Planting a vineyard is a leap of faith, a bet that a financial analyst would never approve; more so in today Argentina, with planting costs above those of France or Italy for that matter. But the Team of Ants has never been shy about taking big risks, not in 1995 when we started a company 100% devoted to an unknown grape called Malbec, or in 2001 when we built a winery while the Argentine economy was living one of its major economic crisis.
The land of our Altamira garden is by far the best of the area, but its price tag is plain crazy: just to prepare the soil for planting and removing enough boulders to make it viable for vines to grow, the budget has skyrocketed 20 folds over. Quoting Attilio Pagli and Alberto Antonini: “we have never seen anything like this in over 30 years of career”. And if those two, who have planted vineyards all over the world, say so… !!!
While we watch the machine lifting a boulder the size of a car – and we calculate how much it will cost – we dream of seeing the plants grow in this land, and taste the wine made from its grapes; a wine that we have fantasized about for five long years, while waiting for the water permits.
These rocks are the great value of our Terroir, by far the best of Paraje Altamira, with huge amounts of limestone that will bring energy and finesse to our wines. This estate, Jardín Altamira, is rooted in our belief in biodiversity and the legacy of the late Alan York, pioneer of holistic viticulture in California. It represents a new step forward: the third revolution that Altos Las Hormigas is bringing to the Argentinian wine industry, after the Malbec revolution and the Terroir insurrection. Native flora will be interspersed with vineyards plots, to allow life to be everywhere both in vegetal and animal form in a balanced, complete ecosystem. This project moves away completely from the dreaded industrial monoculture, a concept geared toward maximizing production that has shaped vineyards planted in the past century all over the world.
We dug big trenches in order to install the drip irrigation system, another great tool. Our system was designed by terroir specialist Pedro Parra, keeping each small terroir unit separate so that soil types are treated according to their nature. Each plot has an irregular shape, being the reflection of a soil unit, not one of them is a square, because Nature creates its own curves.
The next step is to plant the poles. We have chosen those made of local Prosopis wood, the same wood that was used in old times and that does not need any chemical treatment to withstand Mendoza’s sun. We need to plant a total of 32,000 poles, an entire army to uplift our vines! And while we were carrying out the task… we were surprised by an intense snowstorm that left Jardín Altamira all covered in white! A polar climate wave brought Mendoza below freezing and the temperature in our estate reached -12ºC (10.4ºF).
This beautiful white cloak covering our estate reminds us that we are just sitting at the feet of the Andes and the Aconcagua peak (6,961 meters – 22,838 ft).
We will be ready to put the vines in the soil by mid-September, the perfect timing to let the young plants build nutrients for the spring, avoiding both late frosts and summer heat. But this is a story to be told some other time… for now let’s enjoy a few more pics of the snow in Jardín Altamira!