Uruguay lies between latitudes 30 and 33 degrees south, wedged in between Brazil and Argentina. With a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and the River Plate, it’s a land of rolling plains and low-lying hills. Like the Southern Hemisphere’s other famous winemaking areas (Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia), its temperate climate is particularly suited for growing vines.
With a winemaking tradition that dates back to the nineteenth century, Uruguay currently forms part of the group of fine wine producers, and its penetration of the most demanding world markets is growing steadily.
Alto de la Ballena is situated in the southeast region, in the department of Maldonado, very close to the sea and to Punta del Este, the country’s most important tourist centre.
In 1998, the spouses Paula Pivel and Alvaro Lorenzo decided to set up a small winery in the department of Maldonado, in south east Uruguay.
With no more experience than that of being wine enthusiasts, they immediately got down to the task of finding the right site that would combine location, beautiful landscape and proper conditions for wine-growing.
The choice of the terroir to plant the vineyards was crucial; topography, soil and climate had to be considered, to ensure an excellent quality of grapes, essential for the production of high-quality wines.
Several months of searching, with consultancy and studies, paid off. In the year 2000 they bought almost 20 hectares on the Sierra de la Ballena, a few kilometers from the sea and Punta del Este, the largest seaside resort in South America.
The first vines were planted in the spring of 2001, continuing in the following two years until reaching 8 hectares. The vineyards include Merlot, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Viognier varieties.
In the year 2005 the first harvest was obtained, and in 2007 the first wines were released to the market.
Currently, Alto de la Ballena’ wines are sold in specialized stores, gourmet spaces and in the best Uruguayan restaurants, mainly in Montevideo and Punta del Este. They are also available in Mexico, Brazil and Sweden, and will soon be in the United States, Belgium, Switzerlad and Argentina.
A life choice
When Paula and Alvaro started the enterprise, they chose a lifestyle, a path of their own. They combined their business experience with their passion for wine, and conceived a small scale, angroindustrial and touristic project.
In order to make this true, they chose a unique location: the Sierra de la Ballena, close to Punta del Este.
With this pioneering decision, they reintroduced the lost winemaking tradition of the department of Maldonado, initiated by Francisco Piria more than a century ago. Some years later, new projects have emerged in the region, in the nearby Sierra de las Ánimas, in Sierra de Carapé, in the Garzón hills and in the surroundings of Pueblo Edén. Small and familiar projects, together with important businesses led by prestigious firms of the agroindustrial sector, allow us to state that Maldonado is associated to the great wines of the Country.
Paula was born in Montevideo in 1965 and did her primary and secondary education at the Scuola Italiana in Montevideo.
Graduated as Engineer in Electronics from the UDELAR, Paula did a MBA at the University of Montevideo.
She worked for more than five years in the state-owned electric company UTE and ten years at Citibank.
In late 2003 she left the bank to devote to manage Alto de la Ballena, for which she graduated as a winemaker at the National Wine School.
Álvaro was born in Montevideo in 1966 and spent his childhood in rural areas of the department of Flores until moving with his family to Montevideo in 1977.
He graduated in Law at UDELAR and did a MBA at the University of Montevideo.
Since 1992 he focused his private practice to corporate management and has held high positions in shipping companies and port in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. He is currently director of real estate development companies as well as his winery Alto de la Ballena.
Helena and Stig live, since 2002, several months each year in Punta del Este, and will be in Punta throughout the whole year, except May-June when it is summer in their home country, Sweden. They met Alvaro and Paula 2004 when they presented their business Vittra Education in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile and Montevideo. Friendship occurred and today they have several projects together.
Stig was born in “Little Paris” a small town in Sweden and has spent all his summers on the unique West Coast. Helena was born and raised in the university town of Uppsala and spent her summers at the Swedish West Coast. Today they live at Koster, a unique island in Europe’s first Marine National Park. When they need the pulse of Stockholm, the capital town of Sweden, they stay at their apartment in the old town.
After finishing his studies in Social Sciences at University, Stig began his career in the Swedish municipalities.
Stig has been working as a manager in several municipalities and the National Association for Local Councils. At the same time he managed various companies in the entertainment business for ten years. Helena has a teacher degree and has worked as a manager in kindergartens and schools in severel municipalites throughout her career. She has also worked abroad.
When the education market in Sweden was deregulated 1992 Helena and Stig founded Vittra Education. The Leading independent education Company in Sweden.
They sold their company in 2005. The company had the confidence to take care of more than 7500 students between1-18 years.
Presently, Helena and Stig work as advisors and consultants in strategic education improvement and health care. Both are boardmembers in several companies. Together they have five children and six grandchildren, who love Punta.