Gather round, raise a glass! Argentina’s own Zuccardi Valle de Uco winery grabbed the top spot in the first-ever World’s Best Vineyards awards, announced earlier this week.
The official list ranked 50 of the world’s top wineries, with over 1,500 wineries receiving nominations. The World’s Best Vineyards’ Academy, comprised of nearly 500 wine tourism experts, went “beyond the wines” to assess the “whole experience” of each winery. There was no formal assessment criteria per se, but the Academy factored in the “restaurant, tour, ambiance, staff, view, price, reputation, accessibility [and] everything that makes a vineyard visit a valuable and rewarding experience.”
Also making the cut for top ten is another Argentine vineyard, No. 5 Catena Zapata. A high-altitude winery with the “coolest location for growing wines in Mendoza,” not only does Catena bring bottles of top-notch Malbec, but it boasts superb Mayan-inspired architecture. Altogether, Argentina claimed six spots in the top 50: No. 25 Bodega Colomé, No. 26 Bodegas Salentein, and No. 41 El Enemigo.
And here’s a quick toast to our Southern Cone neighbors: Uruguay’s Bodega Garzón came in at No. 2; and Chile racked up the most vineyards in the top 50 (a whopping eight. Wow, way to show off, Chile).
But let’s not forget who the real winner is. What gives the Zuccardi the edge to reach that coveted first place?
For starters, its location puts it ahead of the rest. Standing at 1,100m above sea level in the picturesque, mythical Valle de Uco in the south of Mendoza province, the winery lies at the foothills of the Andes, the area with the highest altitude. For grapes, high altitude is good news: it means a broad temperature range and lots of sunlight. And that steep mountain incline? It means that the grapes have even more direct contact with the sun, resulting in an expressive flavor profile and long-term complexity.
With operations overseen by winemaker Sebastián Zuccardi, the winery has been in operation since 1963. As a third-generation winemaker, Sebastián has developed the winery to include five distinct properties, each with a special edge in location. Zuccardi and his R&D team developed new farms and irrigation strategies to harness the best grapes you can get. For instance, grapes on the Piedra Infinita property come from “heterogeneous soils,” while the soils of Canal Uco run deeper throughout. If you’ve got a good palate, perhaps you can pick up on the prime irrigation of the grapes from the farms in Los Membrillos and San Pablo, or the extremely cold and dry climate from Gualtallary.
As for the winery, not only does it offer exquisite views of the mountains and surrounding landscape, but it is an architectural feat itself. The academy remarked on the three-story structure’s ability to be “part of the landscape,” blending in seamlessly with walls made of rocks from the Zuccardi’s Piedra Infinita vineyard, and using water and sand from the Tunuyán river.
Of course, the wine is the star of the show here, but cuisine from the Zuccardi universe isn’t too shabby, either. The family enterprise knows how to do food right: one of its own, Chacha Vicario, was just crowned the empanada champ of Argentina.
In 2016, the winery opened its doors to the Piedra Infinita Cocina restaurant, which features a local, four-course menu that delicately highlights the flavors in your wine glass. For both the winery and the restaurant, visiting hours are limited to Wednesday-Sunday. After this week’s feriado XL, we know you’re already thinking about planning another winter getaway (or maybe that’s just me).