Argentina: More than Malbec
Recently, April 17th marked Malbec World Day and, without question, Malbec has become synonymous with wine in Argentina. The date should also serve as a reminder that the Argentine wine industry is about more than just Malbec, and more than just one style of Malbec.
Wine has been produced in Argentina for over 450 years, but the country’s emergence on the global wine scene is only about 20 years old.
Vineyards are predominantly located along the western border along the Andes Mountains, but stretch almost 2000 miles from the Bolivian border in the north to Patagonia in the south. Vineyard elevation can range from 1,000 feet to 10,000 ft above sea level and altitude does play a significant role, more so than what many people realize. This range of latitudes and altitudes along with the different soils and microclimates all contribute to a great diversity in vineyard sites and the ability to grow a wide range of grape varietals and styles.
The western location of the vineyards is distant enough to avoid the humid Atlantic winds, while the Andes Mountains block rain from the Pacific Ocean. Low humidity and constant mountain winds also contribute to a low incidence of vineyard disease which makes sustainable and organic farming very possible. Add the heat of the southern hemisphere sun and producers rarely have issues with ripening their grapes.
There is little question about the popularity of wines from Argentina, but the popularity has predominantly been centered around Malbec. It is important to recognize that Argentina is about so much more than just Malbec and many grape varieties can grow well due to the diversity of microclimates, altitudes and soils.
Importantly, quality and value do co-exist in Argentina and at all price points. I remember my first visit to Argentina over a decade ago and being impressed and a little surprised with the quality and diversity of the wines being produced. At the time, though, there really wasn’t much being exported beyond a single style of Malbec (ie. fat, simplistic and one-dimensional).
Things have definitely changed over the past decade, in particular, and we are now seeing being exported from Argentina so many of the interesting, quality and diverse range of wines from a number of grape varieties being produced in the country. The list that follows, not only represents the diversity of red wines being produced, but the great price-quality ratio that also exists.
Finca Decero Malbec ‘Remolinos Vineyard’ 2017, Agrelo Mendoza ($25)
Fresh, bright and extremely well balanced with floral, violet aromas, pretty flavours of cherry, plum and raspberry, good concentration and finesse, elegant tannins and a lifted acidity on the lingering finish.
Catena Malbec ‘Vista Flores’ 2017, Mendoza ($27)
Vibrant colour, floral aromas, concentrated, but crispy red and black fruits flavours, spice and cocoa, full and focussed with velvety tannings and a fresh finish.
Colome Estate Malbec 2018, Valle Calchaqui Salta ($32)
Colome’s sustainably farmed desert vineyards grow the world’s highest elevation Malbec. Higher altitudes offer more sun, less UV protection and produce thicker skinned grapes. Bright and intense in colour with aromas of blackberries, red fruit and floral notes, lush and ripe black fruit with spice and pepper, fresh acidity, bold tannins and a long, complex finish.
Chayee Bourras Bonarda 2014, Mendoza ($22)
Fresh and lively with bright, exuberant fruity flavours of raspberry, red currant and cherry, spice, juicy tannins, earthy minerality and lively acidity on the lifted finish.
Finca Patagonicas ‘Wapisa’ Pinot Noir 2017, Patagonia ($28)
Bright and fresh with cherry and strawberry fruit, a silky texture and juicy finish.
Nieto Senetiner ‘Benjamin’ Syrah 2019, Mendoza ($19)
Elegant and soft with red berry and plum flavours, spice and notes of vanilla, easy drinking and balanced with a lifted finish.
Finca Decero Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Remolinos Vineyard’ 2017, Agrelo Mendoza ($25)
Elegant, multidimensional and layered with beautifully balanced aromas and flavours of blackberry, black currant, spice and a touch of graphite, velvety tannins and an incredibly long and fresh lifted finish. The wine’s quality defies its modest price. Truly one of the best value Cabernet Sauvignon in the world.
Finca Decero Mini Ediciones Cabernet Franc ‘Remolinos Vineyard’ 2018, Agrelo Mendoza ($35)
Elegant and finessed with nuances of pepper, mineral, graphite and plum notes with fresh aromatics, bright acidity and great length.
Colome Lote Especial Tannat 2018, Valle Calchaqui Salta ($34)
Rich, layered, firm and dense with bold, fresh and snappy flavours and a tight core of wild blackberry, black liquorice, mineral, cedar and spice, complex and focused, with generous tannins and a long, lingering, juicy finish.