Cerro Catedrral, the Experimental Vineyard at Vinedos de los Vientos
Pablo Fallabrino with his wife Mariana
An avid surfer who’s accustomed to taking chances and reacting on the fly, Pablo Fallabrino is a third generation vintner in Uruguay, whose grandfather arrived in 1920, from a family of winemakers in Piedmont, Italy. Establishing Vinedo de los Vientos in 1997, Pablo rocked the industry in 2004 with Alcyone, a dessert wine that is made by combining the winemaking techniques behind two different Italian dessert wines: Barolo Chinato and Marsala. Carried by Jean-Georges today, it then caught the attention of Chanterrelle, selling out as soon as we introduced it to the New York market. Flash forward 8 years later, and Pablo is at it again, this time planting at Catedrral, a 10ha experimental vineyard that sits at 500-600m above sea level, now the highest vineyard in Uruguay, where the second highest vineyard resides at 200m.
Previously working with vineyards that have been in the family since 1947, Pablo recently acquired this property that sits just 50K from the Atlantic coastline. Working with sandy soils that are rocky and mixed with basalt, Pablo hopes that this site will yield wines that are more elegant and less concentrated than those that are planted to clay soils. “I think it’ll be good for early ripening grapes,” said Pablo during his last visit to the city, “like Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Dolcetto and Barbera, but I have to see what happens.”
Two to three degrees cooler than his other vineyards, which sit at sea level with soils of calcareous clay and winds that blow only during the day, Catedrral is one of the driest places in Uruguay. With holdings that are mountainside steep, Pablo accepts that he will likely have to terrace the property before planting. Here, the experimental vines are planted to east, south and west orientations, and the grapes will likely take some time to ripen; and on days without fog, said Pablo, one can see as far as the ocean.
Normally a sustainable winery that farms without insecticide and tilling, Pablo will treat these isolated vineyards organically. Other than building a fence to keep out the wild boars and deer, he plans to avoid treatments – to simply plant and watch without any preconceived notions.
With plans to plant 100 vines each of eight different varietals, Pablo has already transferred 40 three-year-old vines to the mountain top to see what will happen. Some time later this year, he intends to transfer all 800 vines, for their first harvest in 2013. Working with four Italian varietals, including Arneis, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera, and four French varietals, including two clones of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc Gewurztraminer and Tannat, Pablo will wait to see which varietals yield the best results before taking another six years to plant the final vineyard.
“Maybe by 2016/2017, I’ll decide [what to plant],” said Pablo, “it takes time! And is impossible to accelerate. This is for my kids,” he added and smiled.