Zuccardi Family Vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina
ARGENTINA’S ZUCCARDI FAMILY WINES
At the foot of the Andes Mountains ( in the Uco Valley ), in the vast desert province of Mendoza, sits Familia Zuccardi, Argentina’s largest family-owned winery as well as one of the leading exporters of Argentine’s premium wines. For over 40 years, the Zuccardi family has produced wines of exceptional quality and value from Maipu and Santa Rosa soils. Every wine at Zuccardi is from estate-grown, hand-picked fruit and is estate produced in a state-of-the-art facility. In total, there is 659 ha of grapes under cultivation.
High up, near the snow
High-altitude vineyards ( some are over 1,600 meters high ) require particular management. Up there, where nature is wild, the sun and the wind are not underestimated. The same goes for extreme cold. Especially considering that the idea is not to get expressive wines of elevated freshness, with total acidity well above the average and an alcoholic potential well below the average.
Thus, the alcohol level doesn’t exceed 13%, even after the second fermentation when making sparkling wines. “Up here, in Tupungato – says Sebastián Zuccardi, responsible for Familia Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs – the level of alcohol is not an issue. We are more interested in the total acidity of the grapes, which naturally reaches a pH of 3.2 and less after elaboration. ”
Recently, the Zuccardi’s have opened a new winery, which will be headed by the next generation of Zuccardi winemakers. Costing somewhere in the vicinity of 15,000,0000 USD this newly opened winery is called Piedra Infinita and is constructed with around 1,000 truckloads of rocks taken from their vineyard fields. Inside are 240 specially designed and patented concrete wine holding tanks that can store from 2,000 to 10,000 litres ( not good news for the French Oak Barrel industry). Hence the name Concretofor one of their wines labels.
In “the land of sun and good wine,” the Zuccardi’s grow all their vines under the parral system. The parral system trains the vines overhead into a series of green arches. This enables photosynthesis to occur under perfect conditions by giving the vine leaves good access to solar rays, angled towards them in no more than two leaf layers and forming a true solar screen.
This guarantees high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants in the grapes. Grapes in their parral systems also benefit from superior ventilation as they are suspended free of foliage, guaranteeing their health and an adequate supply of light. The parral system, high altitude, and climate (low rainfall, few pests) in Mendoza lend themselves to organic farming practices. While the entire estate operates under sustainable agricultural practices, half of the vineyards are certified organic.
At Familia Zuccardi, they take their job seriously when it comes to producing world-class Argentine wine. Their philosophy is simple. As Jose Zuccardi puts it, “The word ‘family’ is central to how we have always run our business. This means that many families, such as the Morenos and the Vegas, who joined the Company in my father’s day, are still with us today, caring for the vineyards, and we now have a permanent workforce of over 450 people.
To guarantee the quality of the Familia Zuccardi brand, they believe in using people rather than machines whenever possible.” Workers at Familia Zuccardi are employed all year round, and the winery provides subsidized health care and free education to all its workers.
However, with the change in political direction in Argentina, the wine industry and many other local industries will no longer be protected from outside competition from important competitors such as Chile and Australia. Whilst this will be good for the local industry long-term, it will put competitive pressure where there was none before. Anyone visiting Argentine in the past decade was limited to tasting only Argentine wines, ranging from tasting like paint stripper to some of the best in the world.