbec, 22% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon

Limited edition of 12,000 bottles.

Pyros Single Vineyard Block N°4 Malbec

The finest fruit from a special block in the vineyard is used to create this remarkable wine. The soil profile of this block, rocky (limestone, flint, schist and granite) with thin layers of sand, clay and silt, gives the wine its unique profile, a new and different profile of Malbec from Argentina, with wild flowers and black fruit aromas. Balanced black fruit, spices and mineral flavours, plush tannins and refreshing acidity, stunning, intense and luscious.

Limited edition of 30,000 bottles.

Pyros Appellation

These 100% varietal wines come from different plots of our Pyros vineyard in the case of Malbec and from a neighbouring producer in the Pedernal Valley for Chardonnay and Syrah. They represent the living expression of the Pedernal Valley Appellation with outstanding fruit, floral and spiced profiles that result in elegant and unusual wines of great character and personality.

Varietals: Malbec, Syrah and Chardonnay.

Pyros Single Vineyard Block No4

Pyros Single Vineyard Block N°4 Malbec 2015

Awards for current vintages

Pyros Special Blend 2014

97pts Tim Atkin MW – Argentina Special Report 2018

I find it hard to contain my enthusiasm for this remarkable, terroir-driven cuvée of mostly Malbec with 22% Syrah and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s still quite youthful at the moment, but give it time. Mint, liquorice and black tea flavours, lots of perfume, wild herb aromas and a frisson of chalky minerality. This is the real deal. 2021-30

Pyros Single Vineyard Block N°4 Malbec 2015

96pts Tim Atkin MW – Argentina Special Report 2018

The wines from this amazing site, located on a highly unusual combination of schist and limestone soils, just get better and better. This is a Cornas among Malbecs, with incredible perfume and intensity, all incense, violets and liquorice. Dense, rich and effortlessly complex, it’s a stunning Malbec. 2020-28

Where to buy Pyros Wines

UK: New Generation Wines

US: Taub Family Selections

For further information please visit: www.pyroswines.com or @pyroswines

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