Argentina is the fourth-largest producer of wine in the world, so it might seem that jumping into the industry with no experience or history of making wine would be daunting. But not for Tomas Jans, the owner and founder of the Mendoza-based Alchimia Wines.
“We bought our first vineyard in 2010,” he says, “but for the first two years we just got to know the vineyard and all of its potential, because whatever the grape doesn’t have, the wine won’t have. As they say, you don’t get a second opportunity to make a good first impression, so we care about the details and we want to do things differently. We really want to express ourselves with our wines and add something to our country, too.”
That includes prioritizing the well-being of its employees and the integrity of its wine over profits. After buying that first vineyard, not only did Alchimia make the whole irrigation system more resource-efficient by using water from the nearby Mendoza River, but it also improved the housing of the workers living on the vineyard.
“We want to have people working in the right conditions and respect the environment,” says Tomas. “If there are people living on our vineyard who work for us, they should have a good standard of living. We also want to respect and look after the environment. It’s an investment of conviction for us – maybe in other businesses you wouldn’t do that, but it’s about how we want to do things and represent ourselves.”
Alchimia’s people-centric focus extends beyond just making and bottling its wines. Indeed, for Tomas, building an involved community is a vital way of ensuring the company continues to grow and develop in a sustainable way that benefits all of those involved. “We want everybody who works with us to grow in some way,” he explains. “When you jump into a personal project like this, you really want that project to reflect your values. It’s about the legacy you want to leave behind you – the wine industry is a really, really long-term business, so you have to be conscious about investing a lot to get to the point you want.”
The other important philosophy that drives the company – and the wines it produces – is based on the four ancient elements of earth, air, fire and water. For Alchimia wines, the terroir – the natural environment in which the grapes grow – has to be absolutely perfect.
“I started investigating the elements of terroir,” he says, “and thinking about it from the viewpoint of alchemy, where the fifth element is the grape that you then transform into the wine. We believe that wines should be conceived in the vineyard, so every single plot will be specially managed for one specific label. Once you bottle the wines they continue evolving day by day.”
As a result of the care with which they’re made, the wines that Alchimia produces are designed to stand out from the very first sip. “Unlike big wineries, we don’t standardize our wines,” Tomas explains. “That’s not the game we want to play. That means every single year our wines are different because of the small lots and the different combinations of terroir. So when you open a bottle of our wine, you should always feel you’re having something special.”