Zuccardi: thoughtful terroir-driven wines from Mendoza, Argentina

Website: https://zuccardiwines.com/en/

Sebastian Zuccardi was in town, showing off his exciting wines. It was great to catch up and taste through the latest releases of what is one of Argentina’s very best wineries.

Sebastian is from the 1980 vintage, and his first job with the family company was in 1999. He talked to his father who gave him the go-ahead to make sparkling wines – something the young Sebastian was really into. After all, his first winemaking gig outside Argentina was in Champagne, at Doyard in Vertus. We began by trying the Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs 2017 which is from a vineyard at 1550 m in the north of Mendoza. It was the search for high acid grapes for sparkling that pushed Zuccardi into the Uco Valley – when he joined they had no vineyards there; now they have ten.

Back in 1999 his main focus was vineyards, as he’d studied agriculture not winemaking. ‘My passion is the vineyards,’ he says. ‘I started with the family working in the vineyards. It’s easier to go from the vineyard to the winery than the other way round.’

Since being fully involved, Sebastian has changed the way they work in the vineyard, the location of the vineyards (his generation, the third, have moved very much to the Uco Valley from the lower lying vineyards) and also the style of the wines. ‘I was lucky my father never made the wines of the family but instead hired winemakers,’ he says. ‘I changed everything but didn’t touch his identity.’

So the new Zuccardi way is abandoning oak (he last bought a barrel in 2014) for concrete, earlier picking, and less extraction. His father has given him the freedom to do this, and the wines are spectacular.

‘In my view, Argentina is old world and new world,’ says Sebastian, ‘not in the style of the wine, but in history. In Argentina we had big immigration from Italy, Spain and France. They had the tradition of drinking and making wines.’ Serious winemaking in Argentina began in the mid 19th century, but the country didn’t really export until the 1990s. This gave the area a very strong identity, which was developed by people living in the area. ‘Malbec wasn’t a marketing plan, it happened in the field.’

Argentina is very lucky to have massal selection Malbec well adapted to the place. ‘It’s part of the terroir and the most transparent grape for expressing the place in our area.’

How did Zuccardi start? It was Sebastian’s grandfather who fell in to winemaking rather tangentially. He was a builder and developed a very efficient irrigation system, so he bought a piece of land and planted vines, to use it as a showroom for his new invention. But after a while he fell in love with wine. When Sebastian’s father joined the company, they stopped the building site and focused exclusively on winegrowing.

Sebastian says that there’s something unique about where he works in Mendoza. The wines are mountain wines: they grow at altitude in a cool climate, and yet at the same time they enjoy lots of intense sunlight, and they have plenty of water should they need it from the snow melt of the Andes. And the way that the Andes was formed is also significant: these imposing mountains are the result of two rather different geological plates bumping into each other and lifting up. There’s igneous rock (granite) plus sedimentary rock (including some limestone). These are mixed together and fall down from the mountain in colluvial fans. And they are also transported by rivers (alluvial). This combination of granite and limestone (in places) with lots of big stones is quite unique. But there’s also the mindset that comes from living near large mountains: ‘We are mountain people,’ says Sebastian. ‘The mountain is never far from our minds.’

For the whites, winemaking is simple: direct press, allow the juice to oxidise, cloudy ferments with wild yeast, then sulfites added to block malolactic. Temperature isn’t really controlled and reaches 20-24 C. Most wines are matured in concrete, and the reds are exclusively in concrete. The cellar is quite beautiful, with different shaped concrete vessels to fit the various parcels in. Where whole bunch is used for the reds, the bunches are crushed by feet to avoid too much carbonic character.


Zuccardi Blanc de Blancs 2017 Mendoza, Argentina
12.5% alcohol. From Carrera at 1550 m in the north of Mendoza. 100% Chardonnay with no malolactic fermentation. 5 years on lees. Highly aromatic with toast, spice, peach and pear. Rich and vivid in the mouth with nice structure and depth. Really bold with a slight saltiness and good acidity. 92/100

Zuccardi Fósil Chardonnay 2021 San Pablo, Mendoza, Argentina
This is from one of the coldest parts of the Uco Valley, wit 40-50 cm of silt over granite and limestone soils. The wine is 80-90% concrete matured, with no malolactic. Mineral and tense with nice pineapple and citrus fruit, with keen acidity. Pure with a lovely acid line and amazing focus and tension. 95/100

Zuccardi Botánico Chardonnay 2021 Gualtallary, Mendoza, Argentina
Lots of caliche in the soils (a mix of sand and limestone). This is from Monasterio. Matured 80-90% concrete with the rest in old barrels. This is stony and vivid with great acidity and lovely citrus fruit, with a hint of mint. There’s some pineapple and pear here with a twist of lime on the finish. Tense with a nice chalky mineral character. 94/100

Zuccardi Aluvional Altamira Malbec 2018 Mendoza, Argentina
This is from 1100 m. Big stones in the soils with some limestone on them. 80-100% whole bunch. Refined aromatics, but also slightly restrained with subtle black cherry and blackberry fruit. Elegant and refined with nice stony detail and subtle olive and herb notes. There’s real elegance and drinkability here. 94/100

Zuccardi Aluvional Gualtallary Malbec 2018 Mendoza, Argentina
1400 m, with small stones and caliche. 30-50% whole bunch. Concentrated with a stony, mineral core to the sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit. There’s a grainy, stony, almost gravelly edge here. Very expressive with blood, iron and tapenade notes. Thrilling. 95/100

Zuccardi Finca Piedra Infinita 2020 Mendoza, Argentina
This is a finca in Altamira at 1100 m, and when it was planted Sebastian had to remove 1000 trucks full of large stones. It’s the beginning of an alluvial fan. 39 hectares of the 42 hectare property are planted with 46 parcels separated by soil type: there’s diversity here. 30-50% whole bunch. Fresh and chalky with a nice structure. Stony and vivid with a lovely grainy quality to the fruit, which is really fine and expressive. Good tannins but nice flesh, showing a sense of balance and massive drinkability. Subtle chalk and olive notes here. 95/100

Zuccardi Finca Las Cerilladas 2020 Mendoza, Argentina
This is from Monasterio in Gualtallary, at 1400 m. It’s a 32 hectare property with 19 hectares planted, with the remainder left to native vegetation. 30-50% whole bunch. Good structure here under the floral black cherry and plum fruit, with a nice grainy structural quality, some herbs and olives, and a touch of blood and the sea shore. Great structure with nice grip on the finish. Such precision and finesse. 96/100

Older notes from August 2023

Zuccardi is currently one of Argentina’s most dynamic wine countries, producing several ranges of wines each around a clever theme. I tasted through this small selection at the Texsom conference in August 2023 and was really impressed.

Zuccardi Polígonos Semillon 2021 Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina
This is fermented and aged mostly in unlined concrete, plus some foudre. Semillon is a historically important variety in Argentina, and does really well here. Lovely flesh with nice juicy pear and lemon fruit, with some dried herb notes. This has a slightly pithy edge and some stony notes. 93/100

Zuccardi Fósil Chardonnay 2022 San Pablo, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
From high altitude, this fermented and aged in unlined concrete. Lively and bright with just a subtle hint of cabbage on the nose alongside the bright fruit. The palate has a fine spicy edge alongside pure citrus fruit, and there’s a lovely mineral quality. So expressive. 94/100

Caliche, limestone deposited in arid climates

Zuccardi Polígonos Malbec 2020 Gualtallary, Mendoza, Argentina
From soils rich in caliche, this is aged in unlined concrete. There’s a hint of reduction on the nose, which is supple with fresh raspberry and strawberry character. Fresh in the mouth, too, with massive drinkability. Very fine with juicy red fruits, but also some substance. Very fine. 94/100

Zuccardi Aluvional Gualtallary Malbec 2018 Mendoza, Argentina
Unlined concrete again. Lovely focus and concentration with dense blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Stony and mineral with amazing detail, and notes of spice and wet stone. Has brightness allied to density. 95/100

Zuccardi Concreto Malbec 2021 Paraje Altamira, Mendoza, Argentina
Sweetly aromatic blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Very fine and expressive with a juicy character and some stony minerality. Combines sweet and savoury beautifully. Well defined with lovely balance. 95/100