The wines of Per Se are undoubtedly some of the greatest Argentinian Malbec being made today. A big statement to make, but considering their 2018 'La Craie' just received a perfect 100 points from robertparker.com, it's safe to say these wines more than deliver on their reputation. We have a small allocation of these blockbuster, top-scoring Malbecs to share with you.
Per Se is a personal project from Edgardo (Edy) del Popolo and David Bonomi, both trailblazers on the Argentine wine scene. David is one of the most knowledgeable oenologists in the Uco Valley, with on-the-ground experience from Altamira in the south to Gualtallary in the north. Edy was practically born under a grapevine: his parents owned vineyards in north Mendoza and he went on to study oenology and agronomy.
In 2012 Edy and David founded Per Se, a boutique project based in the Uco Valley making fine wines that express their origins as transparently as possible. The terroir they have chosen is Gualtallary, in their opinion the most interesting area within the Uco Valley, as the combination of a cool climate with complex soils is capable of producing extraordinary wines of unmistakable personality.
They have planted their own vineyard at 1,500 metres on the land leased to them by the Monasterio de Gualtallary. Each of their wines comes from a specific section within the vineyard, with a different soil type; something akin to the cru's of Burgundy. These are serious wines with amazing quality for such a young project and show balance and drinkability even at a young age.
Inseparable Malbec 2018 - £31.50
'The new red 2018 Inseparable was produced with Malbec from the heart of Gualtallary Monasterio above 1,400 meters in altitude, planted over one of the chalkiest and poorest soils within the Valle de Uco. The hand-picked grapes were destemmed and fermented with indigenous yeasts in 3,000-liter concrete vats, and the wine was racked into neutral French oak barrels, where it matured for 14 months.
This is the more approachable and immediate of the wines, a good introduction to their portfolio, a very young and tender wine that is still serious. In 2018, the grapes from the lower part of the vineyard were harvested last, and the grapes had a slower ripening, a classical Gualtallary with some 30 to 40 centimeters of sand where the plants deliver slightly higher yields.
Despite 2018 being a warmish vintage, the wine does not show any heat and feels very pure and floral with some notes of fresh herbs, red rather than dark fruit and an earthy twist. The palate reveals a velvety texture and round tannins with citrus freshness (blood orange) and a long and stony finish. This is elegant and balanced, delicious and with potential to develop in bottle. But it's hard to resist...'
94 Points, Luis Gutiérrez
Drink Date: 2021-2028
Volare del Camiono, 2018 - £58
'As in 2017, the red 2018 Volare del Camino was produced from two plots in the Gualtallary Monastery, pure Malbec fermented destemmed with indigenous yeasts and matured for 16 months in barrel. This feels like the bigger brother of Inseparable, with a similar profile but a step up in austerity and subtleness, a little more closed and tight but still based on flowers, red fruit and some soil.
It has a medium-bodied palate with very fine chalky tannins, a little sharper than those from Inseparable, more textured. This is getting closer to the spirit of Iubileus. This has a very soft extraction. 1,080 bottles were filled unfined and unfiltered in October 2019. In the next vintage, this wine will be put into a Burgundy bottle because they feel the soil from Volare with higher limestone content has a more Burgundian profile.'
96 Points, Luis Gutiérrez
Drink Date: 2021 - 2029
Iubileus 2018 - £105
(6 bottles available)
'Since 2017, this wine has been produced with Malbec from very young vines planted in 2013 on limestone-rich soils in their own vineyard in the Gualtallary Monastery, from a part with a little more topsoil but still very rich in limestone where they never used herbicides and is organically farmed but not certified. The 2018 Iubileus fermented in used rolling barrels with indigenous yeasts with a maceration of 30 days and matured in used barriques for 16 months.
This year, the Iubileus is unusually tight, especially aromatically, and the wine needed time in the glass (or a decanter) to open up but remained with a serious and austere personality. The palate is tremendously chalky, almost powdery, with very fine tannins, fine-grained and finer than those from the Volare del Camino, with less fruit and more soil. This is rather impressive, serious and mineral, with long aging potential. It continues the path started in 2017, a wine with filigree and finesse, a very elegant and subtle vintage for Iubileus with no heat or excess ripeness but with grapes that developed fully, and the depth of aromas and flavors is breathtaking.'
98 Points, Luis Gutiérrez
Drink Date: 2021 - 2030
La Craie 2018 - £135
(6 bottles available)
'The 2018 La Craie is from poorer soils that are very shallow in their PerSe vineyard in Gualtallary, from a plot next to Iubileus where the soils are whiter and shallower, the last plot to be picked. It's a co-fermentation of Malbec and Cabernet Franc (a little less than in 2017) that fermented in open-top oak barrels with indigenous yeasts for 40 days with gentle daily pigeage. I tasted this wine from barrel some 16 months ago, and it was already very promising. And all those promises (and more!) made it into the bottle while at the same time doubling the quantity of wine produced.
2017 was very low yielding, but 2018 was more balanced, the vines are one year older; the vines are still extremely young, and the wine is already amazing, no doubt because of the place rather than the plants. It combines power and elegance in a rare balance—intense, deep, powerful and fresh, somewhat ethereal but with weight (think of a velvet bag filled with chalk), very pure aromas, including wet limestone, from the shallower soils and richer in calcium carbonate, sensations that are found on the nose and also on the palate. There is precision, delineation, purity and symmetry here. All of the wines ferment without stems, yet the wine has a gobsmacking sense of freshness. The texture of the tannins is ultra fine, chalky but almost powdery, finer than those from Iubileus but with grip, not as gentle as those from Inseparable and also more profound than the Uní. Perfect ripeness, perfect balance, perfect extraction, perfect élevage... complex, nuanced and layered. As it happens in wines like this, I only wish I had a magnum rather than a bottle. Bravo!'
100 Points, Luis Gutiérrez
Drink Date: 2021 - 2032
Uni del Bonnesant 2018 - £150
'The pure Malbec 2018 Uní del Bonnesant was produced with the grapes from 312 vines planted in gobelet on 0.06 hectares in 2013 on the edge of a slope, where the southeast exposure makes it cooler and where the soil is poorer with more limestone content than in the rest of the vineyard. These are the first grapes to be picked, before those for Iubileus and La Craie. The gently destemmed grapes are gently fermented in an open-top barrel with indigenous yeasts for 45 days, and the wine matured in neutral barrels until bottling. As the soil is poor, the wine tends to be more exuberant than what they get from the La Craie, which is very balanced.
It has an explosive nose with notes of raspberries and violets, even white flowers, but deep down the wine is very mineral with a stony feeling to it. The texture is more ethereal than that of La Craie, and there is a lot more freshness here than in the previous bottling. In fact, once again, I find citrus freshness reminiscent of blood oranges, like I found in the Inseparable. To think that this has an amazingly low pH of 3.45. This feels different and transparent, with austerity on the palate and good symmetry and depth. Unfortunately, only 291 bottles were produced. Bottled in December 2019. The good news is that with the new plantings, there will be a handful more bottles of it in the next few years. But we'll have to wait until the 2023, 2024...'
99 Points, Luis Gutiérrez
Drink Date: 2021 - 2030