The story of one bottle: San Pedro de Yacochuya 2006

The best wine should always be a model of aesthetics, which means – a work of art. “Wine is for enjoyment. If wine does not give pleasure, then why do it? “– Certainly this was the principle that guided Arnaldo Etchart, who in collaboration with the great enologist Michel Rolland created the masterpiece of Argentine wine-making – “San Pedro de Yacochuya” wine.

Wine: “San Pedro de Yacochuya” 2006, Cafayate (Salta, Argentina).
Grapes: 85% Malbec, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon
Total production: 30 000 bottles.

Poetry of taste

The “Yacochuya” wine... How bizarre and totally non-European sounds this name! And in the Spanish manner – “Zhakochuzha” ... “Yaco” in Quechua language means “water”, “chuya” – “clear”. Maybe, when the Argentines tried this deep and fine wine, they came up with the adage that wine should be drunk along with a woman's kiss?..

No doubt that the famous Michel Rolland has the great merit for the success of this wine. Bowing our heads before this master, we should note that “Yacochuya” is very untypical wine for him, and this became most clearly evident in the crop of 2006. This is some kind of a wine-challenge and it seems that the poets and artists are more ready for its perception, than the critics. Perhaps, that's why this wine is very unlikely to get an estimate of more than 95 points ever, but it will be a big hit for the connoisseurs.

It is impossible to take this wine out of the historical and cultural context. The winemaker Arnaldo Etchart wanted to create a complete work of art ever since the early nineties, when he founded the Yacochuya winery in an extremely mountainous wine-making region near the town of Cafayate in the Salta province.

And for the sommelier, who wants to work certainly with a piece of art, not just with some famous brand, this wine will be a real treasure, because after all it's a wine-atmosphere. It will inspire You to draw a picture, read a book, and even play a sonata – perform your own role brilliantly, express something more than the usual idea of wine. Understanding this wine is like You are dancing tango with it, as if You are immersing in Borges, or roaming about the old Indian trails of Salta, accompanied by Che...

The Arnaldo Etcharta's wines are the living conductors into the world of Argentina's taste. These are wines with underlying message. Etcharta was inspired for their creation by the best images of the Argentine culture. This wine can be enjoyed better under the “Nuevo tango” by Astora Piazzolla. Or maybe, You will want to travel around the fantastic worlds of Jorge Luis Borges. The latter, however, can hardly be called an excellent connoisseur of wine, but that did not stop him to admire this wonderful drink.

Wine! The art of seeing life...

Indeed, like the poetic masterpieces of Borges, senor Arnaldo's Yacochuya unites Man with a certain power, as if flying in the air with its own flavor, expressing a certain mood and evoking deep feelings. For some reason, you immediately remember tango, when the real dance can be recognized not so much by the technique of two people, but by the feeling they express through their movements – light, graceful and full of something elusive. Argentine.

And if the sommelier wishes to disclose the dignity of an Argentine wine and show it, then it's worth doing it with certain inspiration and special grace. The Argentine wine is the wine of freedom in both literal and figurative senses. It is not shackled by rigid a tradition, that’s why for a true maestro it is a great opportunity for realization, and for the novice sommelier – plenty of space for development. It will give You as much inspiration as You wish, and here it is already an art if you are able to control that power.

The presentation of an Argentine wine is like a poetic speech in another language, as Borges did by saying: “Gentlemen! Let me read You a poem in Latin. I know that few of You will be able to understand Latin, but I want You to hear its melody and completely enjoy it...”

Philosophy of Arnaldo Etcharta's culture

Of course, it's hard to say, if Senor Arnaldo could make such a wine without Monsieur Michel, but the two masters were destined to meet in 1988, when Etchart headed the family business – one of the leading Argentine wineries “Bodegas Etchart”, located in the highland Cafayate (Salta province).

Arnaldo's great-great-grandfather founded the winery in 1850. Since then, the production of wine has become a family affair, passed on from one generation to another. After the death of his father the sixteen year old Arnaldo decided to take responsibility for the fate of the family business on himself. Leaving the university in San Juan, he became the general manager of the family farm, and this continued until the moment when in 1992 the large French group “Pernod Ricard” offered them to buy the winery for very solid money at that time. The proposal was very profitable and Arnaldo ventured to start from scratch and set up a new company.

Perhaps, this would have not happened, if Arnaldo wasn't a seeker by nature. Instead of quietly continue the family business, he decided to create a company, which was based not on the philosophy of familial succession, but the philosophy of the place. Paying homage to his land, he named the new winery in Indian – Yacochuya, emphasizing its relationship with the roots of a far more profound than five generations albeit very successful winemakers.

Since then, Arnaldo immersed in the study of all aspects of the national art, trying to create an “embodied Argentine” world-class wine, which would be not only a symbol, but also a pattern.

“I think that my meeting with Michel was not an accident – says Arnaldo. – At some point, I suddenly began to notice that it was my fault that something was missing. It was a good wine, but still the taste was not the one that I dreamed of. I tried mine and other Argentinian wines and noticed that, in comparison with the French wines, my wine was far from perfect. I became very self-critical to everything that I did, and actually that was the time when I had to ask for help, because I was well aware that I could not reach the desired level alone”.

Having made several futile attempts to consult with local oenologists, Senor Etchart decided to appeal to the star of first magnitude, Michel Rolland, and invited him to Argentina, and Rolland, as well known, likes to take new challenges. So, thanks to the alliance of Rolland and Etchart, were created the first Argentine Malbec wines, for which were used the seeds of grapes from the year 1913. The “Yacochuya” Malbec gained a deeper color, more interesting flavor and more complex structure. The favourable climatic conditions of Cafayate and the mastery of Michel Rolland led to the creation of one of the best Argentine wines.

“Wine gives moments of happiness to its creator, and the lack of culture can directly affect the quality of wine – says Arnaldo. – This problem I have noticed long time ago, so the main goal of my quests became the attempt to integrate both the art and the culture of wine. I'm no longer talking about the technique. There are enough young winemakers and oenologists, who study the technical aspects of wine-making. They spend many years studying in special schools and universities, but I am attracted by the achievement of wine through culture, art and beauty.
Today, the tradition is continued by the son of Arnaldo – Marcos, who learnt many of the secrets of wine-making under the strict guidance of his father and Michel Rolland. Marcos is still quite young, he is now 35 years old, but he has an excellent technique of wine-making, at least, his father thinks so. Michel, relying on his own experience, passed on the knowledge to him, which, in fact, you can read in not a single book.


Yacochuya Manor is located 8 kilometers from Cafayate at an altitude of 2,035 meters above sea level, which makes the terroir unique: these are the “highest” vineyards in the world. The vineyard area is about 16 hectares, reaching the Yacochuya River.

The terroir expresses the power of the land, which the ancient Indian knowledge eloquently talk about, such as the legend about the local cactus San Pedro, as modern Indians like to call it. San Pedro is the living symbol of Cafayate, the embodiment of the power of terroir. In ancient times, the Indians used this cactus for rituals.

The climate of the highlands can be bravely called “the climate of Che”: here the revolutionary changes in the temperature are a common phenomenon. At an altitude of 1700 meters the day is hot, and the night is cool (36º C and 12º C, respectively). The caps of the glaciers are whitening nearby.

Here the cloudiness is small, the sky is constantly clear: the sunny days here are more than anywhere else. A strong mountain breeze is blowing, lifting dust and sand from the ground, which reduces the humidity.

In general, the climate here is continental. The Indians, however, believe that the climate of the region is affected by three places, which are mentioned in the ancient local legends – San Antonio de los Cobres, Salar del Hombre Muerto and Mina la Casualidad.

The small town of San Antonio de los Cobres is located at an altitude of 4000 meters, among mountain mines on top of the Andes. The Indians say that these places are inhabited by Pachamama (Mother of the Earth, Quechua) – the spirit of the Earth, dispersing the clouds. Most likely, the abundance of sunny days is associated with the mines, which form a special magnetic field that affects the climate. Here live only about 2,000 people, mostly Indians.

Exactly in San Antonio de los Cobres comes “El Tran a las Nubes”, the famous “Train to the clouds”, which connects the highland city with Salta, the capital of the province. The train path starts at a height of 1200 meters and is moving in incredible zigzags, tunnels and dizzying twists along the Quebrada del Toro valley, passing by mountain lakes and Indian small villages with houses made of mud bricks. A true masterpiece of engineering is the Polvorilla viaduct, an openwork railway bridge that is 224 meters long and 63 meters high.

The second point allocated by the Indians is Salar del Hombre Muerto. This city is located in the neighboring province of Catamarca. Here is also located one of the largest copper-gold deposits in the world, marked by ancient petroglyphs. As the locals say, this place also affects the climate zone of Cafayate.

The third point – Mina la Casualidad is a small town just a few kilometers from the border with Chile. It is located at an altitude of 4184 meters. During the winter the temperature here drops to – 40 º C. Probably the main places of interest are the bizarre geological formations, the so-called “singing stones”.

Millesime 2006

We often hear about the drought in Argentina, but in 2006 it was very favorable for the highland Salta, which allowed to collect a great harvest, one of the best in the last 20 years.


Wine basis – Malbec (85%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%). They are taken from vines, which are about one hundred years old. Currently, Marcos personally is looking for the ripening of the grapes and he can accurately determine the day when the grapes are ready to use. Arnaldo is telling: “Sometimes he wakes me up at five o'clock in the morning, and tells me to go watch the grapes. We look at these wonderful bunches of grapes connected with wire, making sure that the bunches are strictly in an upright position. The bunch has to store power”.

The main grape in Yacochuya is Malbec. This grape variety was brought to France by some Magyar, also known by the names of Auxerrois, Cahors, Cot, Pressac, Quercy, Pied Noir, Noir de Pressac and Medoc Noir.

Malbec was first introduced in Argentina thanks to the French agronomist Michel Pouget. This is a very common grape variety in the sunny regions, and it can be quite often found in Chile, Australia, Italy, California, southern Oregon and the Washington state. But the biggest plantations of Malbec are located exactly in Argentina – about 30,000 hectares.


It is believed that the Malbec expresses in the best way the terroir of the region and, accordingly, depends on it. Therefore, in “Yacochuya” we can feel not only the rich aroma, but also some special flavor that is characteristic for the famous San Pedro cactus.

This wine has an intense aroma, it is balanced but at the same time enough complex. It is very important to prepare the wine before drinking. The best way to open the wine is to hold it for about 30 minutes in an open bottle. It's not necessary to decant it but a little aeration won't do any harm, i.e. an oxygen saturation.

This is a fairly strong wine, but its strength is almost not felt. Why? Arnaldo and Michel came to the conclusion that the grapes for this wine should be very mature and well-seasoned. The juice should be aged for a year in French oak barrels, giving the wine inimitable tones.


Serving of “Yacochuya” is connected with the peculiarities of its storage. The wine should be stored under strict temperature conditions – no more than 16º C. However, if You plan on soaking it in a cellar for 5 – 7 years, the storage temperature should not exceed 12 – 14º C.

Therefore, when you open and aerate the wine, it is important not to overheat it. If it is very hot in the room, you do not have to wait for half an hour. In this case, you can pour the wine into the glasses and ask the people to leave it for 10 minutes, or use an aerator.


22 february 2009

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