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Roberto de la Mota of Terrazas

by Tom Cannavan, 09/04

Update 2007: Roberto is now winemaker at an estate he co-owns, Mendel in Mendoza.

roberto de la Mota Terrazas is the Argentinean outpost of the giant Moët & Chandon empire, established in the 1980's with the purpose of making high-quality varietal wines, to complement the successful sparkling wine business of Chandon Argentina. Chief Winemaker is Roberto de la Mota (right), who comes from a distinguished lineage of Argentinean winemakers, his father, Raul, being amongst the most famous of all during 20-years at Bodega Weinert.

Recently added to Roberto's portfolio, is "Cheval des Andes", a super-Argentinean joint venture between Roberto, and Pierre Lurton of Cheval Blanc.

Roberto's winemaking education began in Argentina, where he studied winemaking in Mendoza, then the National University of Cuyo. But the Old world beckoned for an eager student of wine, and Roberto's diploma in viticulture and oenology actually comes from the winemaking school of Montpellier in southern France, where he graduated in 1989.
Roberto's earliest work was alongside his father at Cavas de Weinert, before moving to Bodega Chandon in 1994. He has been closely involved since the inception of the Terrazas project, which was finally established in 1997.

From the beginning, Roberto recognised that altitude was perhaps the major governing influence on the final quality of grapes grown in Mendoza, and many of Terrazas vineyards lie well over 1,000 meters above sea level on the foothills of the Andes. At 1,200 meters, the Chardonnay vineyards of the Tupungato valley terraces are the highest, with a supply of pure Andean water feeding a drip irrigation system. Other vineyards have been chosen specifically to suit particular grape varieties, down to Cruz de Piedra at 750 meters above sea level, where Syrah is planted.

Roberto says he enjoys the benefit of being part of the giant Moët & Chandon group, especially the chance to consult and receive inspiration from their geographically diverse winemaking teams in France, California and Australia.

the wines

The current range is priced from around £5.99 for the "Alto" range, around £10.99 for the Reserva level and around £19.99 for the Gran reservas. The Cheval de Andes is around £35.

white

Terrazas (Argentina) "Alto" Chardonnay 2003
From the Tupungato vineyards, this has very refined pear and apple fruit on the nose, with a little background Cox's Pippin nuttiness. It has a very intense palate, of concentrated sweet-edged fruit, with a controlled suggestion of sweeter nectarine and luscious peach. This has lovely length and balance, and is a very elegant, yet fruity style. Very good indeed.
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Terrazas (Argentina) Chardonnay Reserva 2003
The fruit for this wine also comes from the Tupungato terraces in Mendoza, but from a special parcel of stony soil. It spends 6-8 months in all-new French oak barrels. Its rich, golden/green colour leads on to a nose heavily scented by bourbon whisky barrel and toast. There is a honeyed aspect, and a sweet tropical fruit note suggesting pineapple and nectarine. On the palate that powerful oak is at first submerged by a flood of juicy, ripe, apple and pear, with again some more lush tropical character. There is lots of sweetness; both from ripe fruit and vanillin oak, but a good core of acidity and grippy, alcoholic sheen means it is not at all flabby. Very good indeed/excellent.
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red

Terrazas (Argentina) "Alto" Malbec 2002
From the Luján de Cuyo sub-region, this has a lovely, fresh, violet-tinged nose with lots of plum and sweet cherry, and a smoky background. There is a real charcoally edge on the palate, that is savoury and dry with a hint of toastiness and fresh, juicy finish. Very good indeed.
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Terrazas (Argentina) "Alto" Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
These vineyards sit at around 980 meters above sea level, and this wine is very fresh and juicy on the nose. It is a clean, bright style of Cabernet, with lots of cassis fruit. The palate is very fine. It is dry and savoury, with more ripe cassis and a chocolaty note. Balanced and long, this is very good indeed.
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Terrazas (Argentina) Malbec Reserva 2002
Planted in 1929, this vineyard sits at over 1,00 meters, and the wine is aged in a mix of new, second fill, and third fill oak. It is very refined, with quite a claretty nose of cedar, black fleshy fruit and a meaty element. There is a real bite of concentration as it strikes the palate, with plum skins and a brooding liquorice depth. There is a powerful undertow of toasty oak, and this is fleshy, mouthfilling and very ripe. Lovely muscular stuff with good length again, and very good indeed/excellent.
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Terrazas (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2002
From the Perdriel terraces, 980 meters above sea level, where day and night temperatures vary by up to 14C. There is a minty ripeness about the nose, with a fine, svelte, blackcurrant aroma. On the palate it is fantastically smooth with sweet, chocolate-laden blackcurrant fruit filling the palate, and a tangy finish where fine tannins and good acidity add freshness to the succulent picture. Excellent.
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Terrazas (Argentina) Gran Malbec 1999
The "Gran" label wines are super-premium bottlings from single-vineyard sites. Around 18,000 bottles of this wine were produced from the Las Compuertas vineyard in Vistalba. It is aged 18 months in new French oak. These 75-year-old vines naturally produce a very low yield, and they are flood irrigated as are all pre-Phylloxera rootstock vines in Argentina - the flooding is the principal method of controlling the spread of the louse on roots that have not been bred to be resistant. This has a fine, mellow nose of black fruits that are sweet, dark and ripe. There's a real chocolaty density here, and lots of berry fruit. Onto the palate this is superbly glossy and svelte. There is a sheen of oaky polish and toast, then a raft of sweet-edged damson and black cherry fruit. The tannins are very polished and ripe, and the acidity is persistent yet generous into a long, smooth finish. Excellent.
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Terrazas (Argentina) Gran Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
Around 25,000 bottles of this wine are produced from the "Los Aromos" vineyard of the Perdriel terraces at 980 meters. It too spends 18 months in new French oak. This wine has a really gorgeous nose, filled with refined scents of cedar, sweet blackcurrant and lots of minty freshness. There's a terrific fruit sweetness as it strikes the palate, coating the mouth with structured, dry tannins and dense fruit. There is finesse too however, with a fine quality of fruit and hints of chocolate and tobacco-like flavours. Beautiful balance in this wine makes it excellent, and almost outstanding.
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Cheval des Andes (Argentina) 2001
This flag-bearing wine is the first ever release of this joint venture. Pierre Lurton of Cheval Blanc visited Argentina and met with Roberto for the first time in 2000, and the plan for this wine, to be released only in exceptional years, was hatched. It is 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Malbec, with 2% Petit Verdot. Lurton visits Argentina now three times per year, to add his input on vineyards, and for blending. The wine comes from 38 hectares of vines made up of ancient plots: 16 hectares of old Argentinean Malbec, 20 of Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2 of Petit Verdot. Eventually, the estate will cover 43 hectares, as five hectares of Cabernet Franc from Château Cheval Blanc are soon to be planted. The wine has another gorgeous nose. There is plenty of cedar, a leathery quality, some sweet fudge-like notes and a raft of elegant blackcurrant and raspberry. The palate is flooded with sweet black fruits: plenty of blackcurrant and plum, with savoury cherry-skin notes. There is a cedary, briary quality too and plenty of depth with cocoa-flavours and coffee filling-in on the finish. There is already quite good integration of the oak, and this really does have great length and focus. Excellent.
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