In 1995 Alberto Antonini, a well-known Tuscan winemaker, and Antonio Morescalchi, a young entrepreneur, took a trip to visit the burgeoning wine areas of South America. It only took one stop to find what they were looking for. They were immediately impressed by the vineyards thriving in the high altitude and dry climate of Mendoza, and were captivated by the whispered traditions and blend of cultures.
They returned to Tuscany powerfully impressed not only by the region, but also by the unexplored potential of Malbec, a grape that had a strong local tradition but was largely ignored and misunderstood. While the rest of the wine world saw Mendoza struggling to shed its bulk wine image, the two young Italians saw Mendoza as a place where traditional viticultural values and unblemished land could be reinvigorated with a modern winemaking approach and international experience. Instead of planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as many others were doing during the 1990s, the team decided to invest their confidence in Malbec. Today, Malbec is the varietal for which Argentina is best known.
Against all odds they cemented their vision to become Terroir Specialists Shortly after, two friends and business partners, also enthused by the idea, joined the venture: Attilio Pagli, a renowned Tuscan winemaker with two 100 point-scoring wines in his personal record and Carlos Vazquez, an Argentine Agronomist, who work for 20 years with the early Catena group, planting new varieties, developing previously unknown vineyard sites and contributing greatly to the qualitative change of Argentine viticulture early on.
We purchased 206 hectares (530 acres) in the rural township of Lujan de Cuyo for the future Estate of Altos Las Hormigas. When the vineyards were planted in 1996 workers faced a stiff altercation with the local ant colonies. The ants loved to feed on the tender sprouts of our newly-planted young vines, often reducing months of man labor to nothing, all in a single night. The workers refused to poison the ants and started looking for natural ways to deflect their attention. During this time they commented that the ants were the “real” owners of the place and seemed to cover enormous ground and accomplish great tasks despite their miniscule size. In Argentina we have a saying: “un trabajo de hormigas” or “a job for ants” which describes a humble, patient, and dedicated work. We decided to name our venture after the hard-working, team-playing hormiga, which is emblematic of our history and has become a symbol of good luck.
High in the Andes mountain range Mount Aconcagua, which stands at over 6900 meters (22,000 ft), overlooks a vast, green oasis of vineyards called Mendoza. The region’s semi-desert climate, which produces large temperature differentials – a very hot daytime and very cool nights – and abundant run off water from the snow-capped Andes, makes it particularly suited for the cultivation of high quality grapes.
Finca Altos Las Hormigas is situated in Luján de Cuyo about 800 meters (2600 ft.) above sea level, facing the Andes to the east, protected westward by a minor geological fold. The Estate is 206 hectares (530 acres), of which 40 hectares (100 acres) are planted with Malbec and 5.6 hectares (15 acres) with Bonarda. At the heart of the property stands the 2,000 square meter cellar, which is designed to have minimal impact on the land, but to achieve the best technical conditions in winemaking.
Jardin Altamira is our new vineyard in the Uco Valley. It was planted on virgin soil, in a selected area within Paraje Altamira appellation, where super calcareous, stony plots with 7% to 10% active limestone were found by our Terroir specialists. We acquired 55 Ha (136 acres) in 2011 and planted 32 Ha in 2017. The vineyard was conceived with a groundbreaking concept of biodiversity in mind, developed to highlight Terroir in its purest form. Organized in small plots by Terroir units: 22 plots for 32 Ha, it was farmed organic from the start. All the plots are interspersed with native flora, to break the monoculture and invite all wild species to populate the area. Jardin Altamira is a truly one-of-a-kind vineyard, the next revolution introduced by Altos Las Hormigas to argentine winemaking and viticulture.