The fall afternoon had settled over Perdriel, Mendoza. “Beautiful light,” the hostess comments. As the clock struck five, the happy rural serenity enveloped us at the back of the late 19th century manor, under the trees and overlooking an open field where the children ran, played and screamed. Rows of vines stand farther away to the west, the Andes rising authoritatively in the horizon.
This is typical Mendoza: mountains, vineyards, family, antique manors, and winegrowers gathered around a table. A bottle of Vida y Alma Malbec ’09 is uncorked by one of its creators, proving great company to the conversation… and the cheese. “When one pours so much passion and dedication into a product, it’s inspired by something. In our case, it’s what you see: children, friendship, sunsets over the mountains, the search for quality,” Graciana says while serving the wine. She remains silent for a moment, watching the old manor. She then adds that childhood moments also feed this essence and, in her case, many of them happened in this house, built by her grandparents.
Marcela Casteller, Graciana and Eloisa Monneret met while studying Agicultural Engineering in college. They felt they would someday make a wine project together ever since. In time, they built their lives and their families (which also revolve around wine), until one day they decided to bring that idea to life.
“Our project was not to make wine, but to make this wine, Vida y Alma, which, in addition to being a product we like, carries the essence of our history, of this place, and the inspiration of our children” Marcela underlines. Part of this essence is a small-scale production of approximately three thousand bottles focused on quality. “Not much, but good,” she adds. Limited production favors the search for high quality, simultaneously providing production conditions that allow the three of them to be involved in every step of the process.
The three of them will harvest the grapes in a few days, thus starting a new production year. Later on they will follow the winemaking process closely, tasting it during fermentation and modifying the product accordingly. The next steps are bottling, labeling, selling, and finally, tasting the wine with buyers. The three of them will take care of each and every step.
“This is one of our trademarks. We do everything ourselves, and I think people appreciate our way of working,” says Eloisa.
The sun filters through the tree branches in the back yard. Estrellita, the house dog, wanders attentively, unnoticed. The children are busy running in the field, picking pieces of cheese off the table every now and then. They laugh, smile up to their mothers and run off again. They are all about six years old. Marcela, Eloisa and Graciana’s children were born in close succession, almost at the same time Vida y Alma took off. “We started the project in 2006; by midyear, we were all pregnant,” Graciana says. So Vida y Alma had barely come into existence when four babies were born, including Graciana’s twins.
They all remember how those first project meetings were gradually furnished with baby strollers, lullabies, and diapers. In every possible way, both metaphorically and literally, the children and the wine were growing together. “It was funny to notice we started our first meetings between three or four people, and the following year we were either pregnant or holding our babies,” Graciana remembers.
As we continue the conversation, another glass of Vida y Alma beckons. Marcela points out the clear aromas of dark fruit and a mineral touch, somewhat spicy. “It’s a pleasant wine, really accessible and easy to drink”, she underlines. This soft Malbec keeps growing in character harvest after harvest. The tannins are well rounded, and it feels it has potential evolution with time.
Eloisa says Alma y Vida is not specifically aimed at women. “In fact, it can be perceived to be more for men rather than women. Although, of course, these kinds of definitions are nothing more than speculations about general tastes,” she says, “The main thing is quality and elegance.”
The afternoon is fading, and the jagged mountain edges divide the horizon into two tones of blue. The kids are running, trying to fly a kite. There is little wine left on the table. But there is another bottle, and soon, a new harvest.