Altar Uco is the latest endeavor from beloved Tupungato-based winemaker Juan Pablo Michelini. Affectionately known as Juampi to those who’ve had the pleasure of spending any time with him, he also serves as the head winemaker at his family’s winery, Zorzal. However, this project offers a fresh perspective on what the Uco Valley and more specifically Gualtallary means in the greater conversation on South American wine. Juampi explained to us that he aims to produce “quiet wines” which require as little human intervention as possible – they are made in one or two months before spending years at rest.
In his own words, “Altar Uco is a continuous and eternal project. A constant search to achieve even more pure and delicate expressions of the terroir, which includes not only the place where the grapes are grown, but also, and perhaps the most significant for us, man’s interpretation of that place.” These wines are more than the sum of their parts – more than just the product of high elevation and limestone soil.
The ‘Edad Moderna’ (Modern Age) series are wines defined by their shorter time in the winery, aged briefly in cement pools and then bottled. Here, he’s striving for lively, textured wines meant for enjoyment in their youth. The ‘Edad Media’ (Middle Age) series are wines matured in a mixture of French oak barrels (some new and some second-use) in addition to amphora – suited to age and evolve for years to come. Maia Echegoyen serves as the viticulturalist behind the project.
Altar Uco Edad Moderna Malbec is made with 100% Malbec from old vineyard estates located in San Jose, El Peral, Gualtallary and Tupungato. Hand-harvested and fermented with native yeasts in cement pools prior to aging in cement tank. 12,000 bottles produced.
I loved the nose of the 2018 Edad Moderna Malbec; it showed some notes of iron and beef blood more than it did of the wild vegetation of the place, which tends to show in the wines from the zone. The classical varietal notes are there but in a very subtle way. There is depth and complexity, nuance and balance. The palate is medium-bodied, clean and pure. Very good debut.