Argentine Wines 101 and Q&A Master Thread

Discussion in 'Argentina' started by Gaucho, Feb 20, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Gaucho
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    Argentina is one of the worlds largest wine producing countries, a fact that is still relatively unknown to many visitors that arrive, even to those with a specific interest in wine.

    There are multiple regions producing wine, but for the wine aficionado there are three principal areas of interest. Mendoza (in Central Argentina), Patagonia (to the South), and Salta (Northern Argentina).

    Argentina´s premiere wine region is Mendoza, a province found just to the right of the Andes mountain-range. Mendoza is the first region that comes to mind when talking about wines from Argentina, much like California and/or Napa Valley comes to mind first when thinking of wines in the USA. Mendoza gets little rainfall, and there is ample usage of ancient man-made irrigation channels (mostly concentrated around the older regions of wine country), and new high-tech computer controlled drip irrigation in the newer developments of the Valle de Uco Region.

    To the north of Mendoza, you have various provinces producing wines... the most important being Salta (followed perhaps by San Juan). Both provinces are growing in their production of quality wines that are slowly catching up to Mendoza in their incursion of foreign markets. Salta is know for its high altitude wines, and also for the indigenous grape varietal Torrontes (more on grapes & wines styles in posts below). The Valles Calchaquies (Valleys of Calchaqui) offer amazing landscapes, making Salta an ideal destination if you want to combine breathtaking views with some great wines.

    If you head south, towards Patagonia, many wine lovers will be surprised. Patagonia is known for its natural beauty, wildlife, excellent fishing & hunting. Alas, its now making itself a big name for wines. Two provinces are at the forefront of the Patagonian wine movement, Rio Negro and Neuquen. Recently, Chubut has joined in with what some are calling promising Ice Wines.
     
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  2. Gaucho
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    Argentina is known for its Malbec. This grape, of French (Bordeaux) heritage has found its “home” in Argentina, where it has thrived and gained true international recognition and acclaim. Wine Gurus from all over the world have praised Argentine Malbec as the best of its kind, including Robert Parker Jr. who has been quoted as saying that Malbec is soon to be accepted as one of the great wines of the world thanks to the expression this grape has produced in various regions of Argentina.

    Apart from Malbec, Argentina also produces some very interesting and high quality Cabernet Sauvignons. Blends are the next area of interest, from the staple “Mendoza style blend” of Cabernet/Malbec/Merlot to various Bordeaux inspired blends, there are styles and price ranges to suit everybody. One promising grape that is showing promise is Bonarda. This lesser known grape is identified with Italy, but has always been widely produced in Argentina.

    In the white wines department, Torrontes is the white varietal somewhat equivalent of Malbec. Under this name, its related almost exclusively to Argentina. A textbook Torrontes will appear floral (almost sweet) to the nose, but should be bone-dry once you taste it. Apart from Torrontes, most of the best Chardonnay grapes in the country are used for the production of sparkling wines. Some higher end cuvees are made following a strict Champenoise methodology, and are a very pleasant surprise to those that have never tasted sparklers from Argentina.

    Argentina also produces some very interesting Shiraz (known here as Syrah), Merlot, Cabernet Franc (some very old vines make some superb high-end CFs), and blends thereof. The elusive (& difficult to grow) Pinot Noir is also grown, although high quality examples of this varietal are not easy to find.
     
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  3. Gaucho
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    Some lesser known varietals are also grown in Argentina, creating some very interesting (and mostly not exported) wine labels. Some of these varietals include: Barbera, Sangiovese, Tocai Friulano, Viognier, and Bonarda. Some examples:

    - Escorihuela Gascon PP Barbera
    - Benegas Sangiovese
    - Escorihuela Viognier
    - Trapiche Fond de Cave Bonarda Reserva
    - Nieto Senetiner Reserva Bonarda

    For those looking for dessert wines, its useful to know that almost all white dessert wines are late harvest and do not have botrytis as part of their production process. Most of Argentina´s wine country is rather dry, so for the very few botrytis wines available conditions must be created artificially. The best know example of a botrytis dessert wine is the Vin Doux Naturelle made by Rutini.

    - Rutini in Doux Naturelle
    - Afincado Petite Menseng

    In the red dessert wine field, there are many examples of fortified wines, many of which are malbec based. Very few Passito style wines are available, the best perhaps being the Achaval Ferrer Dolce (though this is produced in incredibly small numbers and is rather expensive).

    - Angel Mendoza Oportuno
    - Achaval Ferrer Dolce
    - Bianchi Stradivarius Porto de Magoas
     
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  4. Gaucho
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    Below is a shortlist of some producers I would recommend looking out for, followed by a selection of what I consider to be the highlights of each portfolio of labels:

    Bodega Benegas (Mendoza)
    - best known for its Bordeaux Blends & super-old vine Cabernet Franc
    - makes an excellent Sangiovese & Syrah
    - best wines made under the Benegas Lynch Brand (Meritage)
    - also has a couple of excellent QPR everyday wines (Don Tiburcio, Juan Benegas)

    Escorihuela Gascon (Mendoza)
    - Syrah-Cabernet blend, excellent high-end Barbera
    - very good QPR whites (Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and dry Tocai)
    - top of the line labels made under Miguel Escorihuela Gascon labels

    Familia Zuccardi (Mendoza)
    - Zeta Tempranillo-Malbec (icon wine of this producer)
    - Malamado Fortified Malbec (Port style)

    San Pedro de Yacochuya (Salta)
    - San Pedro Torrontes (white wine)
    - Yacochuya Rolland (very powerful high altitude malbec)

    Bodegas Catena Zapata (Mendoza)
    - Catena Zapata Estiba Reservada (cabernet based blend)
    - Angelica Zapata Malbec Alta
    - Angelica Zapata Chardonnay Alta
    - DV Catena Cabernet-Cabernet

    Rutini Wines – Bodega La Rural (Mendoza)
    - Antologia Series (various varietals & blends)
    - Felipe Rutini (Bordeaux blend)
    - Vin Doux Naturelle (Sauternes style dessert wine)
    - QPR Coleccion Cabernet-Malbec

    Trapiche (Mendoza)
    - Medalla Blend (cabernet malbec merlot blend)
    - Iscay (merlot malbec blend)

    Finca Las Moras (San Juan)
    - Mora Negra (bonarda malbec blend)
     
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  5. Gaucho
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    (reserved for additional info)
     
  6. Gaucho
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    more to come here....
     
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  7. rkt10
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    Alex, which, in your opinion, is the "King" of Malbecs, right now? And at what price range?
     
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  8. Tenmoc
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    Alex. Would you be able to speak on which wines are not exported to the US and which are? ie, "Look to bring these home with you when you visit, but these others you should find there"
     
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  9. Gaucho
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    Trick question.... it similar to being asked what is the best California Cabernet at any given time. There are simply too many great wines to pick from. However, to address your question, here is a list of wines that I view as top performers in their price class.

    a) Entry Level Malbecs (up to US$17 retail per bottle)

    - Juan Benegas Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Calafate Gran Reserva Malbec (Patagonia)
    - Escorihuela Gascon Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Ernesto Catena Animal Malbec Organico (Mendoza)

    b) Mid Tier Malbecs (up to US$45 retail per bottle)

    - Ricominciare Altisimo Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Rutini Colleccion Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Colome Estate Malbec (Salta)
    - Kooch Malbec (Patagonia)
    - Benegas Estate Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Escorihuela Gascon Pequenias Producciones Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Noemia A Lisa (Patagonia)
    - Durigutti Reserva Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Lamadrid Gran Reserva Malbec (Mendoza)

    c) Premium Malbecs (up to US$100 retail per bottle)

    - Matilde Lamadrid Single Vineyard Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Miguel Escorihuela Gascon Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Angelica Zapata Malbec Alta (Mendoza)
    - Rutini Antologia Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Adrianna Catena El Enemigo Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Noemia J. Alberto Malbec (Patagonia)
    - Yacochuya Rolland (Salta)
    - Val de Flores Malbec (Mendoza)

    d) High-end Malbecs (more than US$100 retail per bottle)

    - Rutini Apartado Gran Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Trapiche Manos (Mendoza)
    - Escorihuela Gascon DON Malbec (Mendoza)
    - Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino (Mendoza)
    - Noemia Malbec (Patagonia)
     
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  10. Gaucho
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    Being on top of whats exported to the US (and what is not) is one of the key aspects of my business. Folks that come down to EZE usually want to concentrate on wines that they will not be able to get back home. The above list is a mix of both categories.... also, the labels available in the US market change from time to time, importers change, wineries get bought and sold, so this is a dynamic process. The bottom line is that for those wanting the every-day wines, these will usually be available in the US with a certain degree of ease.... as you move up the quality ladder, the higher end wines become (as a general rule, there are some exceptions) more difficult to obtain.
     
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  11. jbcarioca
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    Amancaya is often available here in Brazil and is also in several good restaurants. I notice that you have several catena Zapata wines on your list but not this one. What is your view of it? I should admit that I like it very much.
     
  12. Lyssa
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    Question. I will be in BsAs this summer and want to do a weekend trip to Mendoza. Do you recomend a specific tour or tour company? Or are there specific wineries that I should make sure are on whatever tour I book? TIA!
     
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  13. Tenmoc
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    As a follow up to Lyssa's question do you know if Finca Las Moras in San Juan does tours and tastings?
     
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  14. Gaucho
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    Amancaya.... isnt that the entry level label of the Catena-Rotschild series of wines...?
     
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  15. Gaucho
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    Yes.... they sure do. Let me know if you need help.
     
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  16. jbcarioca
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    Yes, it is. I just know nothing about it other than that it is often available in Brazil in restaurants at decent prices (to the extent wine prices here are ever decent:()
     
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  17. Gaucho
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    Brazil is indeed tough with wine prices. Im not a huge fan of the Caro wines... mind you, they are well made but I find they suffer from a type of personality disorder.
     
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  18. jbcarioca
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    Have you any recommendations from you have seen in Rio? Sorry to pester you...:eek:
     
  19. Gaucho
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    In Rio, I understand that the likes of Pulenta Estate, Salentein and LVMH have decent distribution. Some stuff from Colome and Hormigas will also come up from time to time. For the value for money stuff, look out for the La Flor de Pulenta and the Finca el Portillo from Salentein. From LVMH, I think the Altos del Plata will be a good bet in their price segment.
     
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  20. Gaucho
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    Have you checked with Mistral, Grand Cru and Terroir...? I understand these importers all serve the Rio area... suggest you Google them and have them tell you how they can supply you with Argentine Juice.
     
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  21. jbcarioca
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    Grand Cru has an outlet in my neighborhood. Terrior I see on the net. So I'll look more carefully now that I have some ideas. Thanks very much.
     
  22. Jim
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    I just wanted to drop in and see where the heck this thread was hiding.....
     
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  23. Gaucho
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    So now that you´ve found it... tell us what your favorite Argentine wines are...?

    And please, do support us with the quest to get an Argentina forum.... you are not alone in losing threads because of the current mess... gracias !!
     
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  24. Gaucho
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    Grand Cru are very strong in Brazil... the bad news is that their markups are scary. If you are based in Rio, I will tell you that I have plenty of clients that find good airfares to AEP/EZE and come down for 1 night just to stock up on wines... the experience is that Rio customs is quite easy going with wines, its the bozos at GRU that are a pain in the ass and will duty every drop of grapejuice... grrrrrrr
     
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  25. jbcarioca
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    Officially you're still allowed 15 litres of wine duty free when you return to Brazil. That is probably due to change. i bring back a case every time:) I travel and have never had a question. I should come see you and stock up on some of yours. I can bring you your Scotch then.
     

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