Santiago Mayorga is one of the most exciting winemakers in Argentina today. Not because he is wild or off-the-charts, but because he has longevity, dedication and an enviable streak of genius.
His curriculum in winemaking so far spans 10 years at Roberto de la Mota’s boutique winery Mendel, and five years and counting at Nieto Senetiner. His CV is solid and his steps are measured. But that doesn’t mean Santiago doesn’t innovate. You just have to look at the revitalised portfolio of Nieto Senetiner today to see the new energy Santiago has channelled into this historical powerhouse of Argentine wine.
“I want to communicate that Nieto Senetiner is traditional, but not old!” Santiago explained in our interview. And while this winery certainly has history – founded in 1888 – it is the future which is really exciting: “We are really pushing the bar to make great new things. In fact, we are now bottling a Criolla for Cadus, we are doing lots of new things!”
In the five years since Santiago has been there, the winery has separated the Cadus brand as the super-premium wines of the house, and within Nieto Senetiner the brands range from premium Don Nicanor down to everyday ranges like Emilia and Benjamin. Santiago focuses on the premium wines and Cadus, Don Nicanor and Nieto Senetiner all fall into his fold. Within Cadus the wines are all appellation designated and the new releases also include Single Vineyard wines. As mentioned, being bottled at the moment is also a Criolla – one of Argentina’s most traditional grapes which is a pink grape making light red wines – and a Petit Verdot. “Cadus is our more extreme brand!” Santiago says, clearly excited about the creative freedom within Cadus to incorporate new wines and labels.
In Don Nicanor, there is a fresh new style of Malbec emerging in the Barrel Select (see tasting notes) and Santiago is producing his first sweet wine – a late-harvest Gewürztraminer. And in Nieto we’ve already seen the appearance of Semillon as a white wine, today there’s a fantastic white blend on the market (see tasting notes) and they will soon be releasing a light, Provence-style rosé.
As well as bringing in new wines though, Santiago sees his job as re-appreciating their inheritance. Within Nieto Senetiner, which celebrates its 130 year anniversary this year, there will be a refocus on its local vineyards in Vistalba and Lujan de Cuyo: “Everyone is talking about the Uco Valley,” he says, “but we want to rediscover Lujan de Cuyo.” This year a special anniversary wine has been produced with old vines in Lujan de Cuyo but with a new vision in the vineyard and winery.
Santiago Mayorga and the winery team are clearly firing on all cylinders to revitalise each brand and portfolio of the larger group, and it is an impressive feat for a winery that produces over 2 million cases of wine. Jumping from 15,000 cases at Mendel to over 2 million at Nieto is clearly a challenge for any winemaker, but Santiago is taking it in his stride and flourishing.
In early 2015, I wrote an article for the Drinks Business placing Santiago Mayorga as one of the Top 10 winemakers to watch in Argentina. I wouldn’t hesitate to say the same today.
Watch the full interview on Facebook:
Tasting Notes: Santiago Mayorga – Nieto Senetiner, Don Nicanor, Cadus
Nieto Senetiner, Blend Collection – White 2017
This bright white blend has notes of citrus, white blossom and bright tropical fruit aromas with a fresh acidity, and a long, textural finish. Completely unoaked, this is a complex and crunchy blend with Sauvignon Blanc (30%) and Chardonnay (30%) from Los Arboles, Semillon (20%) from Tupungato, and Viognier (20%) from Los Chacayes, that will definitely stand up to some bigger dishes but the mouthwatering acidity makes it rather enjoyable on its own too. Excellent value, and an exciting entry into the growing white blend category in Argentina!
Don Nicanor, Barrel Select Malbec 2016
This Malbec is a bright, fresh-fruit Malbec which has vibrant notes of freshly picked forest fruits – blackberries, blueberries, strawberry, raspberry – with uplifting floral notes of violet. Santiago chose a burgundy bottle to celebrate the focus on the fruit of Malbec, and this is a much lighter, more transparent Malbec than you would have found several years ago in the Don Nicanor portfolio. It jumps out of the glass with bright aromas and pleasures the palate with silky tannins, lively acidity and a peppery finish. Drink this slightly chilled, and make sure you get two bottles – because you’ll finish the first one without noticing!
Cadus, Single Vineyard, Finca Viña Vida, Malbec 2014
This wine lets you know from the very first whiff that it is ultra-premium Malbec. A floral perfume, intense red fruit, smoked pepper and wild herbal notes dance from the glass, and in the mouth this wine is what makes Malbec from the Uco Valley, and in particular Los Chacayes, exciting – it has tension, vibrancy and length that ensures this wine lingers for moments after you have swallowed. As Santiago’s first full harvest after joining Nieto Senetiner and Cadus, this is certainly a landmark wine for him as a winemaker and – dare I suggest – in the winery’s history. It’s appellation Malbec at the top of its game.
Live highlights with Santiago Mayorga from Wine Drinking with Wine Makers
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Thank you to Wine O’Clock for hosting the wine tasting in their beautiful tasting room in Mendoza city centre. Find out more here.