Then something happened. That something was Argentina (okay, it’s a bit more complex than that, but let’s keep it simple).
People who were seduced by the rich, plush Aussie fruit bombs discovered they could find similar characteristics in the red wines of Argentina for a lot less money. Malbec replaced Shiraz as the new king of the vinous jungle (no doubt exasperating French wine producers in Cahors who have been using the variety for time in memoriam but without ever seeing it become as popular). Even the Chileans, who were well ahead of Argentina in terms of exports, marketing and worldwide popularity, began to take notice.
Viña Santa Carolina – a long-established player in the Chilean wine world – started marketing Argentinian wines under the Finca El Origen label back in 2002. Today, 90 per cent of Finca El Origen wines are exported. Recently, the winery’s Managing Director & Chief Winemaker Gonzalo Bertelsen and Export Manager Ignacio Ciancio were imported into Canada to meet with writers and taste some wines.
Bertelsen explained that the winery enjoys both a favourable climate and ideal soil structure. Its vineyards, located in the Uco Valley sub appellation of Mendoza, contain permeable, and therefore well-drained, soil. Due to the high altitude (up to 1,200 meters above sea level) at which they are situated and blessed with with cooling breezes, the fruit is able to ripen in ideal conditions.
The Finca El Origen 2010 Chardonnay “Reserva” sports a refined, moderately complex aroma hinting at baked apple, mineral, mild spice and tropical fruity nuances. It’s very well balanced and harmonious with a nice interplay between fruit and acidity and a long finish to boot. Nothing about it said “hot country” Chardonnay. We were mildly blown away when it was reveal that it sells in Ontario for $10.95. A great buy.
The Malbec “Gran Reserva” 2010 uses fruit sourced from the La Esperanza vineyards located 1,200 meters above sea level. More complex and elegant than some other Malbecs, it shows ripe, tarry, smoky black fruit on the nose with suggestions of cocoa, blueberry and tobacco. Full and dense on the palate with a core of ripe fruit with vanilla overtones, it nicely balanced in spite of its 14.9 per cent alcohol.
Also using fruit sourced from La Esperanza is the Finca el Origen Cabernet Sauvignon “Gran Reserva” 2009. Showing some smoky notes as well, this full-bodied Cab also offered up forward cassis, earth, toasted nut pepper. Ripe and chewy with flavours of black currant, spice and some mildly herbaceous undertones, it also displayed excellent balance and length.
Both Gran Reserva wines list at around $22.00.
For information on the availability of Finca el Origen wines across Canada contact Charton-Hobbes (www.charton-hobbes.com).