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The Cellar: Discoveries from Argentina

August 17, 2011 - by Steffen Rasch

Argentineans love their wine. In fact, they love their wine so much that a few decades ago when consumption was at its highest Argentineans drank a mind-boggling 26 gallons of wine per year (compared to American’s less than 2 gallons per year). More interestingly, since the mid-1990s the country has developed a fine wine industry for the export marked Malbec leading the way. With interesting indigenous varietals and rapidly expanding plantings of international favorites such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon don’t be surprised to see more Argentinean wines on the shelves in the future.

2010 La Yunta Torrontés

Famatina Valley, La Rioja Famatina Valley is located in the wine region of La Rioja north of Mendoza (not to be confused with Rioja in Spain). The 50 mile long desert valley has a unique micro-climate with warm sunny days and very cool nights. With the Andes’ constant supply of ground water for irrigation, this type of climate is ideally suited for growing premier grapes. Among the grapes that thrive here is the indigenous white varietal Torrontés, which make a light, perfumed and sometimes spicy wine. La Yunta is a delicious fresh summer wine and at around USD 10 a great introduction to Torrontés. There is no way you will confuse this wine with another white varietal. On the nose Torrontés is distinctly perfumed, but not in a bad way – I am talking about the expensive stuff. I would recommend buying it just so you could stick your nose in it. On the palate it is crisp and clean displaying citrus and tropical fruit notes with nice acidity.

2010 Don Rodolfo Tannat, Cafayate Valley, Salta

Tannat is historically one of the leading grapes in southwest France but like most other grapes, it has found its way to vineyards across the new world. Interestingly the grape seems to have made a special home for itself in South America; Uruguay and Argentina specifically. Tannat makes robust, deeply colored, long-lived wines often described as chewy and high in tannins. Because of this it is often blended with softer varietals such as Merlot or Malbec. If you want to get real up close and personal with Tannat I recommend you try a 100% Tannat, like the one from Don Rodolfo. These grapes are sourced from 20 year old vines located at 6,000 feet in Cafayate Valley in northwestern Argentina. The wine has aged 8 months in stainless steel and 2 months in bottle prior to being released – no oak influences here. This is a medium bodied wine with a nice tannic grip. It displays nice sour cherries before being taken over by darker fruit and bitter chocolate. This lengthy wine needs 2 hours of aeration. Quite the experience for around $10.

2009 Viña Las Perdices Malbec Mendoza

Malbec is the source of Argentina’s best red wines. Popular with American consumers, Malbec makes wines that are soft, rich and juicy, often displaying delicious blackberries and sometimes even chocolate notes. The region in Argentina that is most famous for producing quality Malbecs is Mendoza, where vineyards are planted at some of the highest altitudes in the world.. Las Perdices winery was founded by Spanish immigrant Juan Muñoz López in 1952. He currently runs the operation with his wife Rosario, sons Nicolas and Carlos, and daughter Estela – a true family business. The López family only produced 6,000 cases of their 2009 Malbec which saw 8 months in oak making it a smooth and soft wine. It displays dark fruits, chocolate and hints of oak on the nose. On the palate the wine displays delicious black cherries and dark chocolate. The alcohol spikes a little bit on the finish, however with food this is a nice Malbec – great with grilled meat dishes.

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