Sebastian Zuccardi is easily making the best Argentinian wines that we have tasted, and his wines quite rightly are getting some rave reviews from the critics. Luis Gutierrez writes “The wines are phenomenal, the work they do is impressive, and they are at the very top of the pyramid of the quality producers from Argentina”.
The mission here is purity and terroir. Starting with more or less a blank slate and armed with vision, obsession and a great deal of capital investment, Sebastian has identified some very special vineyards and, with a knack that few winemakers have, is making wines with precision, focus, cleanliness and purity.
His two top Chardonnays are Fosil and Botanico. Both are from high altitude, cool vineyards. Neither see any new oak; both are taut, focussed Chardonnays that will age well. The Fosil, from the San Pablo vineyard, is the more edgy of the two, and arguably wants some time in bottle to unfurl a little; the Botanico, from Gualtallary, is the more voluptuous. Both are exceptional, and the most exciting whites that we have tasted from South America.
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2021 seems like a very good vintage at Zuccardi, and they consider it a superb year for whites. The 2021 Fósil has lower alcohol (12.8%) and a sharper profile and is austere, young and subtle with a seamless palate with great freshness, balance and elegance. In this cooler year, they used more oak, because they feel that the wine needs more oxygen in cooler years and less in warmer ones. So, this 2019 fermented and matured equal parts in concrete and used 500-liter oak barrels for around eight months. But the wine shows no oak, and certainly no more than the 2020 I tasted next to it, but the two vintages show different profiles. This should develop nicely in bottle. 6,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in December 2021.
Tasted over two days. Very pale lemon in colour with a crystalline focus on the nose. Notes of confit lemon meld with lime curd and a stoney freshness. The palate is vibrant with incisive, mouthwatering acids setting the backbone of this wine. Around it, that same pure citrus fruit is intense but compact, fleshed out by subtle hints of cream. Still driven and linear on the second day, it gains in length and intensity. A very impressive, Chablis-like take on Argentinian Chardonnay.
The 2021 Chardonnay Fósil from San Pablo, Uco Valley was 30% aged in 500-liter barrels, the rest in concrete. Yellow in the glass. The nose offers notes of linden blossom, apple, country herbs and a hint of huacatay, a mountain herb. Dry in the mouth with a chalky feel and expansive freshness that brings nuance and depth; the flow is ethereal and saline while the finish lingers at leisure. The conditions that year really helped to dial up the quality, surpassing previous vintages. A complex, refined expression, tight like the best bands and continuing the austere spirit with which Fósil made its name.
The new white 2021 Botánico comes from their two vineyards in the Monasterio part of Gualtallary, the informal division of the zone (still not approved due to bureaucratic problems with the name), and is a lieu-dit or paraje wine. This is very austere, sharp and mineral, reminiscent of a Chablis. This was harvested very early, almost one month earlier than the Fósil from San Pablo, as Gualtallary ripens earlier. It fermented and matured 70% in concrete eggs and 30% in used 500-liter oak barrels; but there is no aromatic or flavor influence from the oak, as they want to keep the wine as transparent as possible with the character from the soils—limestone and caliche calcareous stone. This has 13% alcohol, a pH of 3.23 and 7.36 grams of acidity. It's clean, precise, subtle, elegant, transparent, balanced and symmetric ,with purity and clarity. It has a shaper palate with effervescent sensation of chalk with lemon juice, with lots of energy. This should develop nicely in bottle. I'd like to have a time machine to see what this does at age 15... 5,000 bottles were filled in December 2021. I had the chance to taste the still unbottled 2022, and it felt every bit as good as this.
Tasted over two days. Pale lemon in colour with a layered and savoury nose that only gains in complexity with air. There is a whiff of toast and spice, but the focus is pure citrus and stone fruit. The acids are vibrant as in the Fosil, but here there is a breadth and added creaminess to the wine. Despite the added savoury tones and rounded edges, this wine remains ethereal and elegant thanks to its precise fruit. Long and unerring, this is as accomplished a Chardonnay we have tasted from South America.
The 2021 Chardonnay Botánico from Gualtallary, Uco Valley, was 50% aged in concrete, 50% in old 500-liter barrels. A light golden yellow in hue. The nose presents apple and creamed corn with hints of herbs and subtle woody notes. In the mouth, it starts out broad before the flow is tightened up by the precise freshness, which also enhances the flavor. Long-lasting with a fruity finish, this is very much a high-altitude Chardonnay.