Big can be good: visiting Trapiche, Argentina’s largest producer

Trapiche, part of the Peñaflor group, was founded in 1883 and is now Argentina’s largest producer. Often with wine, small is good, but fortunately for Argentina Trapiche are making some very smart wines, even at lower price points.

As a large group, Peñaflor have many brands, but the four main brands you are likely to see are Trapiche, Las Moras, El Esteco and Navarro Correas (sparkling wine) – together these account for 80% of the group’s revenue.

Peñaflor’s roots date back to 1971, when the Pulenta family bought the Bengas Hermanos group, which included Trapiche. Between 2000 and 2010 Peñaflor was owned by a US-based investment fund called DLJ Merchant Banking Partners. They appointed current chief winemaker Daniel Pi to his role and developed new vineyards and facilities, including buying the old Trapiche winery in Mendoza and Finca Las Moras. Then in 2010, Penaflor was bought by the Bemberg family, who had been owners of the Kilmes brewery (they sold this to InBev). The Bembergs have many other businesses. In 2016 they bought Navaro Correas from Diageo, and at that time began distributing and manufacturing some of Diageo’s spirits brands.

Here’s a film of the visit, showing inside the old winery, and a visit to Los Arboles vineyard:

Peñaflor are big, ranking seventh in the list of global wine companies in terms of volume. This is the top 10 list:

  1. Gallo
  2. Constellation
  3. The Wine Group
  4. Accolade
  5. Castel Group
  6. Concha y Toro
  7. Penaflor
  8. Treasury Wine Estates
  9. Pernod Ricard
  10. Cantine Ruinita

I visited them, spending time with three of the wineries: Trapiche in Mendoza, El Esteco in Salta and Costa & Pampa in Mar del Plata, as well as spending some time in Buenos Aires.

In Mendoza, I had a look round the old Trapiche winery that dates back to 1912. It was bought back in 2006, and while much of it has been restored – it’s a functional winery – but some of the old equipment has been kept as a sort of museum.

One of the highlights of the Mendoza visit was having a look at the Los Arboles vineyard that they planted in the Uco Valley, with group viticulturist Marcelo Belmonte.

Marcelo Belmonte explaining Los Arboles

Trapiche made use of science before they planted Los Arboles. In preparing this vineyard for planted, they began by looking at the height and density of the native vegetation: this tells you something about the soil. They collaborated with CONICET who have studied the natural vegetation and have a complete inventory of the different species that grow in the region.

Hail netting on these vines

Then they used NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) by drone, looking at the source of this variation: the soil type and topography. They used the soil type as the main variable for designing the vineyard.

This was followed by soil conductivity mapping. ‘My experience with mapping is that it can reflect the soil variation,’ says Marcelo, ‘but not always.’

Marcelo Belmonte, chief viticulturist for Peñaflor

All this information was used to decide where to dig soil pits. This ground-truthing provides the data needed for designing the vineyard.

Some of the rocks that were removed from the vineyard

Los Arboles is planted a bit differently. Normally, vineyards in the Uco valley are planted with rows north-south. But this would mean single rows crossing a number of different soil types, which would be bad for quality, especially for reds. So each block was planted in a way that respected the soil type: this is how the row orientation was determined.

Lighter coloured leaves and a red rachis are indicators that this is a great site for Malbec

He explained how the ideal terroir for Malbec shows a phenotype in the shoots: the petioles and also the rachis take on a slightly red colour, and the leaves are slightly paler. This is how he identifies his best blocks.


Trapiche Gran Medalla Chardonnay 2015 Guatlallary, Mendoza, Argentina
9 months in foudres. Nice depth here with vivid pineapple and white peach fruit, with a hint of grapefruit pith. Compact and dense with nice purity. 91/100

Trapiche Terroir Series Chardonnay Finca El Tomillo 2017 Gualtallary, Mendoza, Argentina
1400 m altitude with some calcium carbonate in the soils. Hand harvested, cluster selection, whole bunch pressed. Then a third each is fermented and aged in large foudres, concrete eggs and stainless steel. Wild yeast. Very detailed with nice grainy structure and fresh acidity. Linear and focused with some pineapple, pear and lemon notes. Has good concentration and purity. 93/100 (£30 in the UK)

Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec 2018 Mendoza, Argentina
13.5% alcohol. Some barrel ageing. 2 million litres of this are made. Chocolate, spice and blackberries on the nose. Pretty and fruity on the palate with sweet black cherries and blackberries, and some plummy freshness. 88/100 (£6-10 in the UK)

Trapiche Medalla Malbec 2016 Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
14% alcohol. Supple and fruity with nice grainy structure. Fresh and expressive with a lovely floral edge. Juicy, spicy and supple, showing black cherries and plums. 91/100 (£12 in the UK)

Trapiche Gran Medalla Cabernet Franc 2015 Mendoza, Argentina
Lovely graphite and chalk notes here with ripe, sweet berry fruits to the fore. Grainy and supple with some green hints. Juicy and expressive with fruit sweetness and freshness. 93/100

Trapiche Gran Medalla Pinot Noir 2016 Mendoza, Argentina
This is from La Consulta in the Uco Valley, and is aged in foudres. Soft, smooth and sweet with lush, seamless black cherry and plum fruit. Nice depth and has a seamless character. Subtle green herbal notes, too. 90/100

Trapiche Gran Medalla Malbec 2015 Uco Valley, Argentina
Supple and sweetly fruited with nice density and ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit with a hint of tar and spice. A seductive, ripe style with some floral detail. Perhaps a touch overripe, but still appealing. 91/100

Trapiche Iscay Malbec-Cabernet Franc 2013 Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
70% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Franc. Concentrated, fresh and gravelly with structured blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, as well as some black cherry freshness. Has nice juiciness with supple raspberry hints and a hint of green. Well integrated oak here and nice focus, with a lot of substance. 94/100

Trapiche Iscay Syrah-Viogner 2013 Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
This comes from Los Arboles. 97% Syrah co-fermented with 3% Viognier. Ripe, sleek, dense and lush with viscous, smooth, slightly salty fruit. Very bold and sleek with a supple personality. Generous and rich but not too ripe, and nicely floral. 93/100

Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Coletto El Peral 2015 Valle d’Uco, Mendoza, Argentina
Every year, Trapiche select the three best Malbecs from independent growers. This was a vineyard planted in 1945, flood irrigated, north of Gualtallary, on a low VSP with a short canopy. 1127 m. Wild yeast ferment in concrete vats then to French oak. Supple and expressive with ripe black cherry and plum fruit, showing real concentration allied to freshness. Lovely presence with a slight saltiness. 94/100

Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Orellana 2015 La Consulta, Valle d’Uco, Mendoza, Argentina
From vines at 1200 m planted in 1961. This has black fruits to the fore: ripe and bold with rich chocolatey notes and supple, sweet, salty black cherry and liquorice character. Has substance and flesh. 92/100

Trapiche Terroir Series Malbec Finca Ambrosia 2015 Gualtallary, Valle d’Uco, Mendoza, Argentina
From vines planted in 2002. This is linear and fresh: saline and bloody with great concentration to the structured black cherry and blackberry fruit. Has a really linear quality with ripeness but also balance, and an attractive saline finish. 94/100

Trapiche Terroir Series Chardonnay Finca Las Piedras, Los Arboles 2017 Valle d’Uco, Mendoza, Argentina
Vivid and quite powerful with ripe peach and pineapple fruit. This is direct and vivid with good acidity under the bold, rich fruit. 92/100

Trapiche Terroir Series Finca Las Piedras Malbec Limited Edition 2013 Valle d’Uco, Mendoza, Argentina
Sweet, supple liqueur-like fruit. Silky and polished but showing freshness. Slightly salty and a bit meaty, this is really delicious. 94/100

Trapiche Terroir Series Cabernet Sauvignon Finca La Borde 2013 La Consulta, Mendoza, Argentina
Ripe, sweet and fresh with lush blackcurrant fruit and intense dark fruit notes. Ripe and bold with density as well as freshness, and some savoury olive-like notes. 94/100

Other wines tasted from the Peñaflor portfolio:

Mascota Vineyards: the wines are mostly sourced from Maipu at 900 m but they also have vineyards in the Uco Valley at 1000 m. The wines are distributed by Enotria in the UK.

La Mascota Malbec 2017 Mendoza, Argentina
14% alcohol. This is hand harvested into bins, fermented in stainless steel and then goes to a mix of French and American oak for ageing. Fresh and vivid with nice bright red cherries and plums. Has nice freshness with some spicy oak in the background. Nicely fruit driven. Stylish and polished. 89/100 (£12.50 in the UK)

La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Mendoza, Argentina
14% alcohol. Supple with nice green hints, with some green pepper as well as attractive plum and blackcurrant fruit. Nice cherry notes, too. Fresh and vivid. 90/100

Gran Mascota Malbec 2016 Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
14.5% alcohol, aged for 18 months in French oak. Taut and quite complex with some chocolate, spice and vanilla from the oak meshing well with the concentrated fresh black cherry and plum fruit. Quite dense and rich with good concentration. Needs the oak to integrate. 90/100 (£16.50 in the UK)

Unánime Gran Vino Tinto 2016 Argentina
This is a blend of several subregions and varieties from the Uco Valley, aged for 20 months in French oak. 14.5% alcohol. Concentrated and fresh with lovely supple blackcurrant fruit, some fleshiness and also some green notes. Has lots of dimensions, with some polish, and chalky mineral notes. Ripe but fresh with potential for development. 94/100

Finca Las Moras

Finca Las Moras PAZ Sauvignon Blanc 2018 San Juan, Argentina
Cool climate fruit at high altitude, fermented in stainless steel. Very nervy and fresh with fine green notes. Delicate passionfruit and some green nettles, with tomato leaf hints. Has lovely presence and focus. 90/100

Finca Las Moras Barrel Select Malbec 2018 San Juan, Argentina
13.5% alcohol. Spends 6 months in French and American oak. Fresh, supple and delicious with nice green hints and attractive cherry and berry fruit. Has lovely freshness and purity. So drinkable. 88/100 (£6 in the UK)

Finca Las Moras Gran Syrah 2015 San Juan, Argentina
This is from Tulum, Zonda and Pedernal. 14.5% alcohol. Second use French oak and a bit of new American. Vivid and spicy with bright, meaty black cherry and blackberry notes and some bloody depth. There’s some damson bitterness and a bit of chocolatey, spicy oak. Savoury edge to the concentrated, sweet fruit. 90/100