We started the day venturing down the bumpy back roads of one of Mendoza’s many vineyards, eventually finding Luminis Wines tucked quietly away from the main street. Martin Castro, our host for the day and co-founder of Luminis, was already waiting for us with a smile, a bottle of red and freshly cooked asado. The perfect start to any wine tour!
We were given a selection of steaks and ribs, perfectly accompanied with a tomato salsa and fresh bread. We were then joined by Cristian Allamand, Martins business partner and Head of Growing and Tasting at Luminis. Cristian kindly continued to pile our plates with the delicious cuts and invited other members of staff to join in. The rustic feel of the meal was brilliant; an authentic taste of a normal day on an Argentinian vineyard.
Martin and Cristian were more like brothers than colleagues. Friends together since school, they had grown up playing rugby. Their closeness was evident as they jokingly poked fun at one another’s abilities. “We’re family” exclaimed Martin “our wives are even related!”
Ensuring that our bellies were full, Cristian said his goodbyes and headed out to one of Luminis’ other vineyards. It was his sole responsibility to decide when the grapes were ready for harvest and when a wine had matured enough to be bottled, the latter meaning that he had to taste everything in production at least twice a day! A difficult job but someone has to do it!
Unlike many of the smaller producers in Mendoza, Luminis refuses to bow down to pressure imposed by the big corporate firms. All of the fruit used in their wines is hand picked from their own vineyards, softly transported from the fields and then sorted with a great deal of care. “Other producers purchase grapes to mass produce and bulk out their wines” Martin explained, “we could do that and it would be cheaper. But then you loose the quality of the grapes and for us, that is the most important thing.”
Martin and Cristians love of their produce is plain to see; everything they do is about preserving the flavour of the grape, in turn ensuring a better taste once bottled. They plant 8000 vines per hectare, double the usual 4000 from the bigger producers. This means twice the amount of work for the team, but smaller plants and a higher quality of fruit.
Maintaining the grape is a huge task. Mendoza is gifted with 320 days of sunshine a year and only 2-3cm of rain. The vineyard is a situated within a high mountain desert and everything green has a human being pumping out water to it. “These vines are like a small town and the grapes are the occupants” Martin cryptically explains, “There’s 8000 residents here that need enough food and water to be happy. Its my job to ensure they’re safe.”
2 hectares of the vineyards had been designated to Luminis’ latest project, Saint Jeannet, a crisp, low alcohol white wine, unusual for the Malbec dominated fields of Mendoza. “Don’t worry, we’ll go through and taste some now” said Martin, licking his lips at the thought.
We were led through to the fermentation vats and presented with a selection from Luminis’ 11 different wines at varying stages of production. We picked out a number of different fruits such as pears, peaches and plums. “Thats the beauty of tasting, it’s about how it makes you feel. German Mosul Riesling reminds me of a new can of tennis balls!”
Feeling a bit lightheaded from a few too many glasses, Martin invited us into the barrel room. Relatively small in comparison to the vastness of the fermentation stores, the room consists of a mixture of 107 American and french barrels. “The wine is kept at exactly 16 degrees all year round,” Martin told us, “its a great to rest in during the summer when it gets too hot!” The wine stays in this location for a couple of years before being released for sale. “I can honestly pin point the differences between wines that have been in certain barrels!” Martin proudly declared.
Our day came to an end around 7pm, having lasted the best part of 4 hours. The experience was great from start to finish; Martin was knowledgable, friendly, generous and funny. A tour of Luminis should be on a anyones list of things to do in Mendoza and we will certainly be keeping an eye out for their delicious wines back in the U.K. Thank you Martin and Cristian, keep up the great work!
You can check out Luminis at www.luminis.com.ar
Their wines can be purchased at a number of vendors in the U.K, including