Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Woman’s Social Group Argentine Wine Tasting

Woman’s Social Group Wine Tasting Features Argentine Wines

Linda’s social organization’ s wine group held a wine tasting focused on Argentine wines and I was invited to curate the evening. 

Hostess Linda S prepared an extensive selection of charcuterie for pairing with the wines - cheese, chocolates, sliced beef, chicken wings and fresh berries, mixed nuts and vegetables.

Each of the ladies brought a bottle to share and compare and Julie also brought a couple of Argentine White Wines to set the stage and open the evening. 

The red wine flight
The ladies and their wines

The main wine flight featured an interesting selection that included the signature Argentine varietal Malbec as well as a couple of Bordeaux varietal blends. 

Argentina has emerged as a major wine producing region in the ‘new world’ due to its remarkable combination and wide range of natural resources and landscapes suited for wine production.

The primary and most important wine producing province of Argentina is Mendoza. The proximity to the Andes mountain range defines the climate in the area, which is ideal for viticulture. The lack of humid winds, blocked by the Andes mountains , the altitude, the continental climate, the heterogeneity of the soils and the snowmelt are determining factors in the production of premium wines.

Malbec is the predominant grape varietal grown in Argentina although all of the Bordeaux varietals are grown there - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, as well as Syrah and some limited amounts of Burgundian varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and, some lesser known unique varietals such as Ancellotta, Caladoc and Torrontes, featured below, that are well suited to the locale and terroir.  

We had a spectacular ultra-premium Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina Malbec last year, a project of an American producer, that rivaled the best American and French wines, so I was open to high expectations, albeit being mindful and realistic of the price points of these more standard selections. I wrote about that top rated wine - Viña Cobos, Vineyard Designate Malbec, Marchiori Estate, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina, 2019 in this blogpost in these pages.

Several major French Bordeaux, as well as American producers have invested in the region. As they gain more experience and learn from research and results, watch for quality and sophistication of these wines to continue to improve. In the meantime, they provide some great wines with generally high QPR - quality to price ratios.

We started with two diverse white wines.

Zolo Torrontes 2021

This Argentinian white wine is comprised of Torrontes, an Argentine varietal white grape.  This winery is owned by Argentine wine luminary Patricia Ortiz, owner of three Argentine wineries, one of Mendoza’s top ambassadors to the world and in 2019, she was the first female President of Bodegas de Argentina, the leading trade association. She is profiled further as part of the review of her Wapisa Winery below.

Winemaker Notes - “Pale yellow with green hues. Delicate aromas of floral and citrus notes. On the palate is fresh, sweet and balanced. An excellent example of Torrontes.”

This was rated 90 points by reviewer James Suckling. 

I found this a slight bit off-putting with aromas of tennis ball rubber and a rather flabby character. Light straw colored, light medium bodied, notes of lychee and citrus fruits with hints of peach and pineapple with a crisp acidic finish. 

RM 87 points. 

We then moved to this interesting White instantiation of the traditional varietal of Argentina, Malbec.

Artesano de Argento Mendoza Agrelo White Malbec 2023

Julie brought this interesting white Malbec to try with the focus on Argentina and their predominance of the grape varietal Malbec. 

This is a white Malbec from the Agrelo Vineyard in the area of the same name in the subregion of Lujan de Cuyo in the Mendoza region.

It was rated 90 points by James Suckling and 89 points by Vinous. 

Pale straw and light green colored, light medium bodied, notes of green apple with hints of lime citrus and peach with crisp dry finish. 

RM 88 points.

Moving to the reds, we started with the two  Bordeaux Blends since their increased breadth and complexity required more discernment than the bigger, deeper and bolder single varietal labels. 

Clos de los Sieti Valle di Ucca Mendoza by Michel Rolland 

This was a delightful discovery brought by Treva and I was eager to try this wine crafted by Michael Rolland. It was recommended to her by a friend who knows the region and its wines well having visited and worked in wineries in the region as part of a personal sabbatical. 

This is a collaboration project of seven producers, friends and investors, spearheaded by legendary iconic Global wine expert Michael Rolland. It was founded in 1998 when Rolland and members of seven prominent French wine families purchased Campo Vista Flores and began producing wine at four distinct wineries there— Bodega Diamandes, Bodega Monteviejo, Mariflor, and Cuvelier los Andes. The original investors included Laurent Dassault, Benjamin de Rothschild, Edmond de Rothschild, Philippe Schell, Jean-Michel Arcaute, Catherine Pere-Verge, and the d’Aulan and Cuvelier families.

Michel Rolland is known globally as the "flying winemaker" due to his extensive travels as a consultant working for more than 150 wineries in fourteen countries on four continents in the northern and southern hemispheres. We love and collect his wines through his involvement with several producers including the Long Shadows Collector Series where he is contributing winemaker with the Pedestal, Merlot label. It was the showcase feature of this blogpost - Long Shadows Cellars feature world class winemakers and Columbia Valley fruit.

Born into a wine family in Bordeaux, Rolland grew up at Château Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol. He graduated in 1972 with a degree in enology at the University of Bordeaux, where he met his wife and future partner, Dany. They established a wine laboratory and began consulting in 1985 serving far-flung notable clients such as Château l’Evangile, Château Figeac and Château La Conseillante in France, Harlan, Staglin, Screaming Eagle and Bond in the US, Italian producers Campo di Sasso, Ornellaia, and  Monteverro, and others in South Africa, Spain, India, and Casa Lapostolle in Chile and this project in Argentina.

Michel Rolland first went to Argentina in 1988 and fell in love with the country, convinced that all the conditions were right in Argentina to grow premier grapes from which to produce great wine.

Along with Jean Michel Arcaute, another Bordeau winegrower from Pomerol, they found an ideal plot of land about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Mendoza, the last city before reaching the Andes. Sitting at an altitude of 1,100 meters (3,600 feet), with soils made up of pebbles, clay and sand, which provides natural drainage with water from springs fed by melting snow and glaciers up in the Andes Mountains.

There they developed 2100 acres of vines where the roots penetrate the meter deep bed of gravel at the foot of the Andes Mountains, in the Uco Valley near Mendoza. 

The two originators were joined by winegrower friends to set out to producing one single wine under Michel Rolland’s supervision. They built four bodegas and shared production from each to make and blend the shared wine “Clos de los Siete”, the name and label recognize and commemorate the seven partners. The remaining production goes into the wines of their own respective ranges: Monteviejo, Cuvelier los Andes, DiamAndes and Bodega Rolland.

We’ve had the wines of Cuvelier los Andes, being fans of their classified premiere Bordeau Chateau Leoville Poyferre. We toured Château Leoville Poyferré in St Julien Bordeaux during our visit to the region, hence we were eager to taste this label from this producer collaboration.
Malbec, which is the king of all grape varieties in Argentina, has been found to be best suited and therefore an obvious choice for these soil types. It occupies more than half the total area of the estate and is planted at an unusual density of 5,500 vines per hectare which provide rich concentrated fruit. To add complexity to the blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and a little less Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc are used alongside the Malbec. Each variety contributes its characteristic personality to the final blend.

This release of the estate wine Clos de Los Siete is composed or 55% Malbec, 16% Merlat, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Syrah, 3% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. 800,000 bottles were made.

Winemaker Notes - “Clos de los Siete's extraordinary terroir, with well-drained sandy-clay soil complemented by a good density of pebbles, has the particularity of containing the vines' growth and ensuring perfect maturity. The 2020 vintage has a deep ruby-red color and aromas of black fruit and plums combined with delicate floral notes. The palate is pleasantly powerful, with good length and elegant, silky tannins.”

This release was awarded 94 points by James Suckling and 91 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.

This was bright Ruby colored, medium bodied, complex but nicely balanced and harmonious, ripe currant and blackberry fruits with notes of mineral, glycerin, herbs, creosote and dark bitter mocha chocolate, hints of pepper, cinnamon and vanilla, with soft smooth polished tannings on the moderate finish. 

RM 91 points.

We then tasted the other Bordeau blend comprised of three varietals. 

Mascato Mendoza Unánime Gran Vino Tinto 2018 

Julie brought this Cabernet Sauvignon based Bordeaux Blend from Mascota Vineyards in the San Carlos zone toward the southern end of the Uco ValleyMendoza, Argentina at the foot of the Andes Mountain range. Proprietor Rodolfo Sadler launched Mascota in Mendoza and has been crafting wines for nearly 30 years. 

Rodolfo “Opi” Sadler is a third generation Argentine winemaking pioneer known for his expertise in Cabernet Sauvignon in a country renowned for the quality of its Malbec. In 2018, Opi´s La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 was named World’s Best Red Wine in the French competition Vinalies Internationales.

In addition to his award-winning highly rated Cabernet master winemaker Opi also produces a portfolio that includes Malbec, the leading varietal of Argentina, Bordeaux varietal Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The Unánime label is his signature Cabernet, named for his “vision to produce wines that seek complete harmony and excellence, with an unbeatable quality reflected in each and every bottle. When this vision is shared by our team of winemakers, and endorsed by critics and consumers, the decision is Unanimous (Unánime).”

This release is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec and 15% Cabernet Franc and was aged fifteen months in oak barrels. . 

James Suckling gave this wine 95 points and 91 points from Wine Enthusiast. 
Dark ruby colored, medium full bodied, bold, expressive, complex, concentrated black berry fruits with notes of vanilla, spices, pepper, tobacco and chocolate with hints of cassis and toasted oak, silky tannins and crisp acidity on the lingering finish. 

RM 90 points.

Familia Zuccardi “Concreto” Malbec Mendoza 2021 

This is from the Zuccardi Family Winery in MaipúMendoza, Argentina. Today it is run by winemaker Sebastián Zuccardi whose grandfather planted the first grapevines in 1963 and has grown to become a leader in Argentine wine production.

From his father, José Alberto Zuccardi, Sebastián inherited the determination and desire to constantly strive for excellence.

Sebastián, third generation of the family, follows his father, José Alberto Zuccardi, leading a team of agricultural engineers and enologists, in producing some of the the highest quality wines in the Uco Valley.

The winery has had a research and development area since 2008, dedicated to studying the terroir and the diverse variables that affect wine quality. The goal, in Sebastián’s own words, is “not to strive for perfect wines, but wines that express the place, the region.”

The Zuccardi family have been exploring and experimenting with the potential of Malbec in the winery with new fermentation and aging vessels, and in the vineyard by challenging the accepted wisdom of the limits of viticulture and have moved their vines (and winery) closer to the Andes. 

This label, Concreto is named for their method of fermenting and aging the wine in Concrete (Concreto) and Amphora vessels in which they strive to express Malbec and their vineyards. They see it as a true expression of the limestone rich vineyards in the Paraje Altamira subregion with its distinctive “terroir”, that combination of elevation, sun exposure and the poor uniquely mineral soils. 

This is 100% Malbec, sourced from a 140 acre vineyard located next to their Piedra Infinita winery in Paraje Altamira, San Carlos, Valle de Uco at an altitude of 3000 feet. The area has been cultivated for more than eighty years and irrigated with waters from the Uco Channel, in the northern part of Paraje Altamira. In addition to Malbec it is also planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Ancellotta and Caladoc, other regional varietals. 

It was rated 95 by James Suckling, Vinous and Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 92 by Wine Spectator and was wine #43 of the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2022.

They produced 47,000 bottles in this vintage. 

I don’t understand the huge ratings for this wine unless they are highlighting its purity. I was expecting more fruit. 

Deep purple and garnet colored, medium full bodied, smooth polished textured layers of ripe blue and black berry fruits accented by spice, herbs, mineral, black pepper notes with soft chalky tannins and acidity on the moderate finish. 

RM 90 points. 

Luca Uco Valley Mendoza Old Vine Malbec 2019

This is produced by Laura Catena, a fourth generation winemaker, daughter of legendary Argentine winermaker Nicolás Catena. In 1997 Laura, a Harvard and Stanford trained Biologist and Physician, joined Bodega Catena Zapata as Research Director. She learned there was a site with 80 year old vines from which the fruit that were being sold for bulk wine. In 1999, Laura Catena founded Luca Winery to explore the quality potential of small Old Vine family owned vineyards in the Uco Valley region of Mendoza.

She produces small quantity artisan, quality wines that are true to their individual terroirs. She works with some of Argentina's best fruit from low-yield, high elevation vineyards, applies state-of-the-art winemaking and oak aging, primarily French.  She applies rigorous vineyard management, viticultural experimentation, and strict irrigation controls to seek highest quality achievable. 

As a scientist she is devoted to the handicrafts of enology and viticulture. The rear label of her bottles set out her vision and quest - “Championing Argentine Wine, Studying High Altitude Wine-making, Discovering Mountain Terroir and the Quality of Light, Preserving Nature and Culture, Understanding Soil down to each Rock, insect, microbe, and Malbec Vine - Making Extraordinary Wines - Making History.”

She also produces Syrah, Beso de Dante, Malbec, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.

This label, Luca, is named after Laura Catena's son. The branding on the label is the family crest of her husband, Dan’s McDermott family. 

Winemaker Notes - This is a great example of Mendoza Malbec. Incredible deep purple red color. Loads of spice and black and red cherry aromas with notes of chocolate. The berry flavors really pop on the palate as the wine has both a full mid palate and lively acidity that leads to an incredibly long finish. A bottom note of freshly brewed espresso keeps the mouth watering too.

This was rated 95 points by James Suckling, 93 points by Wine Spectator, 92 by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. 

It was #21 Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2021.
Dark ruby garnet colored, medium full bodied, rich, round, deep and intense ripe unctuous blackberry fruits reflect the old vine character with notes of licorice, pepper, spice and bitter dark chocolate with hints of espresso with refined plush tannins and vibrant acidity on the finish. 

RM 91 points. 

Antigal Uno Malbec 2020 

Antigal is one of the oldest wineries in Mendoza in production, tracing its roots as far back as 1897 when the original facilities were established in the historic colonial architecture.

The winery was completely refurbished in 2000 changing the producing profile from bulk to high quality premium wines by the current proprietors with the establishment of what is now Antigal winery and vineyards. The vineyards were planted in 2000 to 2003.

The winery’s first vintage was released in 2005, what has become its signature wine, branded number One or Uno in recognition of its Single Vineyard production. 

The company started exporting to the US market in 2007 and has established itself as a recognized brand for high QPR - Quality Price Ratio, quality Argentina grown Malbec, with its distinctive, characteristic metal number 1 affixed to the painted bottle. 

This is 100% Malbec sourced from the estate vineyard in Gualtallary, Tupungato in the Uco Valley, Mendoza. Sitting at an altitude of 3900 feet, the light, deep soils retain what little moisture they can, aided by drip irrigation from wells fed by the snow melt from the Andes Mountains. Average annual rainfall in the area is only about 7 inches.

This release was aged 8-10 months in French and American oak..

Winemaker Notes - “The 2020 vintage of Antigal UNO Malbec offers delicious plum, strawberry, and blackberry flavors with enticing hints of violets, vanilla, and milk chocolate. Brightened by carefully protected natural acidity, this violet-red wine has a silky texture and provides an agreeably persistent finish.”

“The exceptionally soft winemaking of hand-selected Malbec grapes from Antigal’s Uco Valley vineyards was made possible by the winery’s gravity-flow system. The care taken through all stages of the process from initial cluster-chilling through sorting, maceration, fermentation, and barrel aging — produced an unusually elegant Malbec with great balance and supple tannins.”

This release was rated  89 points by Wine Spectator.

Garnet colored, medium-bodied, plum and blackberry fruits are highlighted by violet floral notes with  subtle vanilla, mineral and rich dark chocolate notes on the firm finish.

RM 89 points. 

We closed out with this unique label.

Wapiso Rio Negro Patagonia Malbec 2022

This Argentine Malbec is from Patagonia, the village of  San Javier in the Rio Negro sub-region of Patagonia, in southern Argentina, just 25 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Patagonia’s wine regions are so far south, they’re the southernmost regions in the world. 

Patagonia is home to three important sub-regions, Rio Negro, Neuquén and La Pampa. Since the 1990s, there’s been an explosion of investment in the region that has attracted some of the biggest names in international premium winemaking. Río Negro is the only one that had any viticultural history before the 1990s. While its vineyard area is declining as growers swap quality for quantity, the vineyard land increased by 82 percent in the Neuquén subregion and by 73 percent in the La Pampa subregion between 2002 and 2012. 

The producer Wapisa is the only Coastal Winery that exists in this unique coastal terroir and is the only winery in Argentina to age wines under the sea inspired coastal influences. 

Wapisa is owned by Argentine entrepreneur Patricia Ortiz who is the owner and President of three wineries (Tapiz, Zolo (featured above), and Wapisa), and nine sustainably-farmed vineyards in different parts of Argentina. She was the first female president of Bodegas de Argentina, the industry trade group.

Patricia is also the owner of Mendoza's top lodging and spa destination: Club Tapiz. Club Tapiz is located in an estate built in 1890 surrounded by 22 acres of vineyards.

Patricia, who lived many years in the U.S. and speaks fluent English, is one of Mendoza’s top ambassadors to the world. In 2019 she became the first female President of Bodegas de Argentina and in 2023 she was nominated by Wine Enthusiast as Executive of the Year.

With Wapisa and its close proximity to the sea, Patricia Ortiz decided to incorporate the ocean into the aging process taking advantage of the pressurized atmosphere with its moderated constant temperatures that provide perfect conditions for aging wines.

The Wapisa estate vineyard “Finca Los Acantilados” stands out for its lime clay soils, good acidity and little organic matter. The terroir is complemented by the outstanding thermal amplitude, highlighted by cool maritime breezes that sweep over the vineyards at night, leading to balanced and fruity wines with a touch of salinity and a delicate varietal expression. Master of Wine Tim Atkin calls this “the new Argentina.”

The region’s best vineyards are in High Valley, one of three valleys formed by the Colorado River. They’re planted on Andean foothill slopes between 300 and 500 meters (985 to 1,640 feet) above sea level, which allows the grapes to be cooled by Andean winds rather than altitude. Patagonia’s wide diurnal temperature swings also make it an inviting region for white varieties as well.

The popular white varieties are Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay with a distinct regional flair. While Patagonia’s predominant grape is Malbec, Argentina’s signature red grape, comprising about 40 percent of the more than 11,000 acres of cultivated vineyards, in Río Negro, Malbec is less than a quarter of its total production, with the rest being the white varietals.

“Wapisa” is the indigenous Patagonian word for “whale.” Not only do whales frequent the nearby coast of our vineyards, but local legend talks of a Wapisa that actually lived on land. Living the legend, Wapisa wines are an expression not just of their soils but of the nearby ocean and its coastal marine influences.

In addition to their primary label, Malbec, Wapisa also produce Cabernet Sauvignon, some Pinot Noir and white wine Sauvignon Blanc. 

Their 2022 Malbec was rated 94 points by James Suckling.

Winemaker Notes - “Bright red color with intense violet tints. Aromas of fruits such as black plums and blackberries stand out. The aging in oak provides spicy and chocolate aromas. The palate is complex and tasty with ripe tannins and a balanced acidity.”

Bright Ruby colored, medium bodied, round and vibrant yet smooth and delicately balanced black and blue berry fruits are accented by cassis, pepper, lavender and notes of mocha chocolate and spice with hints of mint on a moderate fine tannin laced finish. 

RM 91 points.