Cavagnaro is probably not a name that rings a bell. Especially when talking about one of the grandfathers of Argentine winemaking. But that’s exactly who Cavagnaro is. The Cavagnaro family started planting and producing wine with the Rutini family back in 1891. And as so often as wine offers a glimpse into something much greater than itself, Cavagnaro wines illustrate the simple story of family, values, and consequences.
“My great-grandfather planted this land,” Julian Cavagnaro, the current owner and namesake of the winery, told me one day. “We wanted a simple life of olives, grapes, and living on the land.”
Angel Cavagnaro first came to Argentina from Italy in 1887. After years of hard work, he managed to acquire 20 hectares of grapes. He soon joined up with his friend, Felipe Rutini, who has the legacy of one of the largest and most recognised names in Argentine wine. Before the World War I, the Cavagnaro and Rutini families made a profitable wine business together under the name ‘Bodegas Familiar Rutini y Cavagnaro’, later and still to be known as ‘La Rural’.
After the war, though, the business fell on hard times and the two families had a falling out.
From that moment on, the Rutini and Cavagnaro families followed down two very different paths. Rutini is known throughout Argentina and even the world. You can get a Rutini Malbec when you’re passing through Ezeiza on your way out of Buenos Aires. Cavagnaro, on the other hand, is a name effectively unknown.
The next several decades, the Cavagnaro family suffered a crisis of character. Mired with the deaths of Angel’s descendants, the family decided to partner with Graffigna, another juggernaut in the wine world here. Graffigna, however, would eventually let the Cavagnaro vineyards turn to squalor.
After generations of struggle, the Cavagnaro family, still neighbours with the Rutinis, is surging back toward the top of the Argentine winemaking world. Step by step. Keeping in mind their family origins, values, and always remembering the consequences of what came before.
In 1998, Julian Cavagnaro, Angel’s great grandson, reclaimed the family’s original plot of land from 1891 and planted seeds of Malbec.
“I am absolutely fascinated with winemaking. I obsess about all of its aspects constantly,” Cavagnaro continues. “My wine comes out and it’s me. Deep, rich colour, you have to let it open for a while to get to the juice. I relish a wine that makes me wait. I salivate, and again, I obsess.”
In 2002, Julian Cavagnaro picked his first harvest on the land where the men in his family once toiled before. Incidentally, it was the best harvest on that land in the last 15 years.
Daniel Karlin is Founder of Anuva Vinos, a premium wine club that hand sources limited production wines from Argentina. He makes his home in Buenos Aires where he offers wine tastings to visitors from all parts as well as a wine club that ships to the US. www.anuvawines.com