Rio Negro Valley is the setting of this small but beautiful winery, 620 miles south of Buenos Aires in the middle of the desert. This is extreme winemaking, made possible by irrigation channels excavated by British colonists in the 1820's. These carry water from the region's two rivers, the Neuquen and the Limay, in turn fed with snow-melt from by the Andes. The climate is bone dry with just seven inches of rain each year. The thermal amplitude is vast: in the growing season daily temperatures fluctuate between 28 degreesC in the daytime and 9 degrees at night. The dry climate with a maximum humidity of 30% keeps the area free of disease; the atmosphere is pristine, pure and unpolluted.Hans Vinding-Diers is the Danish, South African born, Bordeaux-trained winemaker at Noemia. Having made wine in Australia, Chile, Uruguay, Spain, Portugal, and Hungary he was consulting for a winery in Patagonia when he discovered a library of wines from a winery in the area with vintages going back to the 1930s. The wines blew him away with their freshness, intensity and elegance and he determined to find a vineyard from which to source fruit of his own. After two years of searching he found the Mainque vineyard, ancient and abandoned, with 3.7 acres of Massale selection vines planted in the 1930s and 1950s, mostly Malbec. Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano (of Brunello's Argiano, where he is also winemaker) came in as a partner and so was born Noemia. Only 3000 bottles of Noemia are made each year. These are produced from the oldest part of the vineyard. Separated from this part by a small stream is the parcel which produces J. Alberto. The grapes for each of the two wines are vinified entirely separately and represent two uniquely different wines. Some of the residues that do not fit into Noemia or J. Alberto contribute towards Noemia's third wine, A Lisa, as does a new vineyard planted in 2004. This represents only five acres so far but, with another five acres planned this year and the next the intention is for this wine to be entirely estate grown too. The balance of the fruit for A Lisa currently comes from old vines in contracted vineyards.Viticulture and vinification are fanatical. A green pruning is carried out in January leaving 10hl/ acre. Harvest around the first week of April is obviously by hand, as is de-stemming. Winemaking processes are necessarily simple given limited means but this has the advantage of limiting intervention. No sulphur is added to the must and two pigeages are performed per day. Fermentation lasts around three weeks at a temperature of circa 26C. After this the wine is decanted by gravity into French Radoux barrels of the tightest and finest grain possible. Hans is passionate about maintaining the vineyards in an environmentally sensitive manner which he is convinced has a knock-on effect on the quality of the grapes. Little vine treatment is required because of the healthy climate. A copper sulphate treatment is applied once a year and the vines are irrigated not more than five times per year. Additionally Noemia have been practising biodynamic farming since 2004 and have been biodynamically certified since 2008. Hans is keen to emphasize that no pesticides or other chemical treatments have ever been used on these vineyards since, before he took them on, they were abandoned.Stylistically it is possible to see the influence Vinding-Diers's Bordeaux elevage in a passion for subtlety and finesse in these wines. They have fine concentration, intense Malbec typicity and sparkling purity of fruit, but never at the expense of elegance.
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