October’s Wine Club is here! And that means we have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to our Winemaker of the Year!
Last year, we chose a pioneer from Chile who planted his vineyards as labyrinths up in the Andes when no one else was doing so. This year, we’ve crossed over the Andes into Argentina and found a man who started as an outsider in the Argentine wine industry, and continues to strive to buck conventions and question orthodoxy.
May we introduce, Eduardo Soler of Ver Sacrum as our 2018 Winemaker of the Year!
Julio, one of Grand Cata’s two founders, had the opportunity to speak with Eduardo this week. “I have a different view of the Argentinian wine industry,” he told Julio, “I believe I bring freshness to it. I am not afraid to be considered the outsider, in fact the diversity helps Argentina.”
Eduardo Soler’s approach pretty much boils down to “if it’s being done elsewhere in Argentina, I’m not going to do it.” That should not be confused with simply being different for difference’s sake. Rather, this philosophy allows him to free himself from the expectations and often close-mindedness that surround, specifically, malbec production.
“We are against the so-called ‘photocopy malbec.’ In the 2000s you tasted so many bottles and they all tasted the same. We are an answer to that.”
His results speak for themselves.
“We do things differently and I was looked at as the weird guy. Now some of my fellow winemakers are looking at our work.”
Soler is fond of saying “our wines are made in the vines, not in the winery,” or the even more succinct “more vineyard, less winery.” This philosophy fits perfectly with our commitment to sourcing honest wines.
Instead of malbec, Soler has chosen to focus on mediterranean grapes. More specifically, those grapes common to the Rhone valley of France.
Why Rhone grapes? For starters, the heat. He realized that areas in the northern parts of Mendoza, and even farther north into San Juan, were hot enough to ripen grenache (garnacha), mourvedre, marsanne, and roussanne.
He also looked to the past, a theme we’ve noticed all over South America. Until the 1940s, garnacha was actually very common in Mendoza. “There is one grape that blew our minds and it was a particular garnacha from Sierra de Gredos, Spain” Soler explained to Julio, “and we try to follow its path.”
Mendoza is so hot, and gets so much sun, that even these mediterranean grapes can get over ripe there. To combat this, Eduardo again asked “what’s everyone else doing” and then did the opposite. Generally, vintners plant their vines on north facing slopes in Mendoza to take advantage of the intense sunlight. This works for grapes that need the extra boost, but the Rhone grapes Eduardo has chosen don’t. So he plants on east and west facing slopes. This way, the grapes ripen but aren’t “cooked,” as he calls it.
Even the name of his winery speaks to his commitment to renewal and innovation. Ver Sacrum means “sacred spring” in Latin, and refers to a ritual co-opted by the Greeks and later the Romans from Pagans. Eduardo chose this name because Pagans were so linked and in tune with nature and agriculture.
He also chose the name because often during this ceremony, especially in Rome, whenever a town or city became overcrowded, a collection of younger members of the community would be sent out to found a new village. One of the mandatory things they brought with them were vine clippings. So in a way, “Ver Sacrum” means “new wine.” Eduardo is discovering new ways to make different wine in Argentina, and the name of his project reflects that.
The packaging and aesthetic of the project has one final connection to the phrase Ver Sacrum. The Art Nouveau movement had a magazine called Ver Sacrum. They made the same association as Eduardo does with the ceremony and the planting of new vineyards. In fact, the very first issue’s cover was a drawing where the roots of a grapevine in a pot break through the pot and plant themselves into the earth. It’s not hard to see the symbolism this image has for Eduardo and his approach to winemaking and grape growing well over a century later!
Now, to the picks! Eduardo makes many wines. Honestly, we could have gone with any one of them. We chose a fascinating, exotic, slightly austere white called “Geisha de Jade” and a fresh, medium bodied garnacha full of mineral notes that will cause you to crave roasted lamb. “Geisha,” made from 100% marsanne, actually spent some time under flor (you sherry lovers will know what we’re talking about!), and Eduardo also opted for an open air fermentation. The complexity and richness of this wine cannot be overstated. You really need to let this wine breathe for a minimum of an hour, and serve it only slightly chilled. The wine will reward you if you do!
The release party will take place this Sunday, October 28th, from 3 to 6 pm. We look forward to seeing you there!