Not just Malbec – The other wines of Argentina

With current temperatures fluctuating from lows of 20’C and highs of 37’C, the wine region of Mendoza, Argentina - at this time of year, moving out of midsummer - seems a great escape from the rain and sleeting snow.

 

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 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 from Argentina.

The fascination and folderol and very succesful hype around World Malbec Day has eclipsed the just as interesting and often exceptional white wines Argentina produces.  And - just as decisively - it has overshadowed the other amazing red wines Argentina produces.

 

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) $8.25.  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.

 

Nowhere near as widely respected as Malbec (…and still waiting for its own day!) Torrontes is the most distinctly native white wine grape of Argentina.  Reportedly a cross of the lowly, rustic Mission grape Criolla Chica with the grandmother of all wine grapes Muscat of Alexandria, Torrontes can produce intensely interesting and high-toned aromatic white wines that can be astonishingly good.  First tasters often  compare this white to a dry Gewurztraminer!

The Circus line of wines come from the renowned Mendoza winery Bodegas Escorihuela who make the outrageously succesful 1884 Malbec (770925) $16.30. Circus Torrontes (564895) $10.99 is a richly aromatic white, overflowing with lime and ginger and rose petal aromas. That same fandango of flavours carry through onto the tongue.  Taste this misunderstood gem to really appreciate the quality to price ratio!

Severely overlooked for Malbec, Argentina’s Bonarda appears to be related to Charbono – a wine grape occasionally found in California. Traditionally a juicy, sappy, lighter bodied red wine, it is being taken more seriously by curious winemakers in both California and Argentina.

Valle Las Acequias Bonarda (191833) $18.60 sets a benchmark for this seductively fruity red with a tart and spicy, peppery edge of vigorous tannins and a woodsy, earthy undercurrent of flavour wrapping up the finish.

 

Argentina’s Syrah can ripen early, requiring more attention from busy winemakers. However, some vineyards take the trouble to slow the ripening of their Syrah, with overhead trellis systems to allow foliage to filter the sunlight, slowing the ripening of the grapes.

Grown in high altitude vineyards in the Agrelo district of Mendoza 2011 Decero Syrah $24.10 (157396) flaunts juicy red fruit aromas, dark and dusty berry fruit and spicy flavours. After being aged in French oak barrels 14 months there’s an abundance of dark chocolate and coffee complexity in the tantalizing and lingering finish.

 

Led by Nicolas Catena, winemaking grape growers in Mendoza have spent twenty years planting vines at ever higher altitudes to achieve the combination of intense sunlight to ripen the grapes and cool temperatures to preserve acidity and freshness.

Catena Mountain Vines Chardonnay (427856) $24.85 was matured for 10 months on its yeast for creaminess. Oodles of apple, lemon, lime, mushroom, toast and a hint of honeyed apple blossom linger on the tongue.

 

Zuccardi’s Q wines are named for the practice of marking with a  ‘Q’ – for ‘Quality’- the best vats and barrels. These grapes come from micro-regions in the Uco Valley and selected old vineyards. Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon (550228) $25.20 opens with a black cherry and sweet blackcurrant bouquet. The flavor profile is all berry fruit – boysenberry, black cherry and

ripe red plum blend with hints of oak, black pepper and black and red currants. 

 

Although the theme country of the Vancouver International Wine Festival taking place around Vancouver February 20-28, 2016 is Italy, there will be a handful of Argentina’s wineries pouring their treasures there, including Domaine Bousquet, Finca Decero, Bodega Colome, Bodega Amalaya and Bodegas Salentein.

 

Visit vanwinefest.ca for details and keep that last week of February open to attend!  Maybe see you there?

 

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