Bodega Colomé `Altura Máxima`, Salta Malbec 2016 Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina
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Classified as ‘first growth’ by Tim Atkin, make no mistake this is as good as Malbec gets.
Bodega Colomé was established in 1831 and is the oldest working winery in Argentina with one of the world’s highest vineyards. The winery is in the far north of Argentina in the Upper Calchaquí Valley and is thought to have been founded by the Spanish Governor of Salta, Nicolás Severo de Isasmendi y Echalar. Today, the winery has 140 hectares of biodynamically run vineyard and at a staggering 3,111 metres above sea level, the ‘Altura Máxima’ vineyard is one of the world’s highest and represents viticulture at its most extreme. Grapes grown at such high altitude develop very thick skins to protect themselves from the sun’s intense ultraviolet rays. As a result, the wines have more colour, aroma, flavours and antioxidants from the increased phenolics.
The fruit comes from Altura Máxima, one of the highest vineyards in the world, which is located in the northern part of the Calchaquí Valley at over 3,000 metres above sea level. The north-west facing slopes mean the vineyard receives lots of sunlight which aids ripening. Warm days and cool nights (a diurnal range of around 25°C) ensure the fruit develops wonderful aromatic characters and retains good levels of acidity. The true expression of the Malbec grape comes from the vineyard’s extreme altitude, the soil composition (alluvial, sandy soils with a high percentage of gravel), and the semi-arid desert climate. The vineyard also receives much more sun and much less UV protection than vineyards at lower altitudes, which produces thicker skinned grapes giving a more robust mouthfeel supported by fresh acidity.
Overall, the Calchaquí Valley enjoyed excellent conditions in 2016. Frost in mid-October caused a loss to some of the crop, but the weather for the remainder of the growing season was very good. During maturation, there was little rain, so there was no botrytis development. Cloudy days gave more freshness and elegance to the fruit and stopped the grapes from getting sun burnt. Harvest took place mid-April.
The Malbec grapes were hand harvested. Fermentation was carried out with natural yeasts, and maceration lasted 40 days with twice-daily pump overs. Malolactic fermentation took place in oak barrel. After this, the wine was then aged for 24 months in used French oak barrels.
This wine is intense, dark purple in colour with aromas of white flowers, red berries and black fruit with a touch of spiciness and minerality. The wine is beautifully textured with a long, opulent finish and elegant tannins.