When in the mid 1880s Pascual Toso set out towards Argentina from its home town, Canale D’Alba, in Piamonte, Italy, he might not have imagined that he was destined to be the founder of a winery that today is one of the oldest and most famous in the country as a result of the constant and undisputed quality of its products and its tradition.
When he arrived in our country, he chose Mendoza as his place of residence and engaged in the import business. He promptly saw the outstanding quality of the wines produced here because he had grown in a viticulture area and had engaged in such business as a family tradition while he lived in Piamonte. For that reason he set up his first winery in San José, Guaymallén, in 1890.
At the beginning of the century he decided to expand his vineyards into an area called Las Barrancas, in Maipú, convinced that it was the highest quality area in the province. So he acquired an estate at Las Barrancas where he set up the relevant winemaking and cellar facilities.
Time was also going to prove him right on this since today Las Barrancas, in the Department of Maipu, is unanimously considered by technicians as one of the highest quality producing areas, not only in the province but also in the country.
Bodegas Toso was acquired in 1995 by J.Llorente y Cía, a company that since 1909 has stood out because of its excellent and quality products and has maintained the same philosophy imposed by Pascual Toso.
Since its foundation in 1880, Bodegas y Viñedos Pascual Toso have been characterized by their ongoing innovation.
In addition to making significant investment in new vineyards, equipment and improvements to optimize production, this traditional winery from Mendoza has recently summoned the internationally known Californian enologist Paul Hobbs to accompany the winery in this new stage. This expert has been working since 2001 on the development of premium and super-premium wines.
At the beginning of the new millennium, Paul Hobbs is still one of the leading and more talented winemakers, producing exquisite wines for the most famous wineries of the world.
In the Argentine Republic, the regions which are suitable for growing vines are located along the Andes Mountain Ridge, from 22º to 42º south latitude. This large North-South region and the latitude variations of its valleys produce various ecological conditions where different grape varieties are grown.
In general, the soil of the various grape-growing areas originated from mountain rock and mineral decomposition and disintegration during the Quaternary period. Due to the soil youth there are no generic soil layers in its profile.
There are many round stones, usually near the mountains. Organic matter is very scarce due to the quick decomposition it goes through because rains are not heavy and there is intensive cultural activity. Although the soils are of similar origin, various textures may be found in small areas.
In general, all grape-growing areas are located in dry regions with warm weather, where the winter seasons are well defined, there is high sun radiation level and the temperature range is nearly 15ºC. The annual mean temperature ranges between 13.8ºC and 18.3ºC. Following Winkler's system to classify grape-growing regions, these areas rank within the II and III region.
Annual rainfall in all the grape-growing areas is between 150 and 400 mm. The highest rainfall levels occur in spring and summer. This amount of rainfall is not enough for vines, so it is necessary to resort river water or underground water watering systems. In general the area is not very windy.
The soil and climate conditions of the Mendoza river highland allow for growing quality varieties and producing high-quality wines. The area is located in the Province of Mendoza at approximately 33º south latitude. The mean temperature is 15ºC. The area is located near the city of Mendoza.
Wines produced in this region are the greatest quality wines in Argentina. As one starts going down and losing altitude, the temperature is higher and different characteristics are found at close distance (not greater than 20 km).
The climate conditions favor the development of color and tannins in wines, thus making them suitable for aging. The Malbec varietal is a typical variety and the vineyards, which are 40 years old or older, make this region a valuable and well-known area.
Las Barrancas, in the Department of Maipú, is located in the Province of Mendoza, within the Mendoza River highland. More than 400 hectares belonging to Toso Wineries are located in this area, at 715 meters above sea level. It is a heterogeneous terroir: located in an uneven piece of land going down 7 meters, we may find from soils with bare rock where grapes stand up with all its quality to deeper soils with green coverage.
The resulting wines are an expression of their origin - wine-producing areas of well-known quality.
"Wine is the product resulting from the alcoholic fermentation of the sugar in the juice (or must) of healthy, fresh and ripe grapes."
Sugar fermentation results in ethylic alcohol, carbon dioxide and over one hundred additional components. The process is controlled by enologists so that there is no adverse impact on it.
Crushed grapes may lead to winemaking by causing must fermentation in contact with skins, or without such contact. The major difference between white and red wine making is precisely based on the presence or absence of skin maceration during fermentation. The winemaking process usually consists of the following stages: grape crushing, maceration (red wine making), alcoholic fermentation, racking, malolactic fermentation (in red wine and some types of white wine making), clarification, filtering, stabilization, aging and bottling.
Red Wine Making
Grapes for red wine are usually crushed using crushing equipment to separate the grapes from the clusters, either breaking the grapes or not, without disintegration of the skin and without crushing the seeds (stems are separated before crushing because they have many herbaceous tannic substances which are to be added to the must).
The must is then transferred into a container where the alcoholic fermentation will develop and which will be filled up to four fifths of its capacity. At this stage fermentation will start, at controlled temperature ranging 23-30ºC (depending on the type of grape and the enologist's choice). During the "hectic" phase, skins are pushed by the resulting carbon dioxide and start rising to the top, making up a cover mass called "cap". On the first days of fermentation it is necessary to "break" said cap several times to prevent the part which is contact with the air from oxidizing and contribute to the dispersion of the color extracted during fermentation. The cap may be broken up manually, using long paddles, in small containers; while pumps are used in large containers to pump the must from the bottom over the cap, forcing it down into the juice: this process is called "pileage."
After skin fermentation, the wine is left to run out until the tank is empty and the remaining solids are pressed, resulting in press wine. Part of this juice plus tannins may be used at a later stage for finished wine blending.
The wine is then placed in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks for bulk aging. Stabilizing (removing the wine sediment) and fining (wine clarification) may be part of this process.
White Wine Making
White wines are made without the presence of skins. Through this system white wines may be made from white grapes (blanc de blanc) or black grapes (blanc de noir). We should remember that nearly all white or black grapes provide colorless juice since their pigment is in the inner side of the skin.
At industrial level, pressing machines providing less than 500 g/cm2 pressure are used to extract the must-"flor". During the last pressing phase, pressure gradually increases until all the juice is extracted.
Grape juice yield is 70-80of its weight, i.e. for every one kilo of grapes 800 ml of juice may be extracted at most. Only 50-60of such total amount is must "flor" that is used to make quality white wines.
Fermentation develops in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels. Nearly all white wines are filtered and directly bottled to preserve their freshness.
Fermentation - Controlled Temperature
Fermentation is the process by which almost 100 of grape sugar is turned into ethylic alcohol and carbon dioxide. The fermentation temperature is controlled by means of a cooling circuit at 16-18ºC in the case of white wines and 23-30ºC for red wines.
By reducing the speed of carbon dioxide generation, we prevent this gas, when released, from removing a significant amount of aromas extracted from the grape itself and those extracted during fermentation.
Under ordinary conditions, yeast works until all the sugar turns into alcohol or until the alcohol level accounts for 15of the total juice volume.
After stabilization, the wine must be transferred again to another container in order to remove sediments. The first transfer is carried out about a month after the primary or "after-cuvaison" racking, thus removing the largest impurities. The second transfer takes place in winter after the cold temperature has made the tartrates in excess sink to the bottom. The last transfer is performed in spring before temperature starts going up.
During aging, the wine goes through chemical changes which provide finer organoleptic properties, color maturity, thus balancing the levels of tannins to attain the highest level of pleasant flavors.
The old wine-X-wood binomial comes from ancient times: It started with the Galli, who invented the barrel to transport the liquids. Wood gradually turned from a means of transportation to a tool for winemaking and wine fining. Wood was found to be able to transfer many of its components to wine. tannins, aromatic aldehydes and non-phenolic aromatic substances (responsible for the woody flavor, called bossés). The wine-wood relation is affected by various elements: the size of barrels (the greater the contact surface with wine, the greatest exchange of properties), the type and feel of wood (a delicate process resulting from shortly burning the wood in order to "reinforce" the aromatic and extraction substances that will be transferred to the wine), and finally the wine properties.
"Barrel" (small container holding approximately 225 liters) is now a buzz word, and there are those who are for it and those who are against it.
Due to the small size of a barrel, the contact surface between wood and wine is significant, thus helping extract tannic substances and volatile phenolic aromas from the barrel into the product held in it. These specific aromas derived from wood are extremely positive when they are well balanced, but they become a nuisance where they are excessive or if the wine properties are not enough to achieve a balance with those wood-originated aromas. The resulting product may become what some call "carpenter wines", due to the excess of wood perfume that annuls other wine aromas.
At the same time, wood porosity facilitates oxygenation, resulting in a faster development of wines.
It entails adding clarifying or fining agents to the wine in order to remove suspended substances by causing them to settle to the bottom, thus ensuring a clean and clear wine. Clarification also facilitates color stabilization by removing polyphenolic substances which may oxidize. Clarifying agents are usually animal- or mineral-origin colloidal substances.
Bottling is a delicate and important process: the first two rules to follow are providing as great sanitation and low air contact as possible. This process is carried out by means of appropriate equipment in order to fill up the bottles and cap them (also labeling and cap sealing), ensuring the product will be best preserved.
The wine will still be in the bottle for a long time, where it will go through subsequent and slow changes until reaching its highest point of development in terms of color, elegance, bouquet development, structure, smoothness and roundness.
Wood cellaring is a long aging process in bottle which is usually recommended for red wines (more substances), although in some cases it is also good for some specific white wines which are intended for long preservation.
There are two methods to make sparkling wine: The traditional méthode Champenoise and the Charmat process. The major differences between both of them lie in the second fermentation. In the first method, this stage requires from a year and a half to two years and it is carried out in the same bottles that are sold later on, while the Charmat process develops in airtight-sealed tanks, which reduces the duration of second fermentation to just 20 or 30 days.
Summary of the Method
The méthode Champenoise process starts with a base wine aged from six months to one year. The Cuvée or base wine blending is thus obtained.
The Cuvée is bottled to trigger the "prise de mousse" (create sparkles), and the bottles are placed in special cellars.
Aging in bottles for a year and a half, making all the components have close contact, will provide the peculiar nuances that make this product distinct.
After that, the bottles are placed in riddling racks called pupitres for three months, where manual remuage or riddling (a procedure whereby the bottle is turned and tilted every day) and disgorgement or dégorgement (icy plug development and removal), which will finally produce this sparkling wine.
1.“Coup de poignet” or "fist shake."
After the prise de mousse is complete, it is necessary to perform the "coup de poignet" procedure, consisting of giving the bottles a vigorous shake from time to time approximately every two months, so that the aromas and flavors generated during this slow aging process of the sparkling wine may become homogeneous (integrated or uniform) before the bottles are placed in the pupitres for remuage.
The number of times that this process is performed is determined by tasting and/or observing the appearance of bottles through light.
2.“Remuage” or "Riddling"
This procedure consists in completely separating the sediment or dead yeast cells from the sides of the bottles which have completed their aging phase, and maneuvering the sediment to the neck of the bottle, i.e., against the cork of the bottle that is upside down, so that it may then be removed during disgorgement.
This procedure is usually conducted once a day on all bottles, while giving them a 1/8 turn once a week to prevent sediment from sticking onto the sides of the bottle. For this purpose, the bottles are placed in riddling racks or pupitres with holes into which the bottle necks are fitted.
3.“Dégorgeage” or "Disgorgement"
This is the last procedure whereby the sediment, which has completely collected onto the inner side of the cork or cap, is completely removed from the bottle that is positioned upside-down or almost upside-down. When this procedure is done manually, as we do, highly trained personnel is required, since the bottle may get clouded again, causing all the "remuage" job to be lost.
To perform this procedure it is necessary to freeze the bottle neck for a sparkling wine frozen plug of sediment to develop, thus allowing to reverse the bottle in order to remove the icy plug, which pops out due to the inside pressure of the bottle. The sediment also pops out along with the icy plug, resulting in a clear sparkling wine that is fit for adding the Shipping Dosage, which will complete the last phase of the process once the bottle is corked again with the final cork.