Malbec’s terroir comes into focus for Doña Paula

The transformation of Doña Paula and its award-winning Selección de Bodega Malbec is not only a reflection of two decades of dedicated research but also symbolises the revolution that has happened in Mendoza and ultimately for Malbec

Words by Amanda Barnes In partnership with Doña Paula

The Alluvia vineyard is Doña Paula's highest altitude plot, located at 1,350m above sea level

When Doña Paula was founded in 1997, the wine industry was only just beginning to stir and wake up to the great potential for world-class Malbec in Mendoza. The first release of Selección de Bodega, the pinnacle of Doña Paula’s portfolio, in 1999 was visionary. A single-vineyard wine made from vines on the best plots of their original ‘El Alto’ vineyard in the heart of Luján de Cuyo, it was among a small handful of now iconic wines that set the benchmark for luxury Malbec.

As the 20th vintage – Selección de Bodega Malbec 2019 – is released, the wine not only shines a light on the illustrious work of Doña Paula’s winemakers over the years but also highlights the greater change that this devoted journey for excellence has spurred on within Mendoza.

Director of winemaking and viticulture Martin Kaiser has spearheaded Doña Paula's ‘Terroir in Focus’ research

20 years, and six million more, in the making

Director of winemaking and viticulture Martín Kaiser started his own journey at Doña Paula joining as a viticulturist in 2006. As the winery began to expand further south from Luján de Cuyo into the Uco Valley, and higher into the foothills of the Andes mountains, Kaiser’s mission was not only to plant new vineyards but to discover the world’s greatest Malbec terroirs.

With over 1,350 soil pits dug and studied, and more than 700 micro-vinifications of wines from different plots around Argentina, Kaiser has spearheaded the fascinating decade-long ‘Terroir in Focus’ research program. The results have enabled him to identify the different aromatic profiles Malbec offers around Argentina’s wine regions – combining soil and climate studies with sensory appreciation of the wines.

Selección de Bodega Malbec now comes entirely from Doña Paula’s Alluvia vineyard in the Uco Valley

It has offered groundbreaking insights into how altitude plays a factor in the wine’s profile, but also the differences in the soils formed by alluvial cones that descended from the Andes mountains over six million years ago. ‘In the cooler vineyards of Gualtallary [1,350 metres above sea level] for example, we get more floral and fresh black fruit aromas,’ explains Kaiser, ‘while in Ugarteche [969 metres above sea level] the Malbec shows plum in particular, and light herbs like mint.’

The fruit of this research is reflected in the fine-tuning of Selección de Bodega Malbec, which now comes entirely from Doña Paula’s Alluvia vineyard in Gualtallary in the Uco Valley. After several years of painstaking research, Kaiser has identified specific plots of particularly calcareous-rich soils, affording ‘great complexity and minerality to the wine.’

Kaiser's research offered insights into the role that altitude plays in a wine’s profile

‘Selección de Bodega was born from a dedicated search for the best expression that Malbec can achieve in Argentina,’ Kaiser adds. ‘The 2019 vintage represents a twenty-year milestone of intensive soil and climate research with tradition, experience and history expressed in every bottle.’

Under the guidance of legendary winemakers including Andrés Ilabaca, Matías Michelini, Stefano Gandolini, Edy del Popolo, David Bonomi, Marcos Fernández, and today in the capable hands of Martín Kaiser, Selección de Bodega has witnessed and indeed been an integral part of the Malbec revolution.