Editor’s Note: It’s that time of year… the grape harvest at Bill’s ranch in Argentina is finished. Previous customers… including those on the waiting list… have already bought over 3,000 bottles of this year’s wine that we had available.
Read on below as Bill details this year’s harvest and shows readers how to get their hands on a case or two before it’s gone…
We had the best grape harvest ever this year. The weather was perfect – with clear, sunny skies and just (barely) enough water. We tried the grapes before they went into the crusher; they were excellent.
As you know, our vineyard is nearly the highest-altitude vineyard in the world. And as our wine is not mixed with wine from a lower altitude, it is the highest pure wine in the world.
This has some important consequences.
I am in Paris as I write. In the restaurant last night, I tried a French wine made from the same type of grapes – the Malbec. In comparison with ours, it was weak. Almost watery.
That’s the first thing you notice about high-altitude Malbec: It’s strong… intense… and rich in flavor.
And there’s more to the story. All red wines have something called “polyphenols” in them. New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Joseph Mercola, reports:
Polyphenols are micronutrients with antioxidant activity, found most abundantly in whole foods such as dried spices, fruits, vegetables, red wine, and cocoa.
Polyphenols play an important role in preventing and reducing the progression of diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.
Polyphenols also play an important role as a prebiotic, increasing the ratio of beneficial bacteria in your gut, which is important for health, weight management, and disease prevention.
In the human body, polyphenols have diverse biological properties, including:
|Fighting cancer cells and inhibiting angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor)||Protecting your skin against ultraviolet radiation|
|Fighting free radicals, and reducing the appearance of aging||Promoting brain health, and protecting against dementia|
|Reducing inflammation||Supporting normal blood sugar levels|
|Protecting your cardiovascular system||Promoting normal blood pressure|
We don’t know anything about how polyphenols work. And we certainly don’t claim any medical knowledge whatsoever. But here’s what they’re saying in a publication called WineKnows:
While red wine is known to exert a protective cardiac function, the exact mechanism has been unclear until recently. Research shows that red wine is a potent inhibitor of a detrimental substance that wreaks havoc on blood vessels. The villain, called Endolthelin-1, causes blood vessels to constrict and fatty plaques to form. The hero, antioxidant polyphenols (found in skins of red grapes), block the formation of the harmful Endolethelin-1.
Argentina boasts the world’s highest vineyards. Grapes grown in Argentina’s Andes have demonstrated significantly higher levels of these beneficial polyphenols. Vines grown as high as 5,000 feet has been shown to produce wine that is twice as potent in blocking the damaging Endolethelin-1 in contrast to grapes grown in the country’s lower vineyards. In comparison to Chile, Argentinean grapes grown at lofty elevations provide more than triple the power in cardiac defense. Moreover, Bordeaux wine only afforded a mere 10% of Argentina’s high altitude strength in preventing heart disease.
So, what is it about elevation that makes the difference? Higher altitude vineyard sites are closer to the sun. Grapes implement a defense mechanism against the sunlight intensity by thickening their skins, resulting in higher polyphenol levels.
And now, let me back up.
Too High, Too Dry
You already know about Gualfin, our ranch in Argentina. It is not very productive or practical. It is too remote, too high, and too dry. It is marginal in almost every way. The cows are too thin (they don’t have enough grass). There’s not enough water in the seasonal rivers to irrigate much. And without water, well, it’s a desert.
It used to be marginally profitable (or at least, sustainable). Former owners used to be able to graze 2,000 cattle on the ranch. Eager buyers came up to bid on them for the local market.
But the weather seems to have changed over the last 20 years. Each year brings less rain… and more problems. We’re lucky if we can support 500 animals.
And now, refrigerated trucks come up from the pampas, bringing more tender beef at reasonable prices. And because of the altitude and harsh conditions, we rarely get more than 250 calves. Each one sells for barely US$100.
You can do the math yourself. It doesn’t bring in much money to pay for fuel, tractors, insurance, tools, vaccinations, and seven full-time salaries.
To make matters worse, there is a political movement afoot. Local activists want to take the ranch and turn it into a reservation for the Indians. It would be a disaster for the locals, who depend on the ranch as the only employer in the valley.
That is a long story, which takes more telling than we have time for today… but it just complicates things.
And to make matters even worse, Argentina is in the middle of a major financial and political crisis. After decades of mismanagement and mistakes, inflation is running as high as 100% per year. People are so fed up with price increases, the next election could put the previous, corrupt regime back in power.
“Then… we’re headed to Venezuela,” say the locals.
Of course, we could just pack up and move out. Buying the ranch in Argentina was always meant to be an adventure and a learning experience (it has been more of both than we reckoned on!). We don’t depend on it for our livelihood. We don’t need it in our lives.
But the people who live there do.
Gustavo, Pablo, Carlos, José – they, and their families, work on the ranch. We are the only employer within an hour’s drive. They depend on us to figure out how to keep the ranch going… or they will have to move out.
Some of the employees of the ranch
So we count on the wine sales to keep the place going.
You may know this already, but I’ll explain for the benefit of new readers.
A Simple Experiment
When we bought the ranch, we bought a cattle operation. That was what was interesting to us. Perhaps we watched too many westerns as a boy, but we always wanted to be a cowboy. And for the last 10 years, we’ve enjoyed the round-up, branding, cattle drives… and all the rough life of a high-country cattle ranch.
The previous owner told us when he left that he had planted a few grapes “up in the valley, near Tacana” as an experiment. But we paid little attention.
A few years later, however, the grapes were ready to harvest. We took them over to a neighbor (lower in the valley, there are many wineries). He made wine with them. Malbec. No “oak.” No mixing grapes. No chemicals. Just pure Malbec grapes from what must be one of the highest, most remote, and most naturally healthy vineyards in the world.
Finally, the bottles came back. We wondered what the wine would taste like.
It was strong. Intense. Rich.
“It’s very good,” our neighbor – Raúl Dávalos – pronounced judgment. “Easily as good as mine.”
His own winery, Tacuil, has been tested by famed wine expert Robert Parker. He gave it a 93 – near the top of his rating system.
“Great,” we replied.
Crushed, Cooled, Fermented
As we would learn, there are a few reasons why our wine is exceptionally good.
First, our vineyard is so high, so dry, and so far from other vineyards that there is no need to use a lot of chemicals to kill weeds, bugs, and fungus. The valley is naturally healthy.
Second, the temperature variation between day and night is extreme. It will be very hot when the sun is out (which is almost every day). But the nights will still be cold. The grapes protect themselves with thick skins. These skins are where the flavors and sugars (the source of the alcohol) collect.
Third, the grapes are irrigated, but they get little water compared to most vines. What water they do get is first absorbed into limestone rocks in the soil. As the roots pull out the water, they also extract vital nutrients and minerals.
In short, the wine is exceptional because the location is exceptional. Plus, we called in an exceptional wine expert – Sebastian “El Turco” Saravia – who supervises all aspects of our wine production.
Once the grapes are picked, they go over to the neighbor’s winery. There, Raúl, a fourth-generation winemaker, makes sure the grapes are properly crushed, cooled, fermented, and bottled.
Over the last few years, we’ve gained more experience with the wine. We had local experts taste it – “Excellent!” We had experts in the U.S. try it – same verdict. And when we shipped up a whole pallet of it for our daughter’s wedding a couple years ago, it was a big hit. This year, we’ve sent another pallet up for a son’s wedding!
But we have to get down to business, too. We remember the words of Donald Hess, of the Hess Collection… a company that sells millions of bottles of wine each year, from all over the world…
“Anyone can produce a great wine,” he said. “All you need is the right place. But it takes a genius to sell it.”
Paying the Middleman
The problem is the middlemen. You may pay $60 for a bottle of Tacuil’s RD RESERVA wine in a restaurant in Buenos Aires. But the winemaker may only get $9. The rest goes to the distributor, the marketer, and the restaurant.
It’s worse when wines are shipped to the U.S. It’s liquor. So, everyone has to be licensed. Competition is limited. You have to go through an importer, a distributor, a warehouser, a shipper, and a sales network. Not to mention the taxes! You don’t end up with much.
Our vineyard can only produce about 10,000 bottles per year. If we sell in the normal way, the wine will be offered in restaurants at maybe $79 a bottle. But by the time the middlemen are paid, little of that money will end up back at the ranch, not nearly enough to cover the costs.
Which leads me to my proposal to you…
Only 5,500 Bottles for Sale
Our vineyard can never be even close to profitable unless we can sell the wine directly to consumers. So, here’s what we do. We sell it the only way we know how: by subscription only.
And we’re going to make you an offer that no one else has ever made in the history of the wine business (as far as we know).
Last year was a good year. But our neighbor lost grapes to a flood. We promised him some of ours. This left us with only 4,500 bottles available for export to the U.S. And this year, after setting some aside for weddings and other obligations, we have only 5,500 bottles to sell.
It won’t last long. Americans have discovered Argentine Malbec. And our dear readers have discovered our wine, Tacana.
I would like to not only give you first crack at this year’s output, but I’d like to give you a very special present in addition.
Last year, we sold out in 24 hours. And we offered a special guarantee: if you didn’t like it, we’d send your money back. As far as we know, no one in the wine business had ever made such an offer. But we had confidence in Tacana. And we knew we had to prove ourselves.
As it turned out, of all the 4,500 bottles sold… only 2% of customers asked for a refund, which we gladly paid.
Remember, Tacana is more intense than the wine you’re probably used to. It goes great with red meat. The Argentines drink it with their big steaks, for example. We drink it with everything, every day. Other wines now taste feeble in comparison.
Order a case. Offer it to friends and neighbors. See what they say. And if, after you’ve gone through your supply, you think it did not live up to the promises and claims we’ve made for it, just say so. We’ll be happy to refund your money. No need to send anything back. We’ll take your word for it.
So, the very worst that could happen is that you drink our wine at our expense!
For a limited time, we are offering a mixed case… six bottles of Tacana and six bottles of our special RESERVA wine. Same grapes. Same place. Same harvest. But one big difference: This wine has been “oaked” in barrels that we ordered from France.
The wine stays in the barrels for two years before being bottled. This takes a little of the “edge” off. It is smoother. Mellower. With more of a honey aroma.
Normally, this RESERVA wine is more expensive to produce – a single oak barrel costs us $1,200. If you wish to buy it separately, it is $95 a bottle.
But when you order a mixed case, that brings your real price per bottle down to $50. That’s more than 45% off. At that price, you can’t beat the wine… or the deal.
Remember that our stock is very limited. So don’t delay. It’s first come, first served.
We only have a very limited number of cases available, and only 1,000 bottles of the RESERVA wine. If you miss it this year, you’ll have to wait ‘til next year…
So, if you’d like to help us save the ranch, raise a glass and enjoy an exceptional Argentine Malbec, you can place your order right here.
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