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What a Week!

Santiago Achával is excited about his 2009 Fincas at Achával-Ferrer.
2009 Southern Harvest Winemakers
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Posted: Mar 20, 2009 3:27pm ET

By Santiago Achával

Posted by Santiago Achával

That’s the only way to put it: What a week! When I last wrote, Finca Mirador was just bubbling. Finca Bella Vista was almost dry, but still wasn’t telling us how far it would go. And Finca Altamira was hanging on the vines, with a forecast for rain on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

All our wines are our great passions. But some are more equal than others … and those are the Fincas. Nothing gets more trapping than trying to coach a vineyard to express its terroir! So when the Fincas are not in the winery, or are still undefined in the tank, we frankly don’t sleep that well.

Well, the forecast was wrong! It didn’t rain—it was never even cloudy. Perfect sunny days, cool nights, breezy throughout!

We picked Finca Altamira on Monday. The third baby to arrive home. Great grapes—12 tons of them! How slowly we selected them, only a neurotic can understand. We looked at those bunches and grapes with a magnifying glass. Nothing got into that tank except perfect grapes. Our team really excelled that day. No need to goad them on. No need to instruct them. A well-oiled machine, a highly motivated machine, but one that knows how to have fun. The music is always on at the sorting tables!

On Tuesday we started pressing some of the blocks of Finca Bella Vista (picked March 6; dry March 13), and we finished that yesterday. Some of the blocks went to our Quimera blend. But the central block (10 acres) and a couple more had delivered what they promised as grapes: the Bella Vista character. The personality that we find year after year—the fascination of terroir.

Today we pressed Finca Mirador, picked March 9 and dry by this past Monday.

So now you may be asking: Ten days after harvest and you press? Well, yes. And these are long macerations for us. Let me explain: We farm for low yields. These result in early tannin ripeness. This leads to an early harvest of low-sugar, high-natural acidity, highly concentrated and balanced grapes. This allows us to do what we call lazy winemaking: We don’t sulfite the incoming grapes; we don’t acidify; we don’t bleed the tanks; we don’t ameliorate; we don’t do cold soaks; we don’t use enzymes; we don’t cool down the fermenting musts unless they go above 93 degrees (which they normally don’t in our concrete tanks). We just pump over to keep the cap wet.

And we don’t do extended macerations. Great grapes fermenting at that temperature extract all a wine needs from their skins in 7 to 10 days. So we press when we taste the skins and feel they have no more good stuff to deliver. We press light (one atmosphere for those of you that are number prone), and we add the press fraction back to the free-run wine.

As I told you, tongue in cheek, lazy winemaking!

So this is all for now. Good bye until next week! Tomorrow we’ll pick our first Cabernet Sauvignon for Quimera. It’s a great 60-year-old vineyard in Medrano, and all my kids will be there working!

Abrazo to all,


Bruce Sanderson
New York —  March 20, 2009 7:32pm ET
Santiago, Out of curiosity, what music are you listening to at the sorting table?
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel
March 21, 2009 11:42am ET
Mr. Achaval:So much passion! To me this is what wine is all about! I can feel nothing but goosebumps as I reading your blog. And this is me, in front of my laptop computer, typing!!! I can barely imagine you and your team doing what your do while you workout the grapes for Mirador and Bella Vista! That's why they are Flagships. Maybe I'm wrong, but outstanding/classic wine isn't just high quality vines and a nice terroir. It is also PASSION! PURE, SIMPLE, NO ADDITIVE HUMAN PASSION and tons and tons of LOVE. Since now, I am marking 2008/2009 Achaval Ferrer on my notebook. For Sure I'll look forward to have some bottles of Quimera, Bella Vista and Mirador.
Santiago Achaval
March 24, 2009 4:49pm ET
Hola!Bruce: it's the sorting crew that chooses the music. And they are mostly in their twenties. I don't even know the name of the songs or the musicians!! But it's catchy and happy tunes, that I can tell you.Johnny: You've nicely summed it up!!Abrazo to all!Santiago
Maximiliano Morales
Santiago, Chile —  April 3, 2009 12:07am ET
Mr.Santiago,One of the first wine I tasted in Argentina was Achaval Ferrer and since then, everytime I go, I do the same and see the evolution of it. I have met Manuel Ferrer before and sometime in the near future I hope to meet you in person to share your wines.Max Moralesandes@andeswines.com

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