The new critic of The Wine Advocate and successor to Jay Miller, the British Neal Martin (41 years old) came to Mendoza and visited wineries in Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley where he met owners and winemakers and fully discussed with them the wines on this side of the globe. This is the first time the critic of Robert Parker’s publication, The Wine Advocate, tastes Argentine wines in the field; its first official tasting organized by Wines of Argentina took place two months ago in London.
This time, Martin wanted to look for “someone independent” to show him around Mendoza and contacted Andrés Rosberg, president of Asociación Argentina de Sommeliers (Argentinian Association of Sommeliers). Wines of Argentina also helped him with the logistics and scheduled his tastings.
In each winery he tried to taste all the wines. In total, between the samples he tasted in Argentina and in London, Martin tried 1,200 wines.
Changes in Argentina
Martin listened carefully to the winemakers who told him about the changes that taking place in the country. “Some of them are cutting down on oak or picking up grapes earlier. I talked to experienced winemakers and they know they do not have a ‘magic formula’, they keep looking to the future,” he confided.
Besides, he pointed out that this visit changed his mind about Bonarda and Torrontés. “I tasted some Bonardas that I really liked, especially for blending with Malbec. I also found some very interesting Torrontés wines.”
Martin assured that he does not look at the price of a wine before tasting it. “I tasted wines ranging from USD 5 to USD 300 per bottle. I think there are some very good wines in the USD 10 to 25 range. Most of them are fairly priced, but some icon wines fall short, but this happens in many countries.”
Oak and alcohol, the eternal debate
Though the critic claims not to be “100% anti new oak barrel”, he does question it. “Winemakers should think if new oak benefits their wines and if they need to use it in the same way every year. If I notice that a winemaker places a wine 24 months in new oak barrels every year, I will definitely ask him why. When you taste as many wines as I do, it is frustrating because if all the wine have new oak, they are not interesting anymore. I see this is changing in Argentina.” He said that the country “boast some interesting terrois that should express themselves as best as possible.”
As regards freshness and acidity, Argentina might not get good reviews. “Freshness is what makes you want to have another glass. Over here, some wines have a bit of a sweet finish, but I see you are already working on achieving better acidity and freshness.”