-6-All wines are 750ml unless otherwise specied. Prices do not include Consumption Tax.In Argentina, most wineries and 75 percent of all production is in Mendoza and San Juan province. Colomé is 1500km north of Mendoza in Salta Province, very close to the Bolivian and Chilean borders in the northwest of Argentina. We are on the Tropic of Capricorn, so if we were at sea level it would impossible to have vineyards. Our vineyards are between 1700 and 3111 meters in altitude, which is one of the highest in the world. Salta Province produces just 3 percent of all wines in Argentina, with a focus on high quality, and there are around 50 wineries here.Bodega Colomé is the oldest continuously operating winery in Argentina, started in 1831. There have been older wineries but they have disappeared over time. We have 8 hectares of pre-phylloxera vineyards that are 150 years old ‒ it’s a mix of varietals but is mostly Malbec, with some Cabernet Sauvignon, mission grapes* and Torrontés.30 years ago, all Argentine wines were made only for local consumption, and unknown around the world. Two international winemakers, Paul Hobbs and Michel Rolland, who came to Argentina in the late 1980s made a significant difference, and started the move towards exporting wines. Since 2010 there is a new generation of Argentinian winemakers, I would put myself among them, who are reinventing winemaking in Argentina. There is a move away from ripe, oaky wines that Michel Rolland introduced and we are grateful for, and now there are amazing wines. Even the famous wineries like Catena and Cobos are changing, they are experimenting, inventing, adapting. So right now I think the winemaking in Argentina is a lot more innovative and modern than in France, it is very global in outlook and new ideas.There has always been good terroir and some great wines made in Argentina, but the changes between 2000 and 2010 and now 2020 are significant. There are still consumers looking for fruity Malbecs with oak in their daily wines, but fine wines today are about freshness and elegance, and the road ahead looks great.◆How did you come to be in Argentina in the first place?I first came to Argentina in 2004, on a 1-year trip before going to back to France to start my own winery project. I always wanted to visit South America, and really fell in love with Argentina, the landscape and the people who are beautiful and warm. I spent several months in Salta working at the Alliance Française, met Donald Hess (of Hess Family wines) by chance and we discussed high altitude winemaking ‒ I had no idea of course ‒ and he invited me to Colomé. I had little experience, I was only 27, but we had a good feeling which was very important for Donald, and he offered me a job. I thought it would be a great experience. The only condition was that I had to stay for 3 years ‒ and that was 15 years ago. When I first saw Colomé I thought “It’s crazy ‒ just imagine me living here.” In addition to the wine it is a huge social project with the people living in Colomé. At first I thought it was a crazy millionaire doing something impossible, but once I tasted the wine and saw that the project was strong, I changed my mind. I am very proud to have been part of this for 15 years, from a tiny project into something solid, not only the business but the social element. Currently we have 150 employees, so it is important to the local economy, in an area where there is no industry.Bodega Colomé was a grand project launched in 2001 by Donald Hess and his wife Ursula, aiming not only to establish a new winery, but also to create a new industry and socially responsible work in this remote local community in Argentina’s northwest. The project has now been taken over by the next generation, Donald’s daughter Larissa and her husband Christoph Ehrbar. Winemaker Thibaut Delmotte has been involved since the early days. Please also see the story of our visit in the Autumn 2016 Catalogue “Hess family passion ‒nurturing the highest vineyards in the world at Bodega Colomé” (see QR code).On a one-year travel experience in South America in 2004, young French winemaker Thibaut Delmotte found himself joining the Hess Family Bodega Colomé project in Salta Province in northwest Argentina. 15 years later he is producing award-winning wines and deepening his local roots with the planting of his own vineyard in the region. We talked on-line with Thibaut at the winery in Colomé, a town of 500 people where the winery is the main employer.◆What was Colomé like when you joinedWhen Donald Hess bought Colomé in 2001 it was a very old winery that was artisanal, very old vineyards not in good shape, so he basically had to grow everything. From those original 8 hectares in 2001, today Colomé has 150 hectares spread over 4 different vineyards. In 2003 Donald also started an entry level line, Amalaya de Colomé. In 2009 we split Amalaya from Colomé into a winery in its own right. Amalaya has 130 hectares and its own winery in Cafayate, where Jorge Noguera is the resident winemaker. Today, Colome is owned by a new generation, Larissa (Donald’s daughter) and Christoph Ehrbar.When I started in 2005 we were only producing 3 wines in Colomé, and my first vintage was 50,000 bottles. Now we have more than 20 wines, and close to 1.5 million bottles (Colomé and Amalaya combined). So we have grown a lot. We had to discover everything. There was viticulture but the vineyards and trellises were in bad shape, so we changed to a VSP system. It also required finding the terroir. At El Arenal, not only was there no viticulture, there was no agriculture, it was just flat land and bushes. Everybody told Donald not to grow grapes there, but he bought the land, found water, and started planting vineyards. At Altura Máxima they were growing quinoa, paprika and beans, but no viticulture at all, so we needed to start from the beginning. It really was a pioneering quality to find this very particular terroir. Because these areas had no history of viticulture, we started from nothing and had to invent everything. The first time we received fruit from El Arenal it was really complex, very concentrated, so it was difficult to understand how to manage it to make it into high quality wine, and Altura Máxima was a different story again. Always challenging, every year there is something new. With time we have come to understand the terroir and how to manage it, and to work with the people and the place. All the people working in the vineyard and the winery are locals, born on farms. Working with them is different than Europe, and I have to adjust my rhythm to theirs ‒ nowadays I have a nap every day like everybody else. ◆What are the characteristics of the vineyardsAll our fruit is estate fruit, which lets us manage the quality in the vineyards, the planting, pruning and irrigation. Here in the Calchaquí Valley we average 150mm of rain a year ‒ it is very, very dry, and it only rains in January and February, so the rest of the year we need to irrigate the vineyards. It is great to have such healthy weather, as we don’t need to spray the vineyards. Altitude also contributes to the character of the wine ‒ the higher you go the less ozone there is, so more ultra-violet radiation, and the fruit protects itself by producing a thicker and darker skin, that gives the colour, concentration and tannin structure to the wine. We also have big temperature differences between day and night, 20 to 25C, so the fresh, cold nights help the fruit retain acidity, freshness and elegance. It’s a good balance between elegance and concentration.◆How has your winemaking evolved since 2005?Colomé was part of the Hess Family, and at that time Hess had wineries in Australia, California and South Africa. Here in Colomé the winemaking was heavily influenced by Californian winemaking ‒ a lot of ripeness, waiting, waiting for harvesting and a lot of oak. This was really the first style at Colomé. Prior to arriving I also worked in Burgundy and Bordeaux, and in 2003 it was all Thibaut Delmotte (Head winemaker)Our feature story - Part 18Bodega Colomé (Valle Calchaqui, Salta Province, Argentina)Creating special wines from remote, high-altitude vineyards.―― Thibaut Delmotte (Head winemaker)

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