Discover the Wines of Argentina Tasting – My Picks

Did you know that Argentina’s history of wine making dates back to the 16th century, and with this 300 years of wine making experience are still viewed as New World wine making? Most of the wine was for internal consumption, but in the last 20 years Argentina’s wine exports have continued to grow. Today many people talk about Malbec wine from Argentina as being a favourite red. Argentina’s signature red grape, Malbec surely has made it’s name around the world. Originally a Bordeaux blending grape, this grape has found the perfect place in the world to express itself in Mendoza, Argentina. Hot days from the high elevation and cool nights from the Andes Mountains helping the grapes reach full fruit maturity without losing it’s acidity.

On September 29, 2011, The Wines of Argentina hosted a tasting of some of their wines here in Vancouver at the Sutton Place Hotel.  I tasted as many red, white, and sparkling wines as I could for you, and here are my top picks.

Malbecs

Santa Ana Homage Malbec 2010

Let’s start with the Malbecs as most people attending did so just because of the range of Malbecs that they can try.

  • Bodega Luigi Bosca / Familia Arizu Reserva Malbec 2008. Medium ruby in colour with coffee and cherries on the nose.  More coffee and cherries on the palate along with vanilla and some smokiness. Medium acidity and soft tannins.
  • Bodega Septima Dia Malbec 2009. Medium ruby.  Ripe cherries and vanilla aromas.  Medium body with soft mouthfeel. Ripe cherries and apple flavours with a very dry finish.
  • Bodegas Santa Ana Homage Malbec 2010. This is my overall favourite red wine of the night!  Light ruby in the glass.  Interesting nose with citrus, cloves, cherry and vanilla. Very fruity with cherry and cloves on the palate.  Round full bodied with long length.
  • Finca La Chamiza Polo Amateur Malbec 2011. This is still quite a young winery, being founded in 2003, but producing some very nice wines already. This wine was pale ruby  in colour with a smoky raspberry nose. Light body with more smoke and raspberry flavour.  An easy to drink Malbec on it’s own.
  • Finca La Chamiza Legend of Polo Malbec 2009. This is their top Malbec and it shows.  This wine has a medium ruby colour, darker than the Polo Amateur.  Smoky dark fruit nose.  Very full flavoured with vanilla, cherries and smoke.  Medium tannins that help support the fruit and give the wine nice structure.
  • Finca Las Moras Intis Malbec 2010. This wine was the surprise wine of the evening.  It is priced at $8.99, and over delivers. Pale ruby colour.  Light aromas of grilled sausage and dark fruit. Medium plus body with medium acidity.  Vanilla, cherry, raspberry and sausage flavours all together. Lots of nice flavours.  Dry with soft tannins.
  • Finca Las Moras Reserva Malbec 2007. Medium ruby in the glass with a nice smoky nose. Very fruity and full bodied.  Some smokiness also on the palate.  Soft mouthfeel.

Torrontes

Torrontes is the other signature grape of Argentina.  This one is a white grape, and quite aromatic.  If you like Viognier or Gewurztraminer, you should like, and try, Torrontes.

  • Trivento Amado Sur Torrontes Viognier Chardonnay blend 2010

    Bodega Vistalba Tomero Torrontes 2010. This was my favourite Torrontes of the evening. Medium lemon in colour . Nice herbal, lemon and floweriness on the nose. Lots of flavour of citrus and pine needles.  Medium body with medium length. Top quality.

  • Makia Torrontes 2011. The Makia winery combines Italian know-how and wine making style with the terroir of the Uco Valley in Argentina. The Torrontes was different from other Torrontes I have tasted.  It was pale lemon in the glass with an orangy nose.  Round and very fruity. Tropical fruit.  Light acidity.
  • Trivento Bodegas y Vinedos Amado Sur Torrontes/Viognier/Chardonnay 2010. This wine is a blend with 75% of the wine being made from the Torrontes grape and 15% with another aromatic grape, Viognier, and the remaining 10% with Chardonnay. This was an exciting and refreshing wine for me.  Light flower and tropical fruit nose.  High acidity and medium minus body.  Citrus and slight herbal flavours. In another article I covered the Amado Sur Malbec/Bonarda/Syrah, which I also quite liked. Read it here.
  • Vina Las Perdices Torrontes 2011. Pale lemon in colour.  Very flowery nose.  Light body with a round mouth feel.  Flowers, citrus, spice upfront, with herbal mid palate.  This is an easy sipper.

Anything But Torrontes (or Malbec)

  • Urraca Chardonnay 2009 on ice

    Vinedos Urraca Chardonnay 2009. This is a very elegant wine that reminds you of a French Mersault. This wine is barrel aged but the oak does not overpower the wine.  Medium lemon in colour.  Nice tropical fruit and vanilla on the nose.  Medium plus body with citrus, spice and vanilla flavours.  Well balanced with a long finish.

  • Bodega Vistalba Tomero Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. Light ruby in colour.  Dark chocolate, leather and earthiness on the nose. Vanilla, dark chocolate, coffee and cherry flavours.  Dry with a light body and medium length.  Not all Cabs have to be heavy, extracted wines.  This one is lighter bodied and is a pleasure to drink.
  • Finca Las Moras Reserva Tannat 2008. Tannat is grape that you more associate with France or Uruguay.  But Finca Las Moras has produced a very nice Tannat. Deep garnet in the glass.  Light nose with aromas of dark fruit and vanilla.  Full body with lots of vanilla and kirsch cherry flavours.  Dry with medium tannins and medium length.
  • Mapema Sauvignon Blanc 2010. I was told that the wine maker for Mapema is Sr. Pepe Galante, who was previously a wine maker at Catena. This wine was watery lemon in colour. Herbal nose.  Light body with medium acidity, but still had a round mouth feel.  Light herbal, tropical fruit and lime flavours.  Nice.
  • Pascual Toso Brut NV. This is a non-vintage sparkling wine made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. Light lemon in the glass. Light oak, citrus and honey aromas.  High acidity, small bubble, lots of citrus and a bit of oak on the palate.

Sometimes tasting  a flight of wines at one time helps you gain appreciation for a varietal or a blended wine, as well as a style. If you are interested in having a wine tasting party at your home, please consider contacting MyWinePal.  Enjoy!

My Favorites From the South World Wine Society’s Five Nations Cup 2011

Wednesday, Jan 19 was the South World Wine Society’s 6th Annual Five Nations Cup.  This is a blind wine tasting and humbles everyone in attendance. Five white wines and five red wines were presented to us.

We first went through the white wines, and were told that there were a Chenin Blanc, a Pinot Gris, a Chardonnay, and 2 Sauvignon Blanc.  One of the sauvignon blanc would be young (a recent vintage), while the other sauvignon blanc would be aged (2003 in this case).  The wines would be from Australia, Chile, New Zealand, or South Africa.  We were missing a white wine from Argentina for this half of the tasting.  Our host for the evening, Mr. Paul Watkin, is past SWWS cellar master and is a manager at Icon Fine Wine and Spirits in Vancouver.   Paul let us all know some of the characteristic aromas and flavours of each of these white grapes, as well as some hints as to style of white wines produced by each of these countries.  After sipping and debating each other at our table, we all stood up and slowly each started to sit down as each wine was revealed but did not match our guess.

The first wine was the Mount Riley Pinot Gris (2008 I think) from New Zealand.  I marked this wine as pale lemon colour. Herbal, lemon a bit of lime and some lychee on the nose.  Medium body, medium acidity, grapefruit and spice flavours with a long finish.  I guessed correctly.

The second wine was the Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc (2008) from Chile. Pale but bright lemon colour in the glass. Vanilla, waxy, lemon, grassy, and gooseberry aromas. Medium body.  Citrus, slightly vegetal and slightly spicy with medium acidity.  Another correct guess!

The third wine was the Montes Alpha Chardonnay (2006) from Chile.  This one was the easiest to guess.  The fullest body, most deep lemony coloured, lots of vanilla and apple aromas and flavours.  Nice spice too.  It went really well with a smoked scalloped that was served with the wines.  3 for 3 so far.

The fourth wine was the Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc (2003) from Australia. The aged sauvignon blanc!  This wine was medium minus golden colour. Big legs on the sides of the glass.  Honeysuckle, honey, and apricot aromas. Medium minus body, smooth, lower in acidity with a dry finish.  I guessed this one was the Chenin Blanc.

The last white wine was the Graham Beck Gameskeeper Reserve Chenin Blanc (2008) from South Africa . Light lemon colour.  Smokey, apple, spice, oak, vanilla, and some earthiness on the nose. Bright fruit flavours, but also some smokiness, apple and oak.  Medium length. I originally thought this one could be the aged sauvignon blanc with some oak aging (e.g. a Fume Blanc).

So from the white wine review, I ended up in 2nd place.  Not bad considering how difficult the whites were to identify.  Hopefully the red wines would be easier.

No such luck.  Paul was going to give us 5 different Bordeaux blends.  That is much more difficult than trying to guess if a wine is a Malbec or a Merlot.  The first red was the Man O’ War Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec blend (2008) from New Zealand. I had marked it as medium red with a purple tint (from the Malbec). Cassis, red cherry, leather, mint and tomato aromas. Juicy red fruit flavour, with vanilla, spice, high acidity and medium tannins.  I guessed correctly.  I thought the high acidity would be from a cooler climate, and New Zealand would be the coolest of the 5 countries.

The second red was the Miguel Torres Cordillera (2001) from Chile. A deep core of garnet in the glass.  Some capsicum aroma, along with vanilla, dark plum and milk chocolate.  On the palate it was full bodied.  Vanilla, purple fruit and savory flavours. Medium acidity and tannins. Another correct guess.  The capsicum was my hint that it was Chilean.

The third red was the Glen Carlou Grand Classique (2005) from South Africa.  Deep garnet in colour.  Iodine and earthy aromas. Mineral, leather and firm tannins.  Quite different from all the other reds.  I guessed that one correctly too.

The fourth red wine was the Luigi Bosca Gala 2 (2005) from Argentina.  I had guessed New Zealand, then changed my mind to Australia, but in the end I found out it was Argentina.  Really hard to guess the origin of this wine.  It was medium garnet coloured.  Sweet vanilla, chocolate and dark fruit aromas.  Not overly aromatic. Medium body and medium tannins with grippy black fruit flavour.

The fifth red wine was the d’Arenberg Galvo Garage (2005) from Australia. Very dark garnet in colour.  Some capsicum, dry not overly fruity nose with some earthiness.  Vanilla, capsicum and very fruity flavours.  Firm tannins.  I guessed this one was the wine from Argentina.

I ended up in 2nd place for the red wines.  I don’t feel too bad getting 2nd place for both the red and white wines.

How did I rate these wines?

White wines in my rank of preference:

  1. Shaw & Smith Sauvignon Blanc (2003) Australia
  2. Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc (2008) Chile
  3. Mt. Riley Pinot Gris (2008) New Zealand
  4. Montes Alpha Chardonnay (2006) Chile
  5. Graham Beck Gameskeeper Reserve Chenin Blanc (2008) South Africa

Red wines in my rank of preference:

  1. Miguel Torres Cordillera (2001) Chile
  2. Man O’ War Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec blend (2008) New Zealand
  3. Luigi Bosca Gala 2 (2005) Argentina
  4. d’Arenberg Galvo Garage (2005) Australia
  5. Glen Carlou Grand Classique (2005) South Africa

One thing that you may notice is that my first choice in both the red and white wines were the OLDEST wines.  Don’t think that you have to drink a wine as soon as you buy it.  Especially true for red wines, and some white wines.  Many of these wines will be available only in private wine shops.  Hope you can get a chance to try some of them. Enjoy!