Behind every great wine lies a story. David Sendra introduces us to Bodega Norton, a winery in Argentina.
After being assigned to help build the Transandean Railway between Argentina and Chile, engineer Sir Edmund James Palmer Norton found himself struck by the region’s wild beauty, the Mendoza terroir, and the optimal grape growing conditions. So, one fateful day in 1895, he founded Bodega Norton from a plantation of vines imported from France.
Edmund is credited as a pioneer of Argentine viticulture because he recognized the region’s potential for wine production and devoted his life to winemaking. A century later, in 1989, Bodega Norton was acquired by Gernot Langes–Swarovski, owner of the famous Swarovski Crystal Company. Both wanted to make wines recognized worldwide for their quality, an attitude that earned Bodega Norton its reputation as an internationally well-known and respected Argentine wine label.
In 1970, Bodega Norton consolidated Malbec varietal as a reference in Argentina. During the 90s, Bodega Norton started exporting high quality wine, becoming one of the first wineries to develop export markets.
“The earth, climate, vines and passion of our people, live in every one of our wines, and their presence is felt in the pleasure of those who enjoy them”, said Gernot’s son and the company’s president, Michael Halstrick. They respect the vine as the elemental core from which wine arises and treat the Andes Mountains, which magnificently frame the vineyard, as an ally, just like the Mendoza river
Knowledge and passion for the vine naturally results in exceptional products. The Bodega Norton vintners practice precision viticulture using satellite and aerial images, a drip irrigation system that allows the right amount of water to each plant, and a system of mapping the vineyards that subdivides them into small work plots, each of which is worked in a specific and individual way to reach their maximum potential. Five vineyards are spread over the Mendoza terroir to obtain the best grapes for the production of quality wines.
The average age of their vines is around 30 years, with some hectares planted with 80 year-old vines offering different varieties of grape like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot or Malbec. Norton’s Pedriel vineyard is entirely planted 950 metres above sea level, as is the Agrelo vineyard. Lunlunta is an old plantation from the 1920s, composed of Malbec grapes distributed over 20 hectares, most of them 850 metres above sea level in a mosaic alluvial with boulders, sand and silt. White grapes like Chardonnay and Chenin are produced in the Medrano vineyard, the lowest of all vineyards in a soil with sandy lime.
Bodega Norton works with the entire spectrum of grapes: Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Barbera, Sangiovese, Syrah and Pinot Noir for reds; Torrontes, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc and Riesling for whites.
The result? Award-winning wines that won’t soon be forgotten. For example, Gernot Langes represents Bodega Norton’s top variety. The wine is made from a careful selection of the finest Malbec (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) and Cabernet Franc (10%) grapes, picked from the oldest vineyards. This sublime blend is aged in new French oak barrels for 16 months and then in bottles for the other 14 months. Each of Gernot Langes’s 4988 numbered bottles expresses the winery’s spirit and vision.
Norton Lote is the fruit of a search for an outstanding identity within the same climate, soil and topography. Lote L109 comes from Lunlunta at 950 metres above sea level in an 82 year old vineyard. It’s aged in new french oak barrels over 16 months and then 12 months in bottles before release. The Malbec grapes produce a deep red colour and a complex and elegant flavour profile, silky with outstanding notes of sharp blackberry. Lote LC109, from the Finca La Colonia in a vineyard with 15 year old grapes, offers a Malbec nose and ripe red fruit notes dominated by plum. Finally, Lote A109 from the 92 year old Agrelo vineyard offers intense wild berry notes and long lasting finish.
Of Bodega Norton’s white wines, the Norton Cosecha Tardía stands out. A naturally sweet wine with an attractive and delicate flavour, it’s made with Chardonnay grapes harvested when just overripe so as to achieve natural sweetness. With its soft flavour and honeyed aroma, the golden yellow Cosecha Tardía is the idea pairing for desserts, blue cheeses, and dried fruits. There’s also a sparkling version with a flowery nose and notes of peach, honey, and citrus fruits that’s ideal for a celebratory toast.
In fact, all of their sparkling wines are fresh, elegant and unique. Among the best are the Brut Rose (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir), with prominent strawberry and cranberry aromas, or the Brut Nature (80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir) with delicate red fruit aromas and great finesse, perfect to pair with marinated calamari or grilled trout. Or, the Norton Cosecha Especial Vintage (60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir), their first high-end sparkling wine made using the traditional method, which lends it an intense aroma and elegant acidity.
Bodega Norton opened its doors to wine tourism in 2005. Its La Vid restaurant within the winery provides a truly unforgettable dining experience with a contemporary menu of local Argentine cuisine. Its dishes have been created with the best ingredients, combining imagination and skill.
Sample a Mendocinian empanada with braised pork in Torrontés wine, caramelized onion and garlic confit, or an empanada with grilled ricotta and roasted vegetables made with whole wheat flour. Follow it up with a grilled ribeye steak with chargrilled seasonal vegetables, roasted tomatoes and fresh thyme chimichurri, or perhaps a marinated chicken with lime, chile, cilantro and argentine chimichurri, grilled carrot, beetroot and avocado with lemon confit.
Bodega Norton offers visitors a wealth of experiences, from learning the ins and outs of vineyard management in every stage of production, to participating in the harvest, to being a winemaker for a day and creating their own personal blend. Or, if you’d rather keep it simple, their doors are always open for a wine tasting.
Visit Bodega Norton for more information.