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Cellar Door with Alpasión Winery

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Alpasión Malbec is brand new to Matthew Clark this Autumn. Alpasión is derived from the Spanish words for soul (alma) and passion (pasion) and their goal is to make the best possible wine according to sustainable organic standards. We caught up with them to learn more about them and how their wines are produced on their vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina.

Tell us more about how a few people with soul and passion for wine got together to create honest and iconic wines together?

The original six investors in Alpasión took The Challenge of Leadership course together at INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau, France.  Over the course of the class participants share many personal and emotional experiences with each other and the six grew close through all of that.  In the hopes of keeping up their friendship outside of the course they one day decided – over a few bottles of wine – to make a dream come true by making beautiful wines together.  And that’s how Alpasión came to be.

The labels are quirky, tell us more about this.

Since these early days we’ve grown to 50 investors all of whom are friends – or friends of friends – of the original six founders.  Our labels feature the fingerprints and signatures of our owners because the people and friendships behind the project are central to who we are.  We wanted to be sure to convey the personal and hands-on nature of the project through the label. Plus, we only make wines which we can be proud of so we’re happy to sign our names to the bottle!

Is it true you named a row of vines after us?

Yes, it’s true!  Given our roots we really value the relationships we have with our different suppliers, importers, etc.  We appreciate the work everyone does, that contributes to the project’s success and want to honour that by bringing our partners into the folds of our business in different ways.  For us it is all about personal, long-term relationships.

To achieve the goals of having innovative and sustainable wines you have hired the talented wine maker, Karim Mussi Saffi, an Argentine of Lebanese decent. What is he currently doing to ensure the wines stay organic and innovative?

We believe deeply in the importance of terroir and are dedicated to making honest wines – wines that reflect the soil’s true and unique identity.  For us, it’s all about honouring the natural process of winemaking, about listening to and responding to nature’s messages in order to make wines that are an honest reflection of what’s been given to us.

This thinking is central to our project and is reflected in both our early decisions and the ongoing, day-to-day management of the vineyard and winemaking process.  For example, we did a thorough soil study before planting to make sure we make the most out of the soil’s natural composition and diversity.  The resulting wines are the best expression of the terroir they come from.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

It’s hard to pick just one!  When we first started this project we were just a bunch of passionate people with a dream and we certainly encountered challenges in the early days.  For example, we ran into problems obtaining a water permit, which was necessary to drill the deep well we needed to irrigate the vines.  There was a lot of bureaucracy to wade through.  In the end we were successful but the whole process set us back almost 2 years in the vineyard.

Being an organic vineyard also presents challenges because farming practices can be more time consuming and expensive – but we do it because we believe in it.

We are often learning as we go along but I am very happy to say that we’ve come a long way and that our biggest challenge today is effectively managing our growth; we made less than 10,000 bottles in 2011 and 300,000 bottles in 2016.  The whole operation has had to scale in a relatively short amount of time, but I guess this is a good problem to have.

We have a brand new Malbec from Alpasión being released in October – tell us more about this new wine.

The Alpasión Malbec is our flagship wine.  The 2011 vintage was awarded 90 Parker Points and the 2012 was awarded a Gold Medal by Decanter. It is a pure, rich, fruity wine that expresses the goodness of the soil and climate of the Uco Valley. Its aroma presents red and dark fruit with a hint of minerality that keeps it fresh, while the 10+ months of aging in French oak barrels adds a spicy complexity with hues of vanilla and smoke. Its mouthfeel is silky and concentrated, and combines ripe fruitiness with round and supple tannins. It can be enjoyed now or aged for up to ten years.  It’s a truly beautiful wine.

What is your favourite wine and food pairing with this Malbec?

Alpasión Malbec is truly at its best when paired with traditional Argentine churrasco or grilled meats such as flank, sirloin or skirt steak but really it can work with all kinds of meats including lamb and pork – and also hearty stews.

What do you love most about this industry?

There’s so much to love about the wine business but I would have to say the thing that I love the most is that it encourages a real appreciation and respect for nature.  As I mentioned earlier, for us, winemaking is all about listening to and responding to nature’s messages, which presents so many interesting challenges and opportunities that you don’t encounter in other businesses. It has a way of humbling you…

I also like the fact that there are no real “wrong answers” in wine. It is all about personal preferences, tastes, moments and experiences.

Is there anything else of interest you would like to point out about your wines or the vineyard?

Our focus on quality extends beyond our wines and vineyard to our luxury lodge, which is located in Uco Valley, Mendoza at the base of the Andes Mountains.  The six-room lodge is intimate and welcoming and offers absolutely breathtaking views – it’s a truly special place and a wonderful home away from home when visiting the Mendoza region.

If you had one paragraph or sentence to convince people to try Alpasión Malbec what would you say?

There’s a saying that the best wines are the ones we drink with friends and for us at Alpasión that is our essence, our goal was to do just that – make quality wines we could share with each other as friends.  And now, we feel honoured and lucky to be able to share our wines with the rest of the world.  Alpasión is meant to be enjoyed with friends and by people who have a shared passion for friendship, good food and great wines.  We hope you and your friends enjoy it as much as we do. Cheers!

This interview first appeared in Vini 009. Click here to view our wine magazine online. If you would like to receive a hard copy of Vini just ask your account manager. We love writing it, and we’re sure you’ll love reading it too.

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