Exquisite Taste - - Contents - By Chris­tian Gal­braith and Steven Jauw Waludin

This time round, we ex­plore Nor­ton wines, talk to Bodega Nor­ton’s Chief Wine­maker Jorge Ric­citelli and taste the Nor­ton Reserva col­lec­tion.

Four hun­dred years af­ter the Span­ish first brought the vine to the Amer­i­cas, winer­ies like Bodega Nor­ton are carv­ing out an ex­cel­lent global rep­u­ta­tion for

the dis­tinc­tive flavour and qual­ity of Ar­gen­tinian wines.

Es­tab­lished in 1895 by an English engi­neer, Bodega Nor­ton has a long and il­lus­tri­ous wine­pro­duc­ing his­tory and is to­day one of Ar­gentina’s most pres­ti­gious and pop­u­lar winer­ies.

Its five sprawl­ing es­tates, span­ning some 1,265 hectares are lo­cated in the pre­mium area of Men­doza, the Primera Zona, from where, un­der the watch­ful eye of chief wine­maker Jorge Ric­citelli, the ma­jor­ity of grapes are sourced.

The in­di­vid­ual es­tates each spe­cialise in dif­fer­ent va­ri­etals planted to make the most of the area’s unique ter­roir, al­ti­tude and cli­mate. The re­sult is an an­nual bounty of high-qual­ity grapes that in the skil­ful hands of Nor­ton’s wine­mak­ers are trans­formed into a range of pre­mium wines with a va­ri­ety of ex­cel­lent char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Ded­i­cated to ex­cel­lence, the team is led by Pres­i­dent and CEO Michael Hal­strick. Since tak­ing the helm in 1991, Hal­strick has steered the win­ery to be­come one of Ar­gentina’s most renowned global ex­porters and its ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of qual­ity wines is avail­able at many of the best ho­tels and res­tau­rants through­out the re­gion.

Bodega Nor­ton’s Chief Wine­maker Jorge Ric­citelli was the first Ar­gen­tine to be crowned Wine En­thu­si­ast’s Wine­maker of the Year in 2012. He has been with the award-win­ning win­ery since 1992 and has crafted many favourites like the Nor­ton Reserva Mal­bec, Pri­vada and Ger­not Langes, avail­able now at se­lected out­lets through­out the re­gion.

Ex­quis­ite Taste was priv­i­leged to catch up with the man and talk briefly about his wines and the fu­ture.

: I’ve heard peo­ple de­scribe your wine­mak­ing style as el­e­gant – how would you de­scribe it?

Jorge: El­e­gant de­scribes it very well. My in­ten­tion is to al­ways make a well bal­anced

wine; ev­ery­thing should fit to­gether per­fectly to give a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence for the nose and palate. But the most im­por­tant thing is that the flavours of the in­di­vid­ual grapes are the dom­i­nant feature of the wine.

: What do you think de­fines Bodega Nor­ton?

J: We are one big fam­ily! But, in terms of wine­mak­ing I can say we make very hon­est and typ­i­cal au­then­tic Ar­gen­tinian wines. I be­lieve this is the rea­son why peo­ple in Ar­gentina and all around the world love our wines.

: What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Reserva and Bar­rel Se­lect ranges you pro­duce?

J: In the Reserva range we are look­ing for el­e­gance and bal­ance. The oak is well in­te­grated, it sup­ports the body and struc­ture rather than dom­i­nat­ing. In the Bar­rel Se­lect range we seek the best of both worlds. So there’s some oak­i­ness from the bar­rel but also a lot of fruit – it’s a fan­tas­ti­cally bal­anced wine.

The grapes we use for the Reserva range come from older vine­yards too, typ­i­cally 30 to 50 years old, which adds body, while for the Bar­rel Se­lect range we use grapes from vine­yards around 30 years old.

: Ger­not Langes is billed as your icon wine. What makes it so spe­cial?

J: Well it is an out­stand­ing wine and one we only make in the best vin­tages. Ger­not Langes is blended from the best grapes grown from the old­est vines in the top vine­yards of Nor­ton. The Mal­bec per­cent­age comes from Finca Lun­lunta where the vines are over 100 years old, very low yield but with out­stand­ing con­cen­tra­tion and struc­ture. This is also the rea­son why we can only pro­duce around 5,000 bot­tles, which makes it a re­ally very lim­ited and a rare wine. The nose is com­plex and el­e­gant aro­mas reflect the char­ac­ter of the grapes. In the mouth it’s vel­vety and har­mo­nious with com­plex black fruits that per­sist in a long and vi­brant fin­ish.

: In the past, you have de­scribed your wines as happy. I’m cu­ri­ous, what makes a wine happy?

J: For me a happy wine is a wine with char­ac­ter, with great ex­pres­sion, where the in­di­vid­ual grape is the dom­i­nant feature. There was a trend to pro­duce very pow­er­ful and oaky red wines, but they lost some of their char­ac­ter and in­di­vid­u­al­ity and, in some cases, even the dif­fer­en­tial be­tween wine­grow­ing coun­tries or grape va­ri­eties was blurred. I tend to think of th­ese as sad wines.

: What did the 2012 Wine­maker of the year award mean to you on a per­sonal level?

J: This award meant a lot to me, not only on a per­sonal level but for the whole win­ery. In or­der to make great wines you need a lot of help­ing hands, es­pe­cially in the vine­yards. It was the first time that a wine­maker from South Amer­ica re­ceived this award, which made it even more spe­cial, and I was very hon­oured and touched that I was cho­sen. For me wine­mak­ing is not a job, it is a pas­sion and a phi­los­o­phy of life. I am a very happy and blessed man to be able to do what I love.

: Bodega Nor­ton is cel­e­brated as one of the re­gion’s lead­ing winer­ies and the wines are en­joyed all around the world. Of all your own wines, do you have a favourite? J: Mal­bec. How­ever the most im­por­tant thing about wine is to share and en­joy it with fam­ily or friends, even the best bot­tle of wine is bet­ter with the right com­pany.

: Ar­gen­tinian wines have evolved im­mensely over the last few decades. What are the chal­lenges ahead?

J: The sim­ple chal­lenge is to teach peo­ple what Ar­gen­tinian wines are like and to taste them so they can have the per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Jorge Ric­citelli

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