There are few winemakers in the world who can claim 100 perfect Parker points, and who make wines in two continents – Argentinean Marcelo Pelleriti is one of them. Head Winemaker for Bodega Monteviejo in the Uco Valley, and for Chateau Le Gay in Pomerol, Pelleriti has a long career both sides of the Atlantic and is considered one of the best winemakers in Argentina. Amanda Barnes interviews him.
What’s your first memory to do with wine?
When I was five I helped my grandfather pick grapes. He had a big house with vines all over the roof and he used me to pick the grapes in the smaller gaps. We’d put the grapes in big sacks, then crush them with our feet to make ‘vino patero.’
Was there a turning point in your career?
I had two very important harvests when I started to produce Chateau La Violette in France. Everybody can make wine but the idea is to make the wine that you want to. 2005 was a beautiful harvest in France – the perfect year, perfect conditions. But I didn’t feel I could do anything more than represent the climate in the wine.
2006 was a breakthrough because it was a difficult harvest in France and we were doing a new technical vinification, but I started to understand what wine I wanted to make. Powerful, but elegant. I started to understand how I can produce elegant wine with my personality.
I can’t say I have disadvantages because I am very fortunate to make two harvests a year. It’s a dream for me. In France there is a lot of difference between vineyards and we have more climate influence than in Argentina. I have to adapt my technique to the climatic conditions, and to make wine you have to know what’s happening during pruning, spring and summer. I don’t live in France so I have a lot of respect for the people who live there. Every year when I arrive I try to talk with all my neighbors, because they know the reality of the year.
I have worked 12 harvests there but I’m still a foreigner and you always have to listen to the old men. I learned maybe a bit more in France than here. I was born here and I live here so I know the land more, but you still always have to talk and work with the people who work the vineyards. It’s a big team.
Is there such a thing as luxury wine?
We don’t have luxury wines in Argentina yet … maybe we will in some years, like a hundred! A luxury wine is a wine to collect, but a luxury for me is when I can drink a good wine in the best moment. My best moment is enjoying it with my wife, my family and my friends; and I dream about when I will drink my wine with my son and daughter – that will be my luxury wine.
What is it you most dislike in a wine?
I dislike tasting Malbec from Argentina without our personality. I can’t understand tasting malbec without sweet tannins, or floral notes. Our style is a continental climate and it is completely different to the oceanic climate.
In wine terms, who are your heroes?
Michel Rolland. He has an incredible talent and I have respect for him – I think he is one of the heroes in Argentina because he discovered Malbec.
During harvest, who or what do you pray to?
You are a pioneer of bringing rock music and wine together – through your radio show, “In Vino Veritas,” the annual Monteviejo Wine Rock concert, and now Wine Rock in Rio. What’s the relationship between music and wine?
It’s very important. I like music and I like to play the guitar. To make wine we need other motivations. Sometimes we need to fly a bit more and we need good music to create it. I had a good experience last year with lots of musicians where every musician I invited tried to make a blend like a music composition. It was incredible when you tasted the blend and could see how the composition was like their style of music.
What do you listen to in the winery?
Always rock and sometimes classical.
Where would you like to be buried?
I’d like be buried with my best wine and favorite guitar … maybe in Mendoza.
What would your last wine, meal and song be?
I’d like to be with my wife in Saint-Jean-de-Luz [south-western France] with a Lindaflor Chardonnay, a lot of oysters and listening to – only one song?! “Little Wind” by Jimi Hendrix.
Do you have any regrets?
What brings you the greatest happiness?
A dream: to have a beautiful music studio, a cellar with a lot of wine from around the world, and to share it with my children.
What do you think would make the world a better place?
In the world there is a lot of egotism, false egos. But if we can remove our egos, our dream of power, and only share and show our passions without ego, we can change the world.
In the end, what really matters?
The most important thing is to enjoy life, and enjoy the present. After that, I don’t know.