2010 Mendel Unus Mendoza
Expert Rating
RP 93 points
(Read the full review below)
 
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Mendel's Old-Vine Malbec Parker's 93pt Game-Changer in Mendoza

In the late 1960s and 1970s, two Argentine winegrowers had a vision unlike any others in the country. Both Nicolas Catena and Raul de la Mota believed that Malbec could be taken to new heights in the high ground above Mendoza. Each sought out old-vine plantings, many irrigated by runoff from the snowcapped Andes. Catena focused his efforts on his family's farms, while Raul de la Mota proved to be the game-changer at Weinert, Terrazas de los Andes, Cheval des Andes, and Canale.

Today, there is a glut of "pretty good" Malbec filling American retail shelves. Large shops have mountains of the stuff, whole sections of designer labels dedicated to Argentina's primary variety. Still, very few Argentine Malbecs warrant a spot on the international pedestal shared by the greats of Pauillac, Margaux, Napa and Pomerol. Roberto de la Mota, Raul's son, makes one of them, a 1,200-case blend of 70% old-vine Malbec and 30% broad-shouldered Cabernet Sauvignon. That wine, named Unus, is one of Argentina's few true collectables.

When we visited Anabelle Sielecki's Mendel a year ago, we spent a day with Roberto in the vines and cellar. And, of course, at the tasting table we discovered a surprisingly old school, non-interventionist winemaker, very much cut from Bordelais cloth.

"I wouldn't say that the quality of Unus has improved so much because of what I've done in the cellar. It's much more in the vines. It hardly ever rains over the summer months, so managing the hydric stress is tantamount. I've learned that waiting until the last moment to pick, and then picking each parcel quickly (no more than two days), has an enormous effect on quality. The big farms obviously can't do that. At Mendel, we're the size of a Right Bank chateau. Very small. So it's easy."

The climate is high desert. There's little precipitation, but when it does rain, it comes down in buckets, sometimes bringing hail the size of a Titleist golf ball. The old vines at Unus were planted in the early 1930s. With their deep root structure spidering through light sand and gravel meters into the substrata, de la Mota, like the Bordelais, is able to eschew irrigation.

In most vintages, at over 3,500 feet in elevation, daily temperatures before harvest flirt with 90 degrees, only to drop precipitously overnight. It's this radical diurnal temperature change that nursed BB-sized berries of high skin-to-juice ratio to magical concentration in the summer of 2010 -- absent any sign of desiccation or raisin-ing.

A cool March punctuated by a thirst-quenching storm provided for magical harvest conditions at Mendel. De la Mota would wait a full two weeks before most of his neighbors, handpicking a very small crop of old-vine Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon that would lead to one of the more breathtaking Malbec blends we've tasted in years out of Mendoza.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate described "black currant, red currant, rose petals and violets" and "crystalline purity," before dropping the 93pt rating that would place the 2010 Unus in the Top 10 Argentine wines of the vintage -- at any price.



Tasting Notes

2010 Mendel Unus Mendoza
"The 2010 Unus is a blend of 82-year-old un-grafted 65% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon from Perdriel, Mayor Drummond and Altamira that is aged in new Taransaud oak for 16 months. It has a lifted, feminine bouquet of ripe black currant, red currant, rose petals and violets that is beautifully defined. The palate has very fine tannins, crisp red berry fruit and a poised, understated finish that has a crystalline purity. Drink now-2020."
93 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate


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    • This is a Pre-Arrival Offer: Weather permitting, wine will begin shipping upon arrival, in September 2013.

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