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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Puro Uno Wines

In a previous Post I had the pleasure of eating lunch with vintner Frank Baroudi (FB),

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owner of Puro Uno Wines in the Mendoza Provence of Argentina. The Mendoza Provence is ground zero for the Malbec grape, but more on that later. FB is very interesting, and so is his approach to making wine. He has family ties in Naples, FL which has been his base for over 30 years.

He developed an interest in wine through a roommate while in school, acquiring a taste for Premier Cru (First Growth) wines, the A++ wines from the Bordeaux Region of France. After earning a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science he undertook a number of entrepreneurial ventures which have culminated in the winery he runs today.

He told me he picked Mendoza for a couple of reasons. The primary reasons were affordability and the quality of the Malbec grapes here. Traveling to many wine-producing regions in the world to learn the craft, he felt that literally, the Fruits Of His Labor would be maximized in this region. Second, he was a long-time California resident and lover of red wine, specifically Carbernet Sauvignon (CAB) and it's structure. Unfortunately, good wines of this Varietal are very costly. The only other grape that not only had good value but approached the structure of CAB to him was Malbec. 

Malbec thrives here in part because of the Semi-Arid climate offset by run off from the Andes Mountains and the elevation here. At higher elevations, it is thought that the UV-Radiation produces among other effects, thicker grape skins which allow for a better Extraction. This is the process during which wine develops part of it's color, flavor and character through Natural Compounds extracted from grape skins as it is fermenting.

Having learned a bit about producing wine, he approached Catena Wines, a high quality and major producer in Mendoza. He always liked their wines, and approached them about developing novel wine blends based on the grapes grown here.

After about 18 months of trial and error, unique blends not previously combined were developed. However, Catena's distributor thought there may be confusion using Catena's grapes and FB's blends sold under FB's private label so the project was shelved. He then partnered with another Mendoza vintner and Puro Uno Wines came to be.

Many wine makers, when starting off, hire wine consultants such as Paul Hobbs and in a short time, perhaps 3 visits, have award-winning wines. The down side to this is the cost of their counsel which reaches into 6-figure sums. The blends at Puro Uno were all developed by FB, and consist of blending different varietals as well as a varietal (Malbec) from different areas. The Mendoza area has many Macro- And Micro- climates, which effects the character of the grapes grown here.

Puro Uno produces a number of wines. There are a number of limitado Malbecs and Gran Reserva Malbecs, all 100% Malbecs. The Gran Reserva is aged almost twice as long and even up to 3 years differing from the non-reserve product and aged in New French Oak (a bit more on this later).

A late harvest Malbec called Cigar Bar is also a very unique offering from Puro Uno wines.This won the Wine Stars competition at The London International Wine Fair; the world's largest wine trade fair.

FB prides himself on his blends, unique when first introduced and not reproduced to date. Why blend? Blending allows a master-blender to perfect the characteristics of the grapes far beyond what is normally attainable using only one varietal. Combining varietals such as CAB, Syrah and Tempranillo allows for producing a much more complex, round, balanced combination of flavors which creates a more enjoyable wine experience. 

In his red Quadro blends he uses Malbec and CAB for structure, sweet from Syrah and earth from Tempranillo.

The white Quadra blend melds Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the fruitiness of Viognier and Torrontes wines to combine structure, dryness, sweetness and earthy characteristics. In the end this makes for a balanced, easy to drink and  enjoyable wine.

Sparkling Wines, here blends of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,  are also produced at Puro Uno. They are crafted using the traditional method as done in the Champagne region of France, known as Methode Champenoise. Classic tight, small bubbles make for a very affordable alternative to the costly French product.

FB uses a number of different techniques when producing wine, and it was interesting learning about some of these.

For those more interested in these subjects, The UC-Davis Enology Website is an excellent resource. This is material culled from the lecture series Introduction to Wine Production.  It is taught at the Viticulture and Enology program at UC-Davis, one of the best in the world.

Malolactic fermentation (MLF) is used at Puro Uno. It is used to deacidify, flavor and provide bacterial stability to wine. Grapes contain Malic Acid. This compound imparts a tartness to the wine. Vintners use natural methods to convert this to Lactic Acid. Lactic acid has a softer "feel" when consumed.

MLF, if not done before bottling, can happen spontaneously with generally a negative outcome on flavor and other wine characteristics. For an in depth discussion of MLF go Here.

Other techniques used post fermentation are Filtration and Fining. After fermentation wine can contain various substances that affect wine appearance (cloudiness), bacterial stability and it's physical characteristics when consumed. Fining involves the addition of various compounds that bind to these undesirable components. This makes them insoluble, settling to the bottom of the wine facilitating their removal by filtration or decanting. Fining can be a delicate balancing act, as unlike filtration it can affect the taste and aroma of wine. Other byproducts of fermentation and MLF, mostly solids, can also be removed by decanting or filtration.

Last but not least the wine is aged in a number of different ways here. Depending on the varietal as well as the age of the fruit, the acidity, the Tannin structure and a host of other factors determine just what and how much aging will be required to bring out the best in the wine.

A Cooper is a maker of among other things, wine barrels. The things that they craft are known as cooperage. For an interesting video on cooperage, look Here. The composition of the cooperage, or barrel, is extremely important to the characteristics of the finished product. With wood, usually oak, the Provenance and the degree to which the Oak is aged after harvest imparts different qualities to the wine.

Puro Uno Wines employs primarily new French Oak for the higher-end wines and a combination of French and American oak for others in addition to stainless steel barrels. All of these aging methods produce wines with varying complexities and structure.

I have been able to sample the sparkling wines made here and a Malbec. All were excellent. I believe FB is destined to become a distinguished vintner in the world of wines. At this point I would like to acknowledge FB's editorial contributions to this blog post.

Researching some of these methods used in wine production was very enlightening and I hope you find the material presented here as interesting as I did.

It's a wrap for another blog post on Forks.

Puro Uno Wines
Ruta Provincial 15 KM 30 Agrelo (5509)
Lujan de Cuyo
Mendoza, Argentina 5509 ARG



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