New World Sauvignon Blanc is best known as coming from the coast – whether it is the coast of California, the bay of Malborough or by the Pacific breezes in Chile. However, with very few coastal vineyards, Argentina’s Sauvignon Blanc is in a league of its own, as one of Argentina’s top winemakers proves.
Making up less than 1% of Argentina’s wine production, Sauvignon Blanc is still on the fringe but Matías Michelini has garnered national and international acclaim for his Montesco Agua de Roca Sauvignon Blanc and with Sophenia Synthesis – Argentina’s first icon-level Sauvignon Blanc.
Matías has been one of the biggest proponents of Sauvignon Blanc in Argentina, having started making the variety in 1996 (in Luigi Bosca). It wasn’t until he began experimenting in Doña Paula though that he found an affinity with the variety, and an affinity between Sauvignon Blanc and Mendoza:
“My first real advances in the variety were at Doña Paula in 2001,” says Matías. “At this time we were all looking for an aromatic explosion, we wanted it to be like the Sauvignon Blanc of New Zealand or Chile. But today that has changed a lot, we understand that our viticulture is very different – we don’t have the sea, but we do have a great mountain range.”
Matías describes it as ‘mountain Sauvignon Blanc’, and it is this distinction that has led him to discover his trademark style: “After many years of frustrating attempts, we started to look for the mountain character in our wines. The Uco Valley has cold nights which mean that Sauvignon Blanc, which is very sensitive to heat, has found a special place where it can mature slowly and take its character from the soil.”
So what is the character of Uco Valley ‘mountain’ Sauvignon Blanc? “Austere and electric, with tension and freshness, is there anything more similar to a mountain that that?” responds Matías.
While Uco Valley Sauvignon Blanc may be a mountain wine, for Matías the best pairing is one of juxtaposition: “the best food pairing is one of duality – wine from the mountains that seeks the companionship of fresh seafood from the coast.”
As summer reaches a peak here in Mendoza, a cool glass of mountain Sauvignon Blanc couldn’t be more mouthwatering!
Some of Matías Michelini’s stand out mountain Sauvignon Blancs to try at home:
Matías has been winemaker, and now consultant winemaker, for Sophenia for many years and Synthesis was the first super-premium Sauvignon Blanc in Argentina. From Gualtallary, this is a vibrant and intense expression with notes of citrus fruits and herbs on the nose with a fresh, almost floral, finish.
Matías is a consultant winemaker for Zorzal along with the his brother, Head Winemaker, Juan Pablo Michelini. This salubrious Sauvignon Blanc is aged in concrete eggs, and has a wonderful flintiness with great texture in the mouth. It is a very mineral Sauvignon Blanc with great tension and fresh acidity.
This is Matías’ own label of Sauvignon Blanc and certainly the most austere expression of them all, he describes this wine as: “Agua de Roca has a profound focus on what’s underneath – on its granite soils loaded with chalk. It doesn’t look to the sky, but it respires in the fresh breeze that comes down from the mountains every morning while its grapes are hidden from the sunshine. It doesn’t want to be a Sauvignon Blanc, it is proud to be a ‘agua de roca’ (water of the rocks).”
Originally published for The Vines of Mendoza