YH is excited to be taking a 10-day trip to Buenos Aires this month.
Someday, I hope to tour Menoza wine country extensively, but this time (especially since it's the dead of winter), my oenephilic exploration will be limited to the confines of the wine shops and restaurants in the city, which is fine by me.
Here is the sum of my knowledge regarding the wines of Argentina:
* Malbec is the national grape and is the basis for many revered wines
* South American wines are an excellent value (even in the states), but this may apply more to Chilean wines then Argentine wines.
Clearly, I need to get myself edumacated before I go!!
First, I want the names of the best wines: some blockbusters or classics I can sample while I'm at steakhouse or cooking in my brother's house. So far my "to drink" list includes Cavas de Weinert and Trapiche "Iscay." These are supposed to be two prestigious Malbec blends; I'd like to expand that list.
Secondly, I'd like some descriptions of the best Malbec from some of the wine-os on this board. What does a great Malbec taste like? I imagine it's a unique grape, but does it have any resemblances to, say, the wines of Rioja or of Burgundy? Are they at all like Australian shiraz or Californian pinor noir? Do Malbecs have a lot of tannin? Alcohol? Acidity? Color? Can they be Parkerized fruit bombs, or are they more elegant and lean?
Thirdly, I'd like to know if there's any decent white wine made in Argentina.
Lastly, a list of the best inexpensive, widely availalbe wines for everyday drinking would be lovely.
So.... I returned from Buenos Aires exactly a month ago. I came back with an assortment of red wines I purchased from Terroir, on Maria Lorraine's suggestion. The unique little boutique (whose sales are generally conducted by appointment only) offers a level of personalized service that caught me totally off guard. Anyway, this week I've opened my first bottle from my travels, a 2002 Bordeaux-Style blend (Cabernet, Cab Franc & Merlot... no Malbec) from Bodega Benegas called "Finca Libertad". I am blown away; this was the least expensive bottle I picked up from the store, yet it exhibits a stately structure, beautiful aroma and endless finish without excessive tannis. More importantly, its qualities evoke a distinctively Argentine terroir that takes me back to the parillas, cafes and Italian joints where I spent nearly all my time during those 10 pleasant days in July. I like! Pick some up, if you can find it. I'm anxious to dip into the other wines I brought back.... and will report on them as I do
Easily the best, and probably the most expensive wines from Argentina are those from Achával-Ferrer. Some like the Malbec Mendoza are excellent and reasonably priced. Some, like the Finca Altamira Mendoza are expensive and world class to say the least.
Other good producers that you might be able to find only there include Bodega Melipal, Dominio del Plata, and Trapiche.
I'm a very enthusiastic fan of malbec. The one thing that I'd add, is that in recent years the general style is more fruit-driven than it was traditionally. The old style emphasised the 'darker' flavours: chocolate, tobacco, cedar, leather, sometimes at the expensive of the fruitier flavours. Frankly, the change saddens me a little as yet another example of the homogenisation of wine globally. If you can find a tradionally styled malbec, taste it against a modern-styled one, and you'll get an idea of how versatile the malbec grape is. Please, report back after your vacation. We'd love to hear what you found. Cheers!
Someone above mentioned Terrazas. Try to find a bottle of Cheval des Andes - it's a joint venture between Terrazas in Argentina and the very famous Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux. Malbec - Cab blend and very delicious.
Torrontes is the main white grape, or at least the one most unique to Argentina. The best I've had have a lovely spice to them, yet are still fairly crisp and refreshing.
Torrontes is rapidly becoming my second favorite inexpensive white wine. You should be able to find lots of small local offerings of Torrontes. We went to New Zealand in 2003 and every little bar had a list of local wines by the glass or bottle. It was incredible. I would expect the same kind of wine community exists in the areas you'll be visiting.
I find Argentine Malbec a medium bodied wine that has soft berry fruit with a slight peppery edge and a chocolaty richness.
I highly recommend the wines of Tikal which is owned by Ernesto Catena.
Amorio, Malbec, Patriota, Bonarda/Malbec and Julio, Cabrenet/Malbec
I enjoy the wines of Antonio Nerviani, he started out as a barrel maker from Italy in the 1890s. His family still runs the winery the Meritage Cabernet/Malbec is luscious. All the varietals that they produce deliver a magical toasted caramel on the tongue.
I found good examples of what I believe is an old Italian grape Bonarda, from Lurton and Chakana.
Trumpeter, Malbec/Syrah, Bodega La Rural,
Don Nicanor, Cab/Malbec/Merlot, Niento Senetiner,
Crios, Syrah/Bonarda, Dominio del Plata,
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cocodrilo by Paul Hobbs,
Cabernet Sauvignon, Finca Sophenia,
Merlot, Finca Sophenia Altosur,
Merlot, Niente Senetiner Reserva,
Johannisberg Riesling, Luigi Bosca,
Pino Gris, Lurton
Montchenot, Bodegas López
Argentine Malbec is known for spicy white pepper, violets, and jammy fruit. It's fresh, food-friendly and doesn't require aging. Very different from Bordeaux- or US-grown Malbec.
Here are some Argentine Malbecs to try:
***Cobus, made by Paul Hobbs, the California winemaker -- classic, balanced
***Achaval Ferrer from Finca Altamira -- lush
Terrazas Gran Riserva
Marcus Gran Reserva
Bodegas Salentein and Bodega El Portillo, both in Mendoza
Visit the wine shop, Terroir, in Buenos Aires, and do a tasting.
Weinert has received some good reviews; Trapiche Iscay is quite expensive.
You might also try Terre Rosa, a vineyard in Mendoza owned by Patrick Campbell of Laurel Glen Vineyards in Sonoma. Cab-Malbec and Malbec.
Sorry, haven't tried any of these three recs.
Another tip: Check out Susana Balbo. Good winemaker, excellent Malbec and her Torrontes, white wine, is quite good and a good buy.
Have fun, Yago Homo! Report back. Envy you your trip.
Malbec is a full-bodied red wine much closer to cabernet on the "rich" end of the spectrum, than, say, beaujolais on the lighter end of the spectrum. It's not overly spicy and probably reminds me most of cabernet and/or merlot in overall flavor and texture, and may be blended with same.
It's quite food-friendl and not overly tannic. Ages reasonably well but can be drank within a few years of release... I once took a single bottle of Catena Malbec to Hubert Keller's place in San Francisco (Fleur de Lys) and drank it with the entire meal... A great under-appreciated wine and good value that has really found tremendous matching terroir in Argentina. IMO, much as zinfandel reaches tremendous heights in California, Malbec does in Argentina.