"Every year more and more people are realizing the importance of organics/biodynamics," said Andrej Razumovsky, the proprietor/winemaker at Alpamanta, "but it's not about just saying you practice for marketing purposes. You must really believe it and practice it every day as other tasks are being carried out."
In 2005, when Andrej partnered with André Hoffmann and Jérémie Delecourt to establish his boutique winery in Mendoza, organic and biodynamic practices were just emerging in Argentina. However, after a tour of biodynamic vineyards in Chile with Alvaro Espinoza, the grandfather of biodynamics in his native country, Andrej was convinced, and in 2007 he started the application process. "In the region we're pioneers," he said, "not only with farming, but also in winemaking."
In 2000, when Andrej emigrated to Argentina, he travelled the country for nine months before deciding to settle in Mendoza. A direct descendant of the noble family of Sayn Wittgenstein, who cultivated large vineyards in Moldova, Andrej said, "It was always clear that I needed to find something different in terms of farming and winemaking." And in Lujan de Cuyo, he found 35ha at 3,200 feet above sea level; a site that wasn't occupied by other winemakers, guaranteeing that he wouldn't have to worry about pollutants from the conventional practices of neighboring winemakers.
Before planting vines to the estate's sandy, clay and limestone soils, Andrej and his team conducted a soil analysis to ensure that the land was free of chemicals and that the texture was right for farming vines. Next, they checked the nitrogen levels to determine the health of the soil, a test that they conduct every year and "every year the soil becomes more fertile and nutritious," said Andrej, due to their biodynamic practices. In addition to allowing weeds to help maintain the structure of the soil, they also keep animals to eat the greens that could potentially damage the vines. "You just have to make sure they don't eat the grapes," he added and laughed.
For the biodynamic applications at Alpamanta, they grow their own herbs, and though Andrej admits to having some difficulties with growing stinging nettles, they are a necessary ingredient in the homeopathic mixtures that they spray in the vineyards year round.
In the cellar, native yeasts reign. In addition to being the first biodynamic vintner in Argentina, Andrej was also the first to bring cement tanks from France, which "give natural minerality to the wines." Oval shaped, the tanks help encourage natural movement. In a stainless steel tank, explained Andrej, the lees settle to the bottom, but "with this egg shaped tank, lees don't settle. There's constant movement that keeps them integrated." Keeping sulfites to a minimum, Andrej doesn't add additives and employs gravity to move his wines.
Speaking of their practices, Andrej concluded, "We see the results in it. We don't just do it because we have to do it, but because we believe in it."