Behind the Vine Interview: Eric Anesi of Gauchezco Wines
Welcome back to Behind the Vine, our series of interviews with the movers and shakers in the wine industry from all over the world. This month we interviewed Eric Anesi of Gauchezco Wines in Mendoza, Argentina. We spent a day harvesting with Eric, tasting his wines and chatting him up over a long Argentine asado. Here's what he had to say:
What's your Background and what first drew you to the wine industry?
I come from an Italian family, so I've been drinking wine since I was ten years old, but it wasn't until I got a scholarship to study in Italy that I found out I had a palate and nose for wine. I love Nebiolo, but on a college pocketbook I had to find a better cost to value situation and discovered Malbec. I decided then that I wanted to get involved in wine somehow.
Why did you choose Argentina?
Well I was hooked on Malbec since my experience in college, and really because the cost of labor and the cost of land was too good not to go to Argentina. In Napa it was like $300-$350 thousand an acre, but in Argentina, at that point in time, you could get land for $40 thousand per hectare.
I started looking at vineyards in Mendoza and finally when my family came to Mendoza in 2006, they too fell in love with Malbec, saw I knew what I was talking about and wasn't screwing around and gave me their blessing.
Having no real experience in the wine industry yourself, what did you do to learn and prepare to run your own brand?
Practically everything! I interned at three places; a vineyard management company, a wine product company and Cellarworld, a wine consulting company out of Europe. I also did what you guys (Vino Vagabonds) did harvesting, but for 14 hours, 6 days a week! I wanted to learn everything I could about everything.
What was the most important thing you learned or discovered during your internships?
My vineyard! During my internship with the vineyard management company. We were looking at vineyards, but specifically for the vineyard that would eventually be mine. That was cool. We looked at 250 vineyards before finding the right one and it actually wasn’t even on the market. I found it through my winemaker, Mauricio Vegetti. Enzo, our Agronomist, suggested it could be sold and from then on I was committed to buying this property for a fair price. That’s how it happened and that’s typically how I like to work.
What's your winemaking philosophy?
Well, my intent is always to source the best fruit; you can make a bad wine from good grapes, but you can't make a good wine from bad grapes. And then, over-deliver on the quality for the price point. Our wines are VERY reasonably priced, and I think, as do a lot of people, that you get a whole hell of a lot more than you pay for.
Our entry-level wines range from $13-$15 US, the mid-level wines range from $22-$25 US , and our top end wines are just $39-$45 US. On that note, even though our wines are well-priced, we made a decision to never sacrifice quality and we don’t.
Tell us about your winemaking style at Gauchezco?
I call it a transitionary style. From being in Italy, I like that old world flavor…but we're in Mendoza, dealing with Malbec so we want to show the fruit too.
Also, me being from the "new world," and my winemaker, Mauricio, having done vintages in France and bringing all those techniques to the table, we like to try a lot of new things and branch out. Not a lot of Argentines do that, they make things in the same style and we don’t. We use Hungarian oak, and I can't say definitively, but I think were the first ones to do that here.
And the name?
Gauchezco: gaucho style. For us that's saying it's cowboy style and a tribute to where we are.
During the time you’ve been in Mendoza, how has wine industry changed? Your thoughts as a winemaker/owner…
When I first moved down here people used to say it was like Napa in the 1960's, and now, its more like Napa. But it still has its own style and things are different, but it's developing everyday.
What’s your favorite part about being in the wine business in Mendoza?
For me it's like showing people what wine can be…and over-delivering on the quality for the price is something you can really do here in Mendoza.
Of course the people too; I don’t have a team or employees, I have a family here. I know every one of my guys names, their family and what's going on in their lives. I like that.
Besides Gauchezco, where else would you recommend people visit for delicious wine and a pleasant experience?
Someone that I emulate is Catena Zapata, that’s who I’d like to be and they do things right there.
As a young winery owner,what do you say to people who say "But you're only 29 years old..."?
I've had a lot of people telling me I was going to fail and I'm not, I know I'm not. I don’t read the Spectator as much as I should, but I'm just heads down in what I'm doing. I have a very supportive family and I'm one test away from my level-three Sommelier certification, so I just let my wines speak for themselves and not too many people ask further.
And this is all new to me, maybe that's a disadvantage, but maybe not. I mean I've been taken for a ride, but I've learned every step of the way. One of the advantages of being young is that ten years from now I'll be pretty damn good at it.
Last question, what's your favorite wine quote?
"Sometimes when I reflect back on all the wine I drink I feel shame. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the vineyards and all of their hopes and dreams . If I didn't drink this wine, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, 'It is better that I drink this wine and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver." ~ Jack Handy
Find out the latest from Eric and Gauchezco Wines on their website or on their facebook fan page!