The 9th annual Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters was recently hosted in Hong Kong, China, organised by the British publication The Drinks Business Asia, where Primus Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 was distinguished with the highest “Master” award, only bestowed upon exceptional wines that have garnered a final score of 97 points or more. In 2020, the winner of the Master was Penfolds Bin 389, known worldwide as “Baby Grange”.
The international competition is unique in that it judges wines purely by grape variety, regardless of the region in which it was produced. For the Asian Masters, the varietal wine is judged for quality and price range in a blind by a jury of the best palates in the world, solely composed of recognised Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and senior buyers. The best wines in the competition receive medals from bronze to gold and, if judged to be extraordinary, qualify for the “Master”, an honour that is not necessarily awarded each year.
This distinct honour comes at the occasion of Primus celebrating its 20 vintages, evidence of its remarkable evolution, one that continues to perfect its style and identity guided by the oenological team led by José “Pepe” Galante – an Argentine wine legend and Salentein’s chief winemaker – together with senior winemaker Jorge Cabeza and Diego Morales, chief agronomist.
Primus Cabernet Sauvignon is made with grapes selected from two historic parcels that Mijndert Pon, Salentein’s founder, planted in 2003, located at 1,150 metres above sea level at Finca El Oasis (Los Arboles, Tunuyán, Uco Valley). “From these small plots, we harvest rows selected by the type of soil – very rocky profiles rich in calcium carbonate – and by the type of clone, 169 and 337, which, with very precise pruning and canopy work each year in accordance with the climate, has allowed us to strike the desired balance between plant and the place. So we achieved a Cabernet with a character and personality that is different, quite unique,” says Diego Morales, chief agronomist of Bodegas Salentein.
Jorge Cabeza, senior winemaker, explains: “The production of Primus is very artisanal, as the grapes are hand harvested according to the type of clone, and there are two bunch selection processes undertaken prior to picking.” He adds: “In this 2016 vintage, 30% of each clone, 169 and 337, was microvinified in 225-litre barrels, and the remaining 70% was made in 7,000-litre oak foudres. The use of these small containers allows greater control in finely crafting the wine.”
“In 2010 we set ourselves a challenge to make a great Uco Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for our flagship line of Primus varietals, convinced that, over time, it would be recognised the world over as the shining example of the varietal from Argentina. The road hasn’t been an easy one because the region is cold and very demanding both in terms of vineyard management and processing the fruit during their vinification and ageing,” says Pepe Galante, chief winemaker. “We have learned a lot about this noble varietal, through work in our vineyards, tastings, visits to Napa Valley’s St. Helena, Rutherford and Stags Leap districts, and ongoing discussions about it, and today we are very proud of the recognition we’ve achieved not only in Argentina but also in international markets.”