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High scoring for Argentine wines from Stephen Tanzer

March 25, 2014 by Laura Saieg | in Awards, News

In this opportunity, the list surprised with the best scoring (95+) for a white wine. Moreover, in his report, Tanzer spotlighted the quality of blends and some varieties that he described as “oddballs” for Argentina. Beyond this, the journalist warned about the sameness of Malbecs.

As every year, wineries, distributers, and importers wait eagerly for the results of the Stephen Tanzer’s tastings, the wine journalist of the International Wine Cellar.

The star was “2010 Chardonnay White Bones Adrianna Vineyard Mendoza”, a white wine from Catena Zapata winery, placed at the top of the list with 95+. Downwards, it was followed by recognized wineries such as Achaval Ferrer, Viña Cobos, Terrazas de Los Andes. (SEE THE LIST BELOW)

Some of his assessments

In his report, published this month, the journalist apart from announcing the results, he also gave some assessments to understand more the scoring and characteristics of each wine, according to the vintages.

In this respect, at the beginning he mentioned that people should not make vintage generalizations, because Argentina is a huge wine country with over a thousand miles from Salta in the north to the main wine-producing areas of Patagonia in the extreme south. However, Tanzer mentioned the categorization of recent vintages in the most important Mendoza region by Roberto de la Mota:

Warmer years: 2004, 2006, 2009.

Cooler years: 2005, 2007 (fresh and rainy), 2008 (frost at the end of the ripening period affected

some cabs) 2010, and probably 2013

In between: 2012 and probably 2011.

This way, De la Mota noted that some American tasters are quite fond of the 2009s for their concentration, size, fleshiness, and sweet tannins. Europeans are more likely to prefer 2010, 2008 and 2007, which generally show fresh fruit with better natural acidity. In this respect, Tanzer said, “I’m with the Europeans here, as I tend to prefer the cooler years in Argentina, as the fruit can ripen more slowly and gain in aromatic perfume without excessive dehydration or loss of acidity.”

On the other hand, the International Wine Cellar’s journalist stressed that there is an increasing specificity of terroir. “One of the most exciting developments in Argentine wine in recent years has been the ongoing discovery-and exploitation-of outstanding terroirs, and, more important, the matching of the right varieties-and clones-to these favored spots.”

According to consulting winemaker Alberto Antonini, who has numerous clients in Argentina (not to mention Italy, the U.S. and elsewhere), in just the past half dozen years there has been great progress in the knowledge base of both macro and micro terroirs. According to this winemaker, “the best wines being made today show pure and intriguing flavors from specific areas which were essentially unknown-or at least not defined-just a few short years ago.”

As Tanzer pointed out in his report, “Antonini, who prefers working with malbec over cabernet sauvignon (he believes that Mendoza’s high dry desert can produce highly aromatic, concentrated cabernet sauvignon but that these wines are rarely velvety and refined like the top cabernets from elsewhere and often betray a rustic dry edge). Besides, Antonini considers 2012 to be an outstanding year for malbec, with the top wines showing purity, elegance, complexity, and vibrancy, not to mention considerable aging potential.”

By the way, Tanzer underlined: “My early look at 2013 suggests that it’s a potentially excellent vintage, with cool early autumn weather slowing down the ripening at the end of the season and resulting in wines with strong natural acidity and relatively low alcohol. By most early reports, 2013 produced very fresh whites (I tasted a number of these wines for this review) and highly successful malbecs with smooth, ripe tannins. This vintage marks a return to form for the Cafayate Valley in Salta, much of which was plagued by heavy summer rainfall in 2012. The new vintage has produced numerous wines with much more intensity than the 2012s. I should also note that in Mendoza, I generally prefer the 2012 reds to the 2011s.”

Antonini may yet prove to be correct that the very best sites are capable of making complete malbec wines that combine concentration, complexity, structure, and class. But this winter, Tanzer found himself gravitating toward malbecs blended not just with cabernet sauvignon but with cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot and even syrah. According to the journalist, when used cleverly, these other varieties added elements malbec needed: aromatic lift, earth tones, red fruits, inner-mouth tension, glossier texture, and so on.

And beyond these blends, some of the most interesting new releases the journalist tried from Argentina this year were “relative oddballs” for Argentina, such as semillon, cabernet franc and petit verdot. “I also ran across some excellent sparkling wines.”

There are still great wines with excellent value for money

According to Tanzer, in his annual tasting of the new releases from Argentina, he discovered incredible values. However, he commented, “I must report that tasting hundreds of malbec bottlings each year is becoming harder work. Argentina continues to flood the U.S. markets with lookalike Mendoza malbecs, much as New Zealand is doing with cookie-cutter sauvignon blancs from Marlborough. These two categories have become hugely successful brand names but there can be a great sameness to the wines. There’s also something of a race to the bottom going on, as producers and their importers are under constant pressure to meet certain price points. The result: a staggering number of choices for consumers, a lot of them not very interesting. But if you choose well, you can drink terrific wine at very affordable prices, and at the level of the top producers, there are world-class wines to be found.”

Nonetheless, the expert pointed out: “Happily, conditions in recent vintages have been conducive to making wines with more energy, and producers today are widely attempting to protect the purity of their wines by avoiding working with overripe grapes and overusing new oak.”

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