When one thinks of Argentinian wine, Malbec is often what immediately comes to mind. And it should. The Mendoza province, a.k.a. the beating heart of Argentina's wine country, took this grape over from France in the late 18th century. Malbec's black fruit deliciousness has been perfected in world-class Mendoza ever since.
There is more to Argentina than just one ass-kicking varietal, however. The Mendoza climate is ripe for a number of grape styles to flourish. One such winery that is proving this beyond doubt is Kaiken. Their Luján de Cuyo plot - which sits against a devastatingly gorgeous backdrop of the Andes mountains - is producing Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other wines that are far underrated in the Argentinian region.
A respect for the earth & adventure
We had a chat with Kaiken's 2nd-generation winemaker, Aurelio Montes Jr., to learn more about their alignment with nature and why their Chilean roots landed them in Argentina:
Biodynamics play a major role in Kaiken wines. What elements of this are unique to Kaiken and how do they directly impact the wine we're drinking?
We believe in the use of high-quality, environmentally-friendly vine growing methods and winemaking processes. This means going back to old family-farming practices for vines to express themselves, free from chemicals and showing their "personality".
That is why, since 2011, our 15-hectare estate known as Finca de Vistalba (planted with Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay) is being managed according to biodynamic principles.
We're in the process of bringing these completely biodynamic wines to market for others to experience.
Kaiken Vineyards - Mendoza, Argentina
You're originally from Chile. What was the inspiration behind establishing Kaiken across the Andes Mountains in Mendoza, Argentina?
My father started traveling to Mendoza in 2000 and was inspired by the people, the culture, the terroir and the possibility to learn and share his experience with winemaking in Argentina. Here he saw a tremendous potential for premium wines as we were doing in Chile. I guess it’s in our family´s DNA to explore, take risks and innovate. Establishing in Argentina was a combination of all of this.
Kaiken is all about the feng shui and so are we. Describe the ideal experience when drinking a bottle of 2014 Kaiken Ultra Malbec. What should one be listening to, eating, or generally enjoying with this wine?
I truly believe there is no one “ideal experience”. Wine is about experience in general. It's about personal moments and feelings. In my case, the ideal scenario with a glass of Ultra Malbec is being together with my wife, relaxing after a day outdoors. We'll have a nice combination of cheeses and listen to Michael Bublé .
What inspires the Kaiken brand? Any particular music, art, landscape, etc.?
Kaiken is the result of the passion, dedication and inspiration of a group of talented professionals from Argentina and Chile. There are no limits. For us, an attained goal is just the starting point of our next challenge as we continue to explore, discover, and grow. This is where new journeys and dreams open up with every step.
No doubt that source of inspiration is the majesty of the Andes Mountains that is so close to our vineyards.
Mendoza is typically known for Malbec. What other varietals from Argentina should wine drinkers be paying close attention to?
I have as a mission, whenever I travel around the world promoting Kaiken wines, to show gatekeepers and consumers that Argentina and Kaiken are more than just Malbec. We have a line of wines called the Terroir Series where we explore Sauvignon Blanc, which is not a common variety in Argentina. One of our premium wines is called Obertura, a high-end Cabernet Franc. Our team is constantly working on new and “non-traditional” varieties, but I will leave them for a future discussion =)
"Wine Mom & the Critic" took Kaiken's Ultra Malbec for a spin last week. Let's see how they liked it.
You can also learn more about Kaiken's history and wines on their website.