Criolla Chica 2021
No grape variety tells more of Argentina’s amazing vinous history than Criolla Chica. First taken to South America by missionaries some 500 years ago – thus its California moniker, Mission – and known in Chile as País, this is actually Listán Prieto from the Canary Islands. The grape was basically neglected in Argentina for centuries outside of being a source of rudimentary table wine, and it thrived, as do most weeds! Somewhere along its journey it crossed in the wild with Muscat d’Alexandria, probably around 170 years ago, to create Torrontés and several other lesser-known varietals which we now know as the ‘Criolla family’. We are learning more about these amazing wild vines all the time.
In recent times a band of young winemakers that includes Pancho Lavaque has recognised the amazing potential of Criolla Chica, which has evolved on its own terms to the very challenging conditions in Salta and elsewhere. We can think of no better introduction than this, from vines planted in 1898 in Quebrada de Jualfin at 2,600 MASL. Thankfully, the family who own this old vineyard refused to graft with Malbec as all of their neighbous did and so we have this amazing piece of history to enjoy in the glass. Medium-bodied, the wine is bursting with energy and red fruit tension, rasping wild raspberry acidity and fruit flavour. Fermented with wild yeasts, nothing is added. Aged for 6 months in a combination of concrete vats and old French barrels. A revelation.