Magna Montis was the first Argentinian producer to seriously draw Ronnie’s attention. These wines, made by Martin Dicuzzo, are so unlike the cliché of this country’s rich, syrupy wines that have bombarded the US market for some time now. Instead, Martin is doing things with a more measured hand to showcase high altitude freshness and elegance. Magna Montis means “big mountain” in Latin and refers to The Andes, the largest continental range in the world. Against a towering, mountainous backdrop that looks like a Windows screen saver from the early 2000s, the grapes for this project are grown at 3300-5500 feet above sea level in the Uco Valley, about 40 miles southwest as the crow flies from the city of Mendoza. That’s easily the highest elevation of any producer in our book. With that elevation comes high sun exposure during the days, dry winds, and cool nights. In addition, the Andes create a rain shadow effect over Martin’s vineyards; they only receive 12 inches of rain per year. It is this rugged terrain that drew Martin back after many years away.
Martin started his wine career in 2012, studying to be a sommelier and founding Gea Vinos, a wine importer and distribution company in Argentina, at the same time. In 2016 he decided to settle in Shanghai and lived there for four years, working as an Asian Export Manager for Bodega Norton, one of the most prestigious wineries and 5th largest exporter in Argentina. For Bodega Norton, Martin developed more than fifteen markets all around the Asian continent, and based on that experience, he is a strong believer that Argentina has begun to make world class wines in the last decade.
Nowadays Martin is 100% dedicated to Magna Montis. This project was born from the desire to showcase different sub regions of the Uco Valley without any alterations; Martin is fascinated by the fact that every vintage is a new opportunity to show different expressions of the same place. Magna Montis works with growers in these sub-regions, some of them with a vast background and family tradition, others young with new ideas and new methods that take the region’s viticulture to another level. All of Martin’s vineyard partners care for their vines as an “integrated circuit,” meaning with a keen attention to regenerating soil health and using only Andes mountain runoff as their source of water for irrigation. Plus, all treatments are organic and harvest is always performed by hand. In the cellar, Martin is moved by the need to show the new face of Argentina. He wants his wines to be as naked as possible, expressing where they come from with sulfur being the only “make-up” applied. Indigenous yeasts are always used, and in years of good phenolic maturity, Martin tends to use some whole bunches, always with very soft extractions more akin to the infusion of tea than the brewing of coffee. The wines ferment in a mix of stainless steel or concrete vats, and élevage occurs either in used French oak (225-500L) barrels or concrete.
Magna Montis represents the new wave of winemaking in Mendoza. Rather than the one-note, oak bombs that still pervade the US market, Magna Montis makes elegant, careful, precise wines that always balance power with freshness. The future is bright for this young brand.