Every year, a group of professional wine tasters assess most of the Argentina wine production, in order to rate and catalogue them in a guide that is preparing its ninth issue in these days: “Vinos de Argentina, La Guía Austral Spectator” (Wines of Argentina, Austral Spectator Guide). As co-author since last year, I anticipate some personal conclusions after tasting a thousand of wines within the past two months.
Medium body: wine drinkers will remember that five years ago, a good wine had to be dark as night, dense as oil, and lingering on the palate as varnish. However, something happened between 2009 and 2011, and the extravagant style lost ground to medium-bodied and jovial red wines without excessive concentrations. One of the words we use most to describe wines this year is “medium body”.
Erratic Malbec: on the one hand, because it is the most planted variety -31 thousand hectares- and on the other, because it is commercially overexploited. Today, under the tag of Malbec, there is a vast spectrum of red wines in the market. There are those offering ripe plum and fleshy tannins, and others displaying balsamic and vegetable aromas, with tannic palates, of high or low acidity. It seems that the larger Malbec group becomes, the less perceptible its features are, and lesser predictable the purchasing choice is. Is it time to catalogue Malbec by styles and origins?
Typical Cabernet: contrary to Malbec, Cabernet offers two very different profiles: those being fruity and light, and those with vegetable, tannic, and rather rustic character. In any case, they are more easily distinguishable in the crowds of reds because of their austere character and rich finish in the mouth. Therefore, buying an unknown Cabernet entails a safer investment regarding the wine found once the bottle is uncorked. This happens regardless of prices and origins.
Syrah to get excited: wine lovers will find in Syrah the best option to renew the palate. Chameleonic, this red offers aromatic and sober products, with fruity and flashy notes flaunting exotic and constant scents. Nonetheless, according to winemakers, the best exponents of each style are those from 2010 and 2011 vintages, within all price ranges.
Less oaky: in Argentine wines, oak has been losing ground for the past few years. This is because oak skyrocketed, and both critics and consumers started to give them bad reviews. Among the thousands of tasted wines, there are few presenting noticeable oak aromas, whereas most of aged reds are made of a sophisticated proportion without overusing holm oak. The palate is very grateful for it.
Fresh and aromatic Chardonnay: it is very interesting to note an incredible freshness in 2010 and 2011 Chardonnay wines, which reached acidity without losing elegance. This is achieved by means of a more refined proportion of oak aging -for example, 30% of the wine- with a lesser use of malolactic fermentation that makes wines more unctuous. The result: gastronomic wines, ideal to pair with good cuisine, at affordable prices.
The richest Sauvignon blancs are not made in Argentina, We must admit it. However, this does not mean that there are no affordable Sauvignons that, as white wines of the year -referring to 2011 and 2012 vintage- are perfect for the Argentine gastronomy. These exponents offer aromatic fruit and vegetable, with austere flavors, granting dishes importance. A detail worthy to remember: in the case of this varietal wine, expensive does not mean better.
Author: Joaquín Hidalgo