Argentina … Not just Malbec!

  • Apr. 5, 2018 1:30 p.m.

Malbec World Day was invented and proclaimed by the marketing agency of Wines Of Argentina. The first occurrence was April 17, 2011 and it is now celebrated every year in various cities throughout the world.

As successful and charming as it is, Malbec is not the only wine grape grown in Argentina. Take a poke around the shelves of your favourite wine store for other offerings.

Mix the richness of sun ripened Chardonnay with the zing of early picked Chenin Blanc and what you might come up with is Pampas del Sur Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc (621334) $9.99. Sassy and affordably fresh and fruity, there’s a medley of sweet green melon and tropical fruit aromas and flavours over lemon and grapefruit notes.

An entirely different take on Argentina’s best-known red, Dona Paula Malbec Rosé (20195) $10.99 is made from grapes grown at their El Alto Estate in Mendoza near Luján de Cuyo. At an altitude of 1000 metres above sea level the nights are cool and the resulting grapes are full of refreshing natural acidity. Bright aromas and flavours of lemons and peaches slide through watermelon and strawberry before finishing with subtle blueberry notes.

Argentina’s most highly rated Malbec wines come from Mendoza’s high-altitude wine regions – Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley – in the foothills of the Andes mountains between 2,800 and 5,000 feet above sea level.

Bargain priced in its 1 Litre sized bottle Finca Los Primos Malbec (473843) $15.99 is made from grapes grown in the San Rafael area of Mendoza in the Doña Elsa vineyard in the village of Rama Caída. Rich blackberry and black cherry flavours overwhelm the taste buds, with a twist of peppery liquorice in the finish.

There’s no Malbec in Norton Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (201152) $17.75! It comes from especially selected Lujan de Cuyo-grown grapes off vines that are all over 30 years old. The intensity and quality of this exceptional red wine far exceeds the price. Red, blue and black berry fruit flavours soar over a base of ripe, spicy tannins. Mint, sage, dark chocolate and molasses notes round out the finish.

Situated in the Calchaqui Valley in the north-west of Argentina, Cafayate is the best-known wine region in Argentina outside of Mendoza. Around 1700 metres above sea level, thinner air allows the bright sun to help produce grapes with thick protective skins. As most of the aromas and flavours come from the skins of wine grapes, the resulting Cafayate grapes make intense wines.

Much as Malbec is Argentina’s lead red wine, Torrontes is by far Argentina’s best known white. But in both the red and white wine categories Argentina produces much more than these two primary varieties.

Under the direction of Lucía Romero Marcuzzi, winemaker Francisco ‘Paco’ Puga works with famed US wine consultant Paul Hobbs to produce sizzling wines like Bodegas El Porvenir Laborum Torrontes (173526) $23.49. A surprisingly full-bodied version of Argentina’s signature and seductively aromatic white wine, with aromas of elderberries and roses up front and in the finish. The rich flavours are more reminiscent of apricot, peach, lemon and grapefruit.

In 1999, after working more than 20 years as a consultant winemaker for national and international wineries, legendary Argentine winemaker Susana Balbo decided to build her eponymous winery in the heart of Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza. Her son, Jose, and daughter, Ana joined her family-run enterprise 10 years later.

A blend of 94 per cent Malbec and 6 per cent Petit Verdot, Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2013 (450395) $35.99 is made from grapes grown 1000 metres above sea level in Mendoza’s Lujan de Cuyo. This is a dense and darkly fruited red oozing aromas and flavours of ripe plums, blue and black berries with afternotes of peppery vanilla and sweet black liquorice.

Once quite ‘rustic’, the wines of Argentina are now world-class. With a growing focus on the international market and a reinvented commitment to destination wine tourism, we will be hearing more from Argentina in the coming years. Try to keep up!

Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com

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