There’s new world wineries. There’s old world wineries. And then there are wineries that have been around for so long that old world only barely begins to describe them. As a country with a relatively long history of winemaking, Argentina has its share of the latter, and Bodegas Weinert would certainly qualify as a preeminent example.
Though not old compared to some of its European forbearers, in Argentina, Weinert is ancient. Like many of the oldest wineries in the region, however, its history transcends its modern owners. Weinert was founded in 1890 by a Spanish Immigrant family named Otera. This family ran it until 1920 when the winery was abandoned as wine consumption dropped dramatically among Argentineans. Then in the mid 1970’s Brazilian born Bernardo Weinert purchased the estate and refurbished it in time for the first harvest of 1977. According to some, that 1977 Malbec is still a shining example of the form.
The winery is still run by Wienert, though now with help from his son Andres Weinert who is in charge of operations, and his brother Bruno and sister Iduna who live in Buenos Aires and serve as sales, marketing and business management chiefs.
Weinert is certainly old, and even old world, and to these two we can add “old school.” To say they make wine in traditional ways may even be understating the case. This is one of the few wineries in Mendoza where you will find no stainless steel tanks for fermentation. All the wines are fermented either in epoxy lined concrete tanks, or in large oak casks. If wines are aged in oak, they are really aged in oak — no less than 1.5 years at a minimum and only in large old oak barrels ranging from 800 gallons to 3000 gallons in capacity. At Weinert, “barrique” is a four letter word.
The forest of old oak barrels sit behind and under the meter-thick stone walls of the original winery, and they hold wines going back to the early 1980’s. While winery releases 66,000 cases of wine per year, it has about 133,000 cases of wine aging at any given time. Some of Weinert’s top cuvees get a minimum of 7 years in oak before being aged for a few more in the bottle.
Weinert, like many wineries in Mendoza, has a mix of estate vineyards (about 100 acres on the property) and contract vineyards. Under the direction of Swiss winemaker Hubert Weber the winery focuses on access to some of Mendoza’s oldest vineyards. Weber, too, ensures that the winemaking practices conform to the traditions of the estate. From eschewing “fancy new techniques” like extended maceration or cold soaking, Weber focuses on what he calls “honest winemaking” to yield “natural wines” that he gladly and enthusiastically knows will not score highly on the “international points” scales.
These wines remind me of those made by the small producers of Brunello in Tuscany, who seem to be lost in time — still making wines the way their grandfathers did, with varying results but uncompromising integrity. These old school wineries have a sense of style about them that cannot be denied, even when you don’t care for some of their wines.
Unfortunately, like several of the wineries I visited in Mendoza, Weinert is not in the habit of allowing visitors to taste their top end wines. The winery’s “Estrella” wines and even their slightly lower priced Grand Vin de Cavas de Weinert are purported to be excellent, but they were not on offer. Here is what I had a chance to taste.
2005 Weinert Carrascal White Blend
Light gold in the glass this wine has a soft nose of sultana, wet felt, and mineral aromas. In the mouth it has nice acidity and flavors of tart, unripe apricots, unripe apples, and wet stones. A mix of Pinot de la Loire (which some people believe is the same grape as Chenin Blanc) and Sauvignon Blanc. Score: 8.5. Cost: $12 Where to Buy?
2005 Weinert “Pedro del Castillo” Chardonnay, Mendoza
A very pale gold color, this wine has a slightly cooked nose of baked apples and lemon curd. In the mouth it is somewhat flat, with pear-like flavors that are lacking some acidity and bounce that might turn this wine into something more lively and dynamic. Score: 7.5. Cost: $10 . Where to Buy?
2004 Weinert “Pedro del Castillo” Unoaked Malbec
Medium ruby in color, this wine has a nose of light red berries, and unfortunately, slight plastic overtones. In the mouth it has a reasonable acid balance but the flavors are overwhelmingly of green, stemmy tannins melded to cherry and cassis flavors that don’t quite compensate for the vegetal nature of the tannins. Score: 7/7.5. Cost: $9. Where to Buy?
2003 Weinert Carrascal Red Blend
A medium ruby color in the glass, this wine has a nose of leather and earth, like a dark barn filled with old ranch equipment. In the mouth it is smoky, with medium body and flavors of red cherry and a hint of burnt matches on the finish. Score: 8. Cost: $12 Where to Buy?
2000 Weinert Malbec, Mendoza
Medium garnet in color, this wine has a nose of wet felt and wet leather, a pleasant mustiness like an old house. In the mouth the wine is round and full with earthy flavors intertwined with mellow fruits — black cherries and cassis. The tannins are very fine grained and dusty, and the finish is long. Score: 8.5. Cost: $12 .Where to Buy?
2003 Weinert “Cosecha del Otoño” Pinot de La Loire (late harvest)
A light gold color, this wine smells of sultanas and orange blossoms. In the mouth it has reasonable acids for a dessert wine and flavors of sweet white grapes and apricot. It is medium thick on the tongue and moderately sweet, with a pleasant finish that is slightly floral. Made from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot de la Loire harvested very late. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $ .Where to Buy?
Weinert is imported by Broadbent Selections in New York.