Harvest Report 2012: Jose Lovaglio Returns to His Roots, Rediscovers Salta

In Jose’s words:

I have been living in Salta for a few months now…half-working, half on vacation. This is the place where I was born; my mother started her career here and met my father in these lands. My aim is to produce wines from different parts of this region and bring them back to Mendoza. We are doing this to widen the variety of blending components we use to make our wines. This place is also very charged of emotions for me. My father’s family lives here – they are the “gaucho” side of me.

Not only my family, but people that live in Cafayate are very welcoming in general. I think this is mainly because Cafayate has always been a very isolated place. People here are always glad to see new faces. It used to be even worse in the past when the main roads were unpaved and rivers flooded them, which kept the town unreachable for weeks. This year was extremely wet and although all the main roads are paved now, the river changed its course a couple of weeks ago and swept the main road away!

Something missing from this picture?

Today I received a sheep as a gift… I would have considered it pretty awkward if I was in Mendoza, but this is Salta…so expect the unexpected!

A big issue in daily life around here is that mosquitoes don’t let you sleep at night. At my grandfather’s house you need to light these “spiral” things that are quite effective at keeping mosquitoes away – but they fill the air with smoke and don’t let you breathe.

2012 Harvest

Harvest went very well. I focused on Malbec, Torrontés and Tannat.

Grapes ready for harvest

These varietals have very different flavor profiles when being grown in such different soil, altitude and weather conditions. One of the clearest examples of this can be seen at my grandfather’s “parral” (pérgola):

The “parral” (pergola) at my grandfather’s house

This is where a table grape variety we call “cereza” or cherry grape is grown. The striking difference is that in Mendoza and San Juan, this grape is pink. Here in Cafayate, radiation from the sun is much higher due to altitude, which encourages the vines to produce anthocyanin (color molecules) to protect the berries much like our skin gets tanned by producing melanin when sunbathing. For this reason grapes of this varietal are blue.

Cereza bunches under the parral

Here’s all that color I’m talking about…

This growing season had the highest rainfall in the last 20 years, which made fermentations difficult due to some botrytis. Tannat was especially challenging. It matured slowly and steadily in the beginning of the season, and although in the end its sugar levels spiked, the flavors still had green characters. I harvested a portion of the grapes a bit earlier to keep the alcohol levels low and left another part hanging on the vines to enhance fresh fruit and spice flavors.

The tannins of this variety can be quite aggressive if skins and seeds are left in contact with the wine for too long after fermentation, so I “de-vatted” earlier than usual and transferred a lighter Malbec to macerate on Tannat’s skins so as to take advantage of the tannins left in the Tannat skins.

Look at that color!. Que color!

Doing harvest in Cafayate has been a very interesting experience. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of differentiation of the sub regions that Cafayate has to offer. Places like Chimpa, Animana, San Carlos, Rio Seco, Tolombon and Cafayate proper are extremely different from each other in their growing conditions – and not much has been done to vinify the grapes from each area individually year after year to define the characteristics of each terroir.

Hopefully we will be able to develop wines that bring new, exciting flavors that will help communicate the great diversity and possibilities that Argentine wine regions are capable of producing.

(And here are a few more pictures to share my experience.)

The courtyard at my family’s house

The best way to see the country – on horseback in Cafayate

The blue in the sky is amazing

A great experience all around


- Jose Lovaglio is winemaker for Bodini and Crios. He has worked as a sommelier in Beijing, a winemaker for a small family winery in Mendoza’s Maipu and studied oenology at UC Davis.

You can follow his adventures on Twitter @josewinemaker.

Thanks vineconnections.com