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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Nicholas Belfrage & Franco Ziliani

The Veronese producer Masi, famous for its Valpolicella wines from dried grapes, has recently presented two passito' products from Argentina. Coming from the Tupungato Valley in Mendoza, where Masi has acquired a 120-hectare property (70 under vine by December 2001), the wines are the first fruits of the Vigneti La Arboleda' project, the catchphrase for which is Argentinian soul, Venetian style'. The project was born out of an environmental compatibility trial that revealed average mid-season temperatures similar to those in the Veneto, strong day-night temperature variations and an annual average rainfall of 250-300 millimetres, concentrated mainly in the Argentinian autumn months of March through June. Ten different vine varieties were tested, in particular Verona's Corvina and Corvinone, together with Argentina's principal variety, Malbec. Another, more unfortunate similarity with Verona is the prevalence of hailstorms due to cold-air currents coming off the Pacific (rather than Lake Garda) and crossing the Andes. Hail, indeed, has proved such a menace here that Masi have been obliged to resort to various types of netting to protect the vineyards, which are planted at between 950 and 1,030 metres above sea-level. The first two wines to be made are Corbec 1999, a blend of 70% Corvina and 30% Malbec, with 22 days appassimento, and 1999 Paso Doble (62% Malbec/30% Corvina/8% Merlot), with a light appassimento. The wines were shipped in bulk to Italy and bottled in January 2002.