What is Paul Hobbs up to these days? Of course he is devoting time to the companies he assesses but also to his favorite hobby: purchase and sale of lands and the search of new zones to cultivate the best varieties.
This New York flying winemaker is, in a way, an archaeologist of wine. Among his plans, he has been asked to develop a wine project for the Argentine business man, Eduardo Eurnekian, in Finger Lake, New York for USD 10 million. At the same time, he is setting up his own high-end wine project together with Mendozan engineer Carlos Tizio in Armenia, region that is attracting several investors these days. Eurnekian has a large-scale project in Armenia assessed by Michel Rolland.
Hobbs explains that vine material over there is rudimentary, but by taking clones from Argentina, France and California a top vineyard can be planted in one of the oldest wine regions in the world. “Recent archaeological excavations have found in Armenia the oldest winery in the world of 6,500 years old,” he says, excited. He is fascinated by Armenia’s history. The problem with this is region is that it lacks skilled labor and infrastructure for major projects. “It will never be a great region, but it has some incredible areas. It is like Mendoza: there are gems, new areas to be discovered. Right now I am working with some remote areas in Uco Valley in the highest part, but I cannot say much because the project is in its initial phase,” he confide.
Is viticulture in its early stages? Is there a lot more to discover?
Of course, even in Napa. There will not be any great discovery, but there is still refining to be done. A specific terroir can be found for a specific variety here; these are the little gems I am talking about.
Is this where the business is going; towards finding those special places?
I believe I am not the only one who is working on this. Refining and understanding of the different terroirs is something that many of my colleagues, winemaker and agronomist, are deeply involved in, too. This is one the things that I love about Argentina; it is a very dynamic place. Without meaning to compare Argentina to Chile, I believe that Chile has a ‘corporate’ philosophy; more business-driven. In Argentina there is a culture and passion for wine. Every time I come I feel energized; I can tell that people are hungry for new things, discoveries and learning. I love getting together with José Galante and seeing his shinny eye as he opens his experimental kit. The strange thing is that, because of Argentina’s instability and its ups and downs, everyone looks for stability and security, but I love Argentina the way it is.
How would you describe 2012 wines? What can be expected from them?
To begin with, this was a year of low yields, especially for the Malbec. It was really hot and the climate was below ideal conditions; in general terms, this grapes harvest was not very good. But the fact that Argentina has a long-established wine tradition, knowledge in vineyard management and good winemaking practices has helped to successfully overcome this situation. The variability of the harvest has not been reduced to zero, but today it is just small part of the equation. This is why I dare say 2012 wines will be superior to 2011’s and far better than 2010 wines.
Many red wines are still undergoing malolactic fermentation and it is too early to talk widely about them, but I am sure they will be excellent, though they seemed to have gotten off on the wrong foot.
If you wanted to make a great wine, what varieties would you use for this blend?
Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The Cabernet turned out wonderful. I thought that red wines from cold zones, like La Consulta, were going to be better. I do not know why, but wines from Lujan de Cuyo are more opulent, complex and fresher than those from high or cold zones.