The new face of Argentinian whites
Argentinian wine – When you think Argentinian wine, you think Malbec first, an amazing piece of beef second. It’s just one of those cliche things. Argentina is the largest exporter of South American wine, built on a reputation of not only high quality, but also the passionate link wine producers make between their favourite protein and their favourite grape variety. Fire up the BBQ, it’s time to work some magic. Reds have always overshadowed whites by a large margin. There is also a question of style. Until recently, Argentinian whites were flabby and over oaked trying to imitate an oaky style of California Chardonnay. I guess that’s why I never paid too much attention to them. But there is a wind of change.
Lately, Argentinian winemakers are looking for higher altitudes to plant better grape varieties. Torrontes has always been the signature white grape of Argentina. Highly scented, it’s a bouquet party of fruit and flowers, bringing to mind fresh muscat table grapes, apricots, honey and orange blossom. In the mouth, it also deliver smiles. In contrast to many of today’s increasingly popular white wines blended from so-called aromatic grape varieties, torrontes tends to be bone-dry. Think moscato without the sugar.
There are some great white blends beginning to appear. Super Blends, they take positive attributes from different sources and get better. These blends are white varieties from the same region and/or from different provinces coming together in a bottle.
The Zuccardi family are one of those wineries making those super blends. Established in 1963, they have contributed a great deal to Argentinian modern winemaking. Alberto Zuccardi, engineer by training, planted the first acre of vines in Maipú, Mendoza. Since then, the Zuccardi’s has continue to grow and develop positioning themselves as an important benchmark for Argentina’s winemaking industry.
Recently, I had the occasion to taste the portfolio of Zuccardi wines available in Quebec. The invitation was a courtesy of their importer Elixirs Vins Spiritueux. Jose Alberto Zuccardi, commercial director, led the tasting. I was pleasantly surprised as the wines showed less oak and more fruit and minerality. I will discuss the whites on this column and next week the reds.
Presently, Zuccardi is led by Sebastian, third generation of the family, who is working in front of a young agricultural and winemaking team, responsible for producing wines with the highest standards of quality in the Uco Valley.
The range of wine consists of Icons – Tito, Emma Zuccardi, Zeta, Aluvonial and Fincas.
Serie A – The Argentine Series which display the richness of the soil and microclimate.
Q – The range that arises from the practice of marking the wine with a ‘Q’ for Quality.
Since 2008 the winery has invested in research and development, dedicated to the study of the terroir and the different variables that affect wine quality. The objective, in the words of Sebastian, is “not to seek perfect wines, but those who express the place, the region”.
Another producer who makes fine whites is Bodegas Piedra Negra. Two well-known French winemakers, Jacques and Francois Lurton, came to Mendoza in 1992 to apply their knowledge to craft stellar Argentine wines. With a rich background of winemaking beginning in the 1600s, this is the family’s fourth winery, but the first in Argentina, located as well in the Uco Valley.
Argentinian whites to try:
Zuccardi Serie A Chardonnay Viognier 2015
SAQ # 516443 $15.05
Very aromatic nose. Pear with honey and almond butter. Dry with a very refreshing acidity. Lovely mineral undertones. A finale on the fruit side. Pairing nicely with sushi, fish such as trout and vegetarian thai dishes.
Zuccardi Q Chardonnay 2015
SAQ # 12258674 $21.00
On the nose, tropical fruit aromas. Wax with hazelnut cream. Full body and very structured. Nicely textured and beautifully balanced. Pairing with pastas in cream sauces and roasted poultry such as chicken.
Bodega François Lurton ( Piedra Negra) Pinot Gris 2016
SAQ # 00556746. $14.55
A bouquet of flower, peach, pear, vegetal and mineral nuances. This wine has everything going for itself:Elegance, tension and raciness. Flavours of dried herbs and lemon zest. Pair it with Lobster roll or cod.