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Wine Access – Interview with Dr. Alberto Antonini

10 de Junio del 2010

Brad Royale interviewed global wine consultant and winemaker Dr. Alberto Antonini

Posted June 15th, 2010

I had an amazing chance to dine with Dr. Antonini at Vinroom in Calgary and took the opportunity to get in some Q&A with the global consultant. Dr. Antonini consults for wineries in Tuscany, Argentina, South Africa, Uruguay, Australia, Spain and Chile. He is a founding partner of Altos Las Hormigas in Argentina and he runs his family estate, Poggiotondo in Tuscany.

BR: What new projects are you involved with right now?

AA: Uruguay is new. We have planted 160 acres with Tannat, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. We’ve also planted Albarino, as the climate has certain similarities to Galicia in Spain.

BR: What happens when you plant a varietal and it doesn’t work out? Such as with new plantings in Uruguay?

AA: Grafting is done, and within a year you have fruit from the new vine. No real quality is lost to grafting, so while time is lost, you can redevelop a vineyard with new varietals without having to replant totally.

BR: You make wine in both Argentina and Australia, what is a significant difference between the two?

AA: Australia right now lacks a real identity in most cases. They are brilliant at clean, perfect wines; but they went the way of regional blends and industrial concepts, and now it’s hard to change these consumer perceptions and get them to understand individual terroir. Argentina is new and with the wines I work with we focus on developing the area first, such as Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza, so that regions have a place in the consumer mind and are understood earlier.

BR: With so much of the Argentina market focused on the export sales of Malbec, will Argentina face challenges of a mono-varietal export?

AA: Burgundy has basically two varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and they don’t suffer in export. Malbec is good in Argentina and has lots to offer as long as the terroirs are developed. It’s a very young area, only time is needed.

BR: Is there a common problem with the estates you take on?

AA: Getting early flavour development before the late sugars climb. A lot of growers believe veraison to harvest is the most important (for flavour development). Really it is from flowering to veraison that is most important to get great fruit. We achieve this by shoot thinning and leaf plucking, earlier development allows for ripe grapes with good acid, better balance.

BR: Working within many different viticultural areas, what are your thoughts on Climate change?

AA: More extreme seasons with summers being hotter and winters being colder, we saw snow last year in Tuscany. Mid-seasons seem to be disappearing; we’re seeing abrupt transitions from season to season. Droughts are becoming more regular, we see this in Tuscany. This means canopy management becomes more important to prevent burning and even ripening.

BR: What have you learned from working with E&J Gallo?

AA: Quality control.

BR: Working with a variety of wineries from big to small is there a magic number in terms of case production that seems to work the best on all levels?

AA: 100,000 cases is a good number. It allows you to do the marketing required and the travel to promote the wine. It makes for a good balance between expense and profitability.

BR: You use screw top closures on some of your wines, but not all, why?

AA: High quality cork is perfect for storing wine. I like screw top closures, but they lack the romance of cork, and market perception on high end wines with screw top closures is still weak. They’re good for everyday wines, but for special bottles I prefer cork, they are part of the whole picture of wine. We use DIAM corks in our wines, which are guaranteed to be TCA free.

BR: Why do you drink wine?

AA: Wine is a tool to learn the world. It relates to language, food, culture. Wine guides you to this experience.