On 20 July, 1969, a human being walked on the moon for the first time. One small step, one giant leap for mankind. So big was that leap that in Argentina – a country where friendship is revered to a degree verging on religious devotion – that same date was selected for the curious custom of the Day of Friendship, which is set aside to celebrate the emotional bonds that bring us together.
In July, one’s social calendar fills up with outings to bars and restaurants. And such is the importance of friendship in the country that several wines and wineries owe their existence to it. Below is a list of ten projects that were born of friendship and a shared love of wine.
Edgardo del Popolo, the Agricultural Engineer at Susana Balbo Wines and David Bonomi, Winemaker at Bodega Norton, met several years ago when they were both part of the technical team at Doña Paula. They’d spend their days travelling through mile after mile of vineyard fantasizing about the wine of their dreams. Thus was born the friendship that today sustains Per Se, one of the most exclusive wine projects in Argentina. Since 2012, the duo have been winning over the most demanding palates across the globe with limited edition wines made with grapes from the Uco Valley.
Oenologists talk about wine so much that it’s almost inevitable they’ll eventually become friends. This is especially true in isolated areas such as Cafayate, where consults are often carried out over a barbecue to a soundtrack of guitars and popping corks. This was how Mugrón came about in 2013: at a meal at the home of Mariano Quiroga Adamo when his guests were Paco Puga, Rafael Domingo and Claudio Maza. Oenologists from different parts of the country, they’d all come to settle in Cafayate, working for different wineries. The project involves making two blends to which each makes a contribution. Why Mugrón? It’s the term for an old vine reproduction technique in which a new shoot from a vine is allowed to grow and then buried for the winter. When it buds again in spring, the shoot is allowed to feed off the mother plant for a while before being cut off so it can develop its own roots.
Alejandro Sejanovich and Jeff Mausbach worked together at Catena Zapata. Sejanovich was in the vineyards and while Mausbach specialized in International Sales. In 2010, they decided to start their own project together and Manos Negras was born, a veritable laboratory of new concepts that now also includes Tintonegro, Zaha, Teho, Estancia Uspallata, Vivo o Muerto and Estancia Los Cardones. Each of them reflects their enthusiasm for making wines from different terroirs. Over the past decade, Sejanovich has become one of the most important winemakers in the country while Mausbach is tasked with bringing the fruit of that work to the world.
In 1999, four extremely young winemakers shook up the Argentine wine scene with their partnership Alma 4, one of the most irreverent sparkling wine projects on the local market. Classmates from the Agricultural School of Mendoza, the partnership between Marcela Manini, Agustín López, Mauricio Castro and Sebastián Zuccardi is still producing relaxed and original sparkling wines ideal for anyone looking for something a little different. They are all made using the second fermentation method and even include a sparkling Bonarda in addition to an elegant portfolio of more traditional wines made from grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their latest release is Crudo, a Semillón that comes to the market unfiltered.
Gonzalo Tamgnini and Martín Sesto have always been convinced that you need to be a little crazy to make wine. Those who know them confirm that they comfortably meet this criteria. They met working with Alejandro Sejanovich and soon began to implement their unorthodox methods, coming to be known as the desquiciados (nutters) of the winery. Having achieved notoriety, they agreed that they needed to bottle their ideas. And so they launched their own line as an independent project. Today their wines are leaders in the small producer movement in Mendoza with varieties such as Malbec, Garnacha, Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc along with others resulting from their more outlandish ideas.
One of the newest viticultural projects in Mendoza, Old Wines was born of a close friendship that combines wine, basketball and motorcycles. The protagonists are the oenologists Juan Longo from Catamarca, the Durigutti brothers Héctor and Pablo and the Argentine basketball player, the former NBA star and Olympic Champion Fabricio Oberto. After years visiting his friends’ vineyards and wineries, Oberto decided that it was time to make his debut in winemaking with three high end reds made with grapes from Las Compuertas for a brand, OLD, made up of the friends’ initials.
Marcelo Pelleriti is one of the most prolific winemakers in Argentina, producing great wines from different parts of the country and in Bordeaux too. But he’s also famous for his love of music and for having founded the Wine Rock festival in Mendoza. Juanchi Baleirón is the lead singer of Los Pericos, a long standing rock band that has enjoyed great success in Argentina and overseas. His other passions include wine and food. It just took a chance meeting at an event for them to become firm friends and over glasses of wine, a barbecue and a jam session they hatched a plan to make a Malbec together. Today the project involves three different brands, olive oil and even beer.
In 2016, Germán Cohen, Juanfa Suárez, Santiago Garriga, Rodrigo Santamaría and Javier Azserman launched their first wine, a red blend of grapes from Paraje Altamira, where the Suárez family owns an old vineyard. Musicians by trade, they felt that it was a good enterprise to share and thus began a project that continues to grow to this day. It now includes a Malbec, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that are very popular among younger consumers.
Federico Isgro is a winemaker who works with the well-known oenologist Karim Mussi, while Santiago Bernasconi knows the wine business inside out with years of experience in international markets. They both have Italian roots and since they became friends they’ve been keen to honour their heritage with a wine. Then they came across a vineyard planted with Sangiovese that dated back to 1975 in the Uco Valley, providing them with the perfect excuse to develop a wine portfolio of Italian-inspired reds with an Argentinian soul. All have a base of Sangiovese in combination with varietals such as Malbec, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. An original and very Tuscan project at the foot of the Andes.
This recent project was one of the revelations of 2019 and is the result of a quest for hidden jewels among the vineyards of Argentina. It is driven by Pablo Ceverino, the head of the vineyards owned by Casarena and Mythic Wines, and two friends from his university days Manuel Pérez Caffe and Juan Pablo Mestre. The plan is to make a new wine each year from the ‘pearls that get lost in big enterprises’. Their first wine sold out in a few months and the second edition, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, has just been released on the market.