Altos Las Hormigas
Wines from Argentina that express their terroir? Look no further.
Altos Las Hormigas started in 1995, when Tuscans Antonio Morescalchi and Alberto Antonini traveled to South America to explore the continent's wine-growing regions. When the gentlemen arrived in Mendoza, they were impressed by the high altitude vineyards and dry climate. The local wine history and tradition, as well as the obscure and looked down upon grape variety Malbec, hit the gentlemen with a sleight of hand. Around the mid-1990s, Malbec was almost unknown to the general public. The number of hectares of grapes was in a downward direction and most of the professionals did not see any potential in the grape other than as a raw material for simple and fruity old wines. After working with native Tuscan varietals, the duo decided to embark on a project that everyone condemned as commercially absurd, and thus the Malbec-focused winery of Altos Las Hormigas was born.
An area covering 206 hectares was found in the rural village of Luján de Cuyo, where vines were planted. However, the Italians soon noticed that the area had been reached before them: the future nursery areas were occupied by local ant colonies (hormiga). The poisoning of these residents did not even occur to the newcomers. As a result of long and patient work, the winery workers managed to divert the ants' attention, which saved the vines. Out of respect for the original owners of the area, the farm was named Altos Las Hormigas.
The first wines released in 1997 were sold out in just a few months and the wines received enormous international attention. The Malbec revolution began and today the grape is the most important variety cultivated in Argentina and on the international export market. However, for Altos Las Hormigas, just any Argentinian wine was not enough. Their idea was to abandon the industrial viticulture and production that prevailed in the country. At the same time as many of the country's wineries invited international consultants to help with their wine production and focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, which was hyped on the world market, Antonio and Alberto focused on producing unique wines that reflected the local character of Malbec. This was still not enough, but the gentlemen decided to dive even deeper into the country's wine tradition. In 2003 they started working with the local Bonarda variety and from 2007 the focus was completely on understanding the vineyard's soil, viticulture practices and true conditions of origin under the leadership of terroir consultant Pedro Parra.
What kind of wines does Altos Las Hormigas produce today? The core idea of the farm is to make wines that are easy to enjoy and that live in the glass while the drinker sips the wine. These wines are not made to please international critics or well-known tasters, but for connoisseurs who, after drinking one glass, come back for another. The wines have texture and tension, their alcohol content is moderate to preserve the characteristics of the terroir, and they are at their best at the dinner table. Selected yeasts or the aromas of new oak do not make these wines - the wines taste like genuine fruitiness that comes from the grapes. The grapes are picked at a time when their natural acidity is still preserved and the wines do not turn into sweet fruit bombs. Fresh acidity and elegant tannins are combined in the wines of Altos Las Hormigas with the fruitiness ripened by the Mendoza sun.
The Tuscans Antonio and Alberto feel that they are the successors of those immigrants who found Argentina in the 1800s and 1900s and were given a small piece of land to cultivate. According to the gentlemen's thinking, it is these immigrants who are the founders of Mendoza's viticulture, and it is their own lucky task to continue and develop this tradition. The Altos Las Hormigas team also includes winemaker Attilio Pagli. There are a few 100-point wines on his CV, but what inspires Attilio the most is bringing out the personality of the terroir in his wines. Pedro Parra, who still enjoys an international cult reputation, works as a terroir specialist in the project, whose meticulous work in the vineyards ensures that the wines are terroir-oriented and have the potential for a long maturation.
We rarely come across such wonderful nurturing of traditions and respect for origins.