Pablo Martorell’s Vines of Mendoza : New Worlder

Pablo Martorell’s working day kicks off with coffee at home and a quick visit to the refrigerated storage unit to check on wine temperatures. It’s not until the enologist reaches The Vines of Mendoza’s winery and receives a second caffeine injection, however, that he’s ready to contemplate the 300 wines he’s making with the 2016 harvest. Given that his Uco Valley ‘office’ sports an enviable vista of the snow-capped Andes, it’s not a bad place to soak up inspiration before the day’s tasks of pumping over, stirring lees, barrel sampling or bottling.

A private vineyard estate that gives wine lovers the opportunity to purchase and plant whatever they desire on their own small plot, The Vines of Mendoza started out with 250 acres of land in 2005. Today, the vast estate encompasses 1,500 acres that’s divvied up between 160 private vineyard owners, all keen to make use of Pablo’s wine-making skills. Although Guinness World Records has never officially got involved, it’s certainly no sweeping statement to say that the Tunuyán, Uco Valley-born enologist produces a record-breaking number of wines every year. Some 160 private vineyard owners grow 29 varietals from Chardonnay to Grenache and, of course, Argentina’s emblematic red Malbec, all eager to experiment with their grapes. From young easy-drinking Torrontés to complex barrel-aged red blends, Pablo works with every last proprietor to ensure the end product is to their liking.

Pablo says: “In our first harvest in 2010, I didn’t produce much, around 100 lines. But the following year it exploded, and by 2013 we were producing almost 300 different wines. Sometimes it’s an easy ride because an owner will share a bottle they’d like to replicate stylistically. If they don’t, then we discuss what they want via client services.”

Getting one’s head around 300 different wines is a herculean task when you consider the number of aroma, flavor and style options available. To produce fresh fruit or ripe fruit aromas and flavors? To barrel ferment or to barrel age? How does he do it? Pablo – who has worked at other Argentine vineyards including Catena Zapata, Trivento, and Clos de los Siete explains: “Working in a team is key. Our Super Premium line has four wines but one client might want a fresh and fruity wine, another full body yet elegant, and another intense and powerful. Once I have those styles mapped out, I head to the vineyard and work with [agronomist] Francisco [Evangelista] and tell him ‘this client wants intense and powerful’ so in January, when grapes really start ripening, we thin out bunches and remove leaves to achieve that end. When the aim is a fruitier, younger wine, we leave more bunches and leaves on the vine.”

While many wineries use vast stainless tanks or cement pools with 10,000-liter or greater capacity, The Vines, the winery motto of which is ‘nothing is impossible’, has gone the other way in terms of size. Pablo, who teaches enology at a technical school in nearby La Consulta, says, “we have 150, 1,000-liter capacity tanks that stand just 1.50 meters tall and are only handled manually. It’s easy for a technician to get confused given that there are so many different wines. We have to respect an owner’s grapes and vineyard so it reaches the right bottle so there’s no way we can make a mistake. When I set up the winery, I made sure that tanks weren’t connected to pumps. I don’t have any margin for error. Small tanks also mean I can take wines to the temperature I need quickly, which is important in a hot area such as Uco Valley.

“But the real work comes during harvest time when I try every juice every day. That’s at least 100 wines. I might take five hours to sample them all but I try them all every day for 40 days, Saturdays, Sundays, bank holidays. Wine doesn’t respect day, night or birthdays during harvest time! And I do that because I’m giving the order to work; I can tell if a juice is reduced and decide that we need to undertake open remontage, or pump-over, for example. That makes a difference to the end product.”

Another advantage Pablo and team have is the fact that all the vineyards are located on the same 1,500-acre site. “Everything is right here so I can be at the furthest vineyard in three minutes should I need to check on leaves or grapes. I can try grapes the day before harvest and know exactly what we will be doing the next day. That’s a huge advantage.”

Still, challenges are always on the horizon given that Pablo is kept busy by the demands of 160 micro managers. “One owner wanted to make a passito style, where you harvest then leave the grapes to dry naturally in the sun. But we did it. Orange wine made from Malbec was another request, as was a white Malbec. We do it all.”

“Next year, an owner might want to plant a northern Italian grape I’ve never even heard of. But I’ll read up on it to work out what we can achieve – and that means I keep up to date every single day that I work here.”

Besides his work at The Vines, Pablo also manages enological matters at neighboring Giménez Riili – one of The Vines’ original founders – as well as his own line Tierra de Dioses, taking production figures way over 300. Maybe it’s time to give Guinness a call.