Nicknamed ‘Juampi’, Juan Pablo and his brother Matias make pure, elegant wines at Gualtallary in Tupungato. In terms of creativity, they are in a league of their own. Here the award winning winemaker talks about making wine in concrete eggs & how the Michelini Brothers came together to create a family winery.
The Michelini Brothers founded Zorzal winery in 2008 and in only six years it already has a list of accolades to its name. Wines & Spirits Magazine named Zorzal as one of the top 100 Wineries of 2012, Argentina Wine Awards accredited them with 'Best Malbec over 50 USD', and recently they picked up the title of ‘Gaucho Winery of the Year 2014.’
Where were you born?
Mendoza city, which is about 100km north of Tupungato where the winery is based. I now live in Tupungato with my wife and kids.
Did you always want to be a winemaker?
To begin with I wanted to be a musician but my father told me I had to study something else! My Dad is an engineer, my brother Matias was the one who decided to study oenology and when he graduated I started going to the winery. I loved the smell, and everything about it, and that’s when I decided to study wine.
How long have you been working at Zorzal?
From the very beginning, which was 2008, so for the last 6 years. Before this, I was winemaker for Dona Paula and then I travelled to Salta and worked there for El Esteco.
What do you enjoy doing outside of winemaking?
The guitar and I love to play golf! My handicap is 25…I’m not so good! I started playing about 3 years ago.
What is your greatest achievement?
My children. All three. Santino is 6 years old, Isabel is 4 and Francisco is 1.5.
How would you describe your personality in 3 words?
Free, funny, & family guy.
In terms of creativity, you are in a different league, are there any other winemakers that inspire you?
We are always looking to wineries and people who keep the terroir pure in the bottle. Noemia, they have beautiful, pure wines from the South of Argentina, Alejandro Vigil, winemaker at Catena Zapata and lots of other people in Argentina. They’re making pure wines with minimal intervention. Argentina is changing a lot.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Sensitivity. Feel everything.
What project are you currently working on?
We’re starting on a family project with my brothers. My fourth brother is joining us to form Michelini Bros and to form ‘Super Uco’ where we’re making an amazing wine from Uco Valley.
What makes Gualtallary so special? Why should people buy wines from here?
First of all it’s the calcareous soil which is really special, and then it’s the altitude, we’re 1400 metres above sea level, the mountain atmosphere, the dryness and the combination of all of these things and the people who work in the area. This is why this terroir is so amazing.
What are the main challenges for Argentina at the moment?
When we started Zorzal our main challenge was, and still is, to make pure wines from this area but for Argentina at this time, they were making hard, concentrated, dark coloured wines so we started doing some linear fresh wines. Right now I think the challenge for Argentina is to separate the micro-terroirs.
Tell me about your egg tanks?
They work amazingly. When I started working with my brother Matias, to begin understanding how to make the perfect wine with character from the calcareous soil and the area, we looked into the dynamics of the egg shape – egg tanks give more character and texture so we decided to create these eggs in Argentina. For us it was impossible to buy them from France, there’s only one place in the world where they were creating them, so we decided to create them ourselves in Argentina.
The wine is constantly moving, this makes the lees rise so you have more texture and complexity in the wines and the porosity of the concrete eggs smooth the tannins. With no energy, you can create a perfect wine.
What has been the best advice ever given to you?
There is this guy in the Loire in France who said every time, look under ground and not so much above ground. The wine is all about soil. And I’m doing this in Gualtallary. We’re always looking at the different soils.
Where has been your best holiday destination?
Mallorca! My mum was born over there and I visited 4 years ago. It is paradise for me.
Can you simply describe your wines?
Linear wines. Pure wines. That’s it!
Are there any particular food pairings you’d recommend?
The Gran Terroir Pinot Noir with pizza. That’s easy! The Terroir Unico Sauvignon Blanc with mussels.
What has been the best experience for Zorzal so far?
That’s a difficult question! I think the best moment for Zorzal was when it first started to be a known winery and Neil Martin, a regular contributor to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, came to visit in 2012. We were a nobody. This was a very important time for us.