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The journey, the process and the history behind a bottle of wine can be enjoyed as much as the contents. Each and every sip of wine is a result of patience, consideration and love which creates a story worth telling. Take Amalaya wine at Bodega Amalaya, one of the wine brands created by Grupo Colome, as an example. This is a story of risk, adventure and faith. We spoke with Ana Papadopulos, head of Trade Marketing and Communication for Grupo Colomé S.A regarding this tale.
Today, Bodega Amalaya is part of Hess Family Wine Estates, a group of Swiss origin with wineries in the United States and Argentina and wine lovers and connoisseurs alike take its very existence for granted. After all, The Hess Family specialise in the elaborate creation and marketing of high quality wines connected with art, gastronomy and tourism and we as consumers sometimes don’t appreciate what it takes to get from vine to wine.
According to Ana, the Bodega Amalaya may not have happened if not for Donald Hess’s pioneering and adventuring spirit. It was one of his first investments into Argentina in the Arenal vineyards. Its name “Amalaya” can be literally translated into “Hope for a Miracle” and is quite appropriate as the land at the time was considered to be almost completely worthless.
“No one, not even the Incas had tried to work this land,” Ana reveals, “But there was something there that caught Donald’s attention from the start and, following his instincts, he pursued it and the results are a testament to his experience.”
Since 2010, Bodega Amalaya has been one of Donald Hess’s projects in Argentina and joins the Bodega Colomé as a fine example of the strong commitment of the group to the region of the High Calchaquí Valleys, in the Northwest of Salta.
“Amalaya wines was born from a deep spirit of adventure and a fearlessness to try something new,” Ana tells us, “And it seems miraculous that the soil of the Cafayate desert could produce such great quality wine. But it was really down to the incredible skill of the teams involved and their dedication to their trade.”
THE LOCATION, CAFAYATE, SALTA
Cafayate is the heart of the Calchaquí Valleys, located northwest of Argentina. The region is distinguished by being the highest-altitude viticultural land in the world, with heights ranging from 1,700 meters to 3,300 meters. In Ana’s opinion it is one of the most vibrant places in Argentina for winemakers because it allows them to show the world the diversity of soils, varieties and style that this country has.
Located in the Province of Salta, Cafayate is also a charming town dedicated not only to wine but also to tourism and crafts. It is reached through the famous Quebrada de Cafayate, whose imposing canyon and impressive colourful mountains frame an unforgettable journey. Both Salta and Cafayate are distinguished by being one of the most important tourist destinations in Argentina.
Salta, itself can be identified by its cultural richness and regional cuisine, the beautiful landscapes and the warmth of its people. Salta wines are as iconic to the area as ponchos, empanadas, gauchos and the train to Las Nubes.
“Wine making in this area is an elaborate concept,” Anna reveals, “One that needs to combine local feeling, lore and particular organoleptic characteristics with refined new technologies and trends.”
The Amalaya Wines are produced based on the emblematic varieties of Malbec and Torrontés, which are cut with other strains to maximize the expression of their flavours. Thanks to this, a harmony of fruity and spicy flavours can be achieved, through which a fresh and complex range of wines are obtained.
The varieties used in the cuts are strains that occur very well in the region and the grapes come from the Calchaquí Valleys. The region stands out as one of the highest in the world and is characterized by its dry climate. Each year the rainfall is only around 150mm, it also has significant thermal amplitude; poor, rocky and sandy soils, creating a location perfect for hardy vines that create a unique and much enjoyed taste.
The Territory wine range benefits from a truly original sensory experience. Reminiscent of the Province and shares some characteristics with the wines of Height of the Calchaquí Valleys as as full of aromatic intensity, deep colours, high fruit expression and great body.
Winemaking is intricate and was conceivably one of the very first sciences. Humanity had perfected the art of fermentation long before we even considered applying such scientific methods to medicine. And, while the technology has developed and grown, while methodology has matured and been refined, there is still that intuitive quality to the process that is more art than science. Could a machine, acting purely on its programming be able to create a wine as beautiful as Bodega Amalaya? It is doubtful. To be able to truly capture the spirit of a grape into a bottle, there needs to be the touch of someone with a soul.
According to Ana, their philosophy of preparation and producing wine starts with understanding the simple truth: Each wine is born in a vineyard and each cluster of grapes needs to be looked after and nurtured and guided. The smallest variances of sunlight, temperature and soil composition can have an effect on the fruit and by guiding these influences one can achieve the characteristics of fruitiness or spiciness that you want to appear in your wines. Fermentation takes place in steel tanks, cement pools and in barrels, depending on the kind of wine that is aimed for.
“There are of course many different ways to achieve this,” Ana says, “And this is why different cultures have different techniques, different harvest points and ultimately different vinification techniques and technology. To truly capture the spirit of a location you can make full use of these local methods and incorporate them where possible.”
The Director of Vineyard Operations, Lorenzo Dalla Brea, who is ultimately the man in charge of managing the vineyards in their various locations, comes from a lineage of farmers. He grew up in Italy where his grandfather managed the family farm where they grew and harvested olives, grapes and tomatoes and although, in his early career he tried his hand at other professions, Lorenzo’s passion for farming secured his role in the Hess Family story.
After he completed his formal education which included a Masters Degree in Winemaking, Lorenzo worked harvests across the world from California to Australia until he met his wife and decided to settle in Napa. And it wasn’t long before his path aligned with the Hess Family and now, he is the steward of the vineyards. Claiming the responsibility as the viticulturist to “interpret his surroundings.”
Always aiming for sustainability and to honour Donald Hess’s credo of “nurture the land and return what you take.” Lorenzo considers it his responsibility to respect the land, as well as those that live on it.
“Many people think the job of winegrowing is just growing grapes, but it’s not just that, it’s about nurturing the earth and caring for the land we have the privilege to farm,” he says.
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