Argentina red wine more than just a cheap Malbec
Argentina red wine – If you follow my column on a regular basis, you will notice that lately I have been drinking quite a bit of Argentinian wines. In the past, I did never pay too much attention to the wines of that beautiful country. In my mind, Argentina red wine was synonym with plonk and cheap Malbec. The kind of wine you would wash down when you did not have any money or after a good bottle to quench the wine thirst. But this is not at all the image of Argentina red wine industry today. Malbec is being revisited and there is continuing experimentation with other grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda.
Malbec brought riches to the Argentinians. The hype has been so much that in Cahors, the French appellation that relies on the grape, some wine estates have defied French customs by putting its name on labels and branding their wine as “the French Malbec.”
Well, time to smell your wine glass again: Argentina has much more to offer than just Malbec. Picture fresh, elegant cabernet sauvignon, plummy and earthy Syrah with juicy Bonarda. The cherry of the cake is Argentina’s pinot noir, that invoke some delicious examples that prove that pinot does not have to be expensive to be good.
These other varieties grow side by side Malbec in Mendoza, Argentina’s premier wine region in the Andes foothills, and growers keep looking to higher altitudes to plant new vineyards. More altitude means brighter sun but colder temperatures, helping grapes ripen fully while keeping acidity and avoiding high sugar levels that result in over jammy wines. This is what Jose Alberto Zuccardi, sales director of Zuccardi wines discussed with me in his latest visit to Montreal.
Alberto also discussed with me the promise of cabernet sauvignon in Mendoza.In the clay soils of Lujan de Cuyo, it is rich and dense, with a predominance of black fruits. As the altitude gets higher into Tupungato (west in the mountain directions) or south in the southern part of the Uco Valley, it is colder and the cabernet has more mint, acidity and a density approaching Bordeaux Style.
Beyond Altitude, the latest focus of attention of Argentine wine industry is to map the territories of Lujan de Cujo and Uco Valley. Most vineyards range from 2,000-3,500 feet above sea level and the oscillation in temperature creates fine aromas and good acidity. Soils here are quite varied depending on how close vineyards are to the mountains or Mendoza River, and tend to form alluvial layers of loam, rock, and gravel. Besides Malbec, there are also good examples of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Located fifty miles south of Mendoza and stretching for another 50 miles, Uco Valley is another “oasis” that is both an irrigated agricultural corridor for fruits and vines in the shadow of the Andes. Here, the altitude increases considerably from 3,000-5,000 feet with very poor stony soils, which gives winemakers the opportunity of seeking cooler temperatures and longer ripening periods. Within this valley, considered one of the premier in Argentina, you’ll hear names of the villages dotting the landscape as the local appellations like La Consult, Vista Flores, Tupungato, Tunuyán, Altamira, Gualtallary, and San Carlos.
This new buzz in the Argentinian wine industry has permitted increased collaboration between domestic winemakers and even International ones. In the words of Alberto Zuccardi, never this phenomena has been seen in the Argentine wine industry. I guess this is in an illustration on how wine can unify people.
For this week, I got a great selection of Argentinian reds. As the weather gets warmer, it is time again to take out the BBQ and enjoy some great cuts of beef!
Terroir driven wines from Argentina:
Vida Organica Cabernet-Sauvignon 2015
SAQ # 10985827 $15.75
Very aromatic. Deep blackcurrant fruit undertones with red plums and liquorice. In the palate, earthy with polished tannins with round tannins. Nice peppermint flavours with an harmonious finale. Chicken brochettes anybody?
Manos Negras Stone Soil Malbec Valle de Uco 2012
SAQ # 13009258 $19.70
This Malbec displays ripe raspberry aromas with roasted herb, oak and lactic undertones. On the palate it has a sexy chunky and pulpy structure, giving it a creamy mouthfeel. Flavours of plum ,cardamom and vanilla finish come to mind. Have it with a Kafka hamburger steak.
Zuccardi ‘Q’ Malbec 2014
SAQ # 11218460 $ 22.00
The 2013 vintage had a terrific nose bringing to mind smoke, eucalyptus and blueberry compote. On the mouth, it was structured yet very fluid. Complex flavours bringing to mind mineral flavours such as wet stone with floral undertones. Fleshy tannins with a roasted hazelnut aftertaste. A good grilled flank steak with french fries will be amazing with this wine.
Zuccardi ‘Q’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Private Import QC ( $25.35. Case of 6. elixirs.ca)
Textbook cabernet nose bringing to mind green bell pepper notes, toasty oak, crushed black peppercorns and cassis. On the palate, this cabernet shows an excellent balance between power and finesse. Flavours bringing to mind blackcurrant flavours. Polished tannins and a racy finale. A glass of this wine would be perfect with a rib eye steak with creamy mashed potatoes and grilled red peppers
Ataliva Malbec 2016
Private Import – Peter Vasilev wine selections. $19.25
Case of 12. email@example.com
An entry level wine from renown Bodega Benegas, Ataliva is made with 100% Malbec grapes sourced from the Upper bank of the Mendoza River and from Tupungato’s Uco Valley. The wine is aged in French oak barrels (2nd and 3rd use) for about 6 months. At 14.5% Ataliva is a big boy with enough structure and balance. Decadent ripe fruit and subtle earthy elements give a very savoury profile to this. Enjoy with BBQ chicken.