Nestled between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, in South America is a land of majestic views, fertile soils, beef parillas, and the mighty Andes Mountains. Argentina is a land of mostly expatriots, immigrants and refugees who came to Argentina one or two generations ago to seek out a new life. Upon arriving in Buenos Aires you’ll quickly get the feeling that you’re in some rural European country. The two most common words in Argentina are “Claro” which translates to “perhaps” and “passion” which has the similar English translation. The difference is that words are almost sung from the tongue. Argentine folks are very passionate and they all will eagerly reveal ancestry which in large part comes from Italy, France, and Spain.
As one would expect, the grape never falls far from the vine. Grandfathers and great uncles migrated to Mendoza from Europe and brought their wine making skills with them. Planting vines in fertile soils at different elevations in close proximity to the Andes Mountains, you can see the snow caps in the summertime. Cool coastal breezes shoot over the Andes Mountains from Chile, coupled with the elevation, water flow from the Andes and volcanic soil produce the perfect conditions for grapes such as malbec, bonarda, syrah, torrontes, and cabernet. Wine is produced with great pride in Mendoza and the results are astounding. Recent figures point to 1200 bodegas (or wineries) however my sources on the ground indicate closer to 1500. There are three main regions (sub appellations) in Mendoza: Lujan de Cujo, Maipu and Valle de Cuyo. There are other regions outside of Mendoza (but within driving distance or bus) that are particularly famous including Salta which produces the best Torrontes in the world and home of the famous Colomé, producer of the 2007 Estate Malbec that won Wine Spectator’s Top 100. Another up and comer is the Patagonia region, the southern most tip of Argentina just across the way from Antartica which is starting to produce some excellent Sauvignon Blanc. Back to Mendoza…
Pulenta Estate is another small producer from a winemaking family of Italian origin. Vines were brought in from Italy and France and they produce the best Cabernet Franc I have tasted in 10 years. We tasted several wines, all excellent quality, but three stood left a memrable impression that I cannot forget. The Gran Corte 2006 is a blend of 5% Malbec, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 3% Tannat, and 3% Petit Verdot aged in French oak. This wine is concentrated, extracted fruit delivered with soft warm tannins where you’ll find cherry, plum, raspberry integrated with spice. Again for the price of about $30 US, its very well could kill any younger blend tasting event. Second up was the ’07 Malbec, easy with nuances of french oak, vanilla, jammy texture, but not overly-so. Taste white pepper and fennel with cherry and plum. To be consumed with a tenderloin medallion in a malbec reduction sauce ($19-25 retail). The final wine tasted here blew me away. Its not easy to find a delicious Cabernet Franc, which is typically used as a blending grape for Bordeaux varietals. This producer mastered the art of Cab Franc with the ’07 Estate Cab Franc. Absolutely delicious, no over oak, no bitter aftertaste, just give her about 5-10 minutes to breathe and suck down slowly. Bouquet of eucalyptus and spice. Taste the Pepper and jerky delivered ultra smooth with some vanilla velvet tannins. When Andrea asked me to score this wine I told her I’d give it a 96-98 and she laughed. “You guessed dead on with Robert Parker who gave it a 96, and for that I will give you the last bottle.” Talk about reward!
o share a few Argentine wines that I feel everyone should try, available here at Wines.com and most likely at a retailer near you…
2007 Clos de Los Siete, a unique Malbec, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. Inky purple fruit explosion well integrated tannins and exceptional value. A must have-crowd pleaser!
2006 Tikal Patriota Mendoza, electric purple, lush tannins producing raspberry, raspberry and some mild exotic flavors. A unique blend with soft tannins and unique expression. Try this with some pulled pork or lamb chops.
Malbec Madness Six Pack, few people like to buy a case of one one. This package gives you what we feel is the best of Argentina. If you like variety and Malbec, or if you are looking for a special wine gift, this is the one to give.