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December 1, 2023

Quimera Blanco 2022: A new white light for Achaval Ferrer

One of Argentina’s leading producers of single-vineyard Malbec impresses with its first-ever white wine.

By Amanda Barnes

Achaval Ferrer made its name as one of the first wineries to take single-vineyard Malbec seriously. The Quimera Blanco project itself was born from a conviction that the old ungrafted vines of Malbec could make wines that deserved to be among the best in the world. It may seem obvious now, but at the time, Achaval Ferrer was groundbreaking—focusing on luxurious, single-vineyard expressions of this little-known grape variety from the backwater that was Argentina.

Ever since that first vintage in 1999, the Finca wines from three parcels of old vines—Finca Altamira, planted in 1950; Finca Mirador, planted in 1921; and Finca Bella Vista, planted in 1910—have held cult-wine status in South America. While its legacy for single-vineyard Malbec is still intact, Achaval Ferrer itself continues to break new ground, now launching its first white wine.

Quimera Blanco 2022 is an exciting release for many reasons. First, it embraces the compelling new wave of white blends in Argentina, a premium category that has grown immensely over the past couple of years, giving a new, fresh face to the red-dominated wine scene here. The two main varieties within the Quimera blend are also right on the nose when it comes to Argentina’s new white grape varieties of excellence—Chardonnay and Semillon.

“I think there is an incredible potential to Argentinian Chardonnay and Semillon,” enthuses winemaker Gustavo Rearte, who started experimenting with the varieties for Achaval Ferrer in 2020. The Chardonnay element, which makes up 63 percent of the blend, is sourced from high-altitude vineyards in the Uco Valley’s Gualtallary and San José subregions, bringing what Rearte calls an acid backbone to the wine.

For the Semillon, Rearte hunted down some old-vine Semillon from El Peral in the Uco Valley, with an average vine age of 80 years. “The Semillon gives that fullness and richness to the blend,” he adds purposefully. The rediscovery and reevaluation of Argentina’s old-vine Semillon is driving many of the most exciting white blends coming to the fore, and it is no different in Quimera.

Maverick Viognier

What makes this blend quite maverick, though, is Rearte’s choice to include 10 percent Viognier, from 30-year-old vines also in El Peral: “Viognier is still relatively unexplored here in Argentina, but I believe it shows an interesting potential, too.” The Viognier undoubtedly has a significant impact on the wine, adding notes of white pepper and spice and giving it a voluptuous texture.

Rearte’s 4 percent dash of Sauvignon Blanc from Vistaflores brings great freshness to the finish, keeping the wine taut with tension despite its full body. Quimera Blanco is a surprising but smart blend, refreshingly savory in its nature.

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The other exciting element to this release is that it really shows Rearte’s own direction and confidence as wine director and the evolving identity of Achaval Ferrer today. The 38-year-old is one of the most promising winemakers in Argentina’s new generation and has been loyal to Achaval Ferrer since 2013. He worked with the founders of the winery Roberto Cipresso and Santiago Achaval until 2015, as ownership transitioned to the Stoli group, and has since taken the reins as wine director.

Not only do we see his preference for freshness sing through in the new white-wine release, but it is also there in the new vintages of Achaval Ferrer’s red wines. Rearte has tastefully guided the portfolio of Achaval Ferrer into one more focused on bright acidity and approachability, over the more concentrated, sweeter-fruit profile of previous vintages.

There’s more innovation yet to come… In Achaval Ferrer’s cellar there already lie several vintages of an old-vine field blend, coming from a vineyard in Luján de Cuyo that saw ten different grape varieties interplanted together in 1920. Rearte is holding on to release the first vintage, 2017, with good bottle age—most likely launching next year.

“We aren’t in a rush, but we do have many interesting new wines to share,” he says, with his customary cheeky grin. The release of the long-awaited first white wine of Achaval Ferrer comes with perfect timing—from the cool 2022 vintage and just when Argentina’s premium white blends are red hot.

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