Altitude is even more important than latitude in Argentina – in terms of the weather patterns in the vineyard and the perceived quality of the wine. The search for good vineyard sites continues in Argentina, with new parts of the wine heartland Mendoza Valley being tried, plus further north in Salta such as in the Colchaqui Valley (pictured above).
The DNS Wine Club met to examine both whites and reds from Argentina, both varietals and blends. The whites were published on The Taste here: Hi Ho Silver (I wonder how many people got the pun in the title?) Now it’s the turn of the reds:
Susana Balbo Crios Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Mendoza) (€16.25 down to €14.65, Wines Direct – Arnotts & online)
14.0%, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Susana Balbo is the most recognised and celebrated oenologist in Argentina and has been at the forefront of innovation and quality improvements for decades. Key notes are plum and redcurrant (surprisingly more than blackcurrant), joined by a touch of vanilla from oak barrels. The soft tannins and silky smooth texture make this a delicious wine to enjoy in front of a roaring fire, or perhaps with a big juicy steak. Great value.
Bodega Amalaya Red 2013 (Valle Calchaqui, Salta) (€18.00, Mitchell’s – ISFC)
14.0%, 75% Malbec, 15% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, dash of Tannat
Amalaya produce a fantastic range of wines (also check out their Torrontés Riesling blend) of which this is a fairly modest member. Based in the highlands of Salta, the vineyards start at a mile high (1,600m) and keep climbing. Warm days and cool nights promote thicker skins than in lower vineyards (giving more intense flavours) and help maintain acidity (making the wines taste fresher).
This blend is more than the sum of its parts – ripe plum from the Malbec, pepper and spice from the Syrah plus a savoury edge from the Cabernet. Narrowly missed out on the best red of the tasting.
Bodegas Norton Barrel Select Malbec 2014 (Mendoza) (€14.99, O’Briens)
14.0%, 100% Malbec
At “only” 850m – 1,100m the vineyards for this wine are considered to be in the foothills (for reference, Croagh Patrick’s summit is 764m). Although located in what is usually referred to as the New World, the Estate dates back to 1895 which makes it fairly old in my book. The vines for this bottle are 15 years of age or older giving classic Malbec characters.
Hess Family Colomé Estate Malbec 2012 (Valle Calchaqui, Salta) (€25.00, Mitchells)
14.5% 100% Malbec
If anybody, anywhere, tells you that “all Malbecs taste the same, there’s no point spending more than xx Euros on one” then you have my permission to shoot them (not that I think it would be a valid defence in a court of law). The Colomé winery dates back to 1831 – older than many Rioja Bodegas, for example. There are actually four separate estates at altitudes between 1,700m and 3,111m, each adding something to the blend of the Estate Malbec.
For such a big, alcoholic wine it is remarkably refined, delicate and long. Blackberry, blackcurrant and black cherry characters are the key, with supple tannins supplying the structure. A fantastic wine!
As you might have read on this blog I am a big fan of Portuguese wines, both white and red. They are often made using indigenous grapes which aren’t known well (if at all) outside the country so are interesting, taste good, and are nearly always great value for money.
The first Saturday in April was a washout, but thankfully the day was made a little brighter by Sweeney’s of Glasnevin who opened some Portuguese wine for tasting. Here are my brief notes:
Portuga Branco VR Lisboa 2014 ( 12.0%, €12)
A blend of Arinto, Vital and Fernão Pires from around Lisbon. Light and refreshing, quite simple and straightforward, but nothing wrong with that. Citrus notes with a crisp finish. Did you notice the low abv of 9.5%? I didn’t when tasting it [update: because Google got it wrong on this occasion ]!
Quinta do Cardo Branco 2011 €14.50
This white is a blend of Siria (which I’d never heard of before) and Arinto (which is far more common). The grapes are “ecologically grown” (which I suppose might mean organic) in vineyards at 700 metres elevation.
Compared to the Portuga above it has a more sophisticated nose, with orange in particular showing through. The palate is less expressive, however. This might be due to its age – most whites like this are consumed young. Some inexpensive wines do develop further after their initial fruit has faded – like this ten year old Chilean Gewurz – but there is only trial and error to find out!
Lab VR Lisboa Tinto 2014 (13.0%, €12)
And now on to the reds. This cheap and cheerful number is a blend of Castelão (35%), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo, 25%), Syrah (25%) and Touriga Nacional (15%). After fermentation it is aged in new Portuguese oak for 4 months.
A quick taste and details of the blend are forgotten. It’s soft and fruity, a very approachable wine. Lots of cherry and other red fruits, but fresh, not confected nor sour. Immensely gluggable!
Segredos de São Miguel VR Alentejano 2015 (13.5%, €12 or 2 for €22)
This time the blend is Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (aka Tempranillo, again), Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. It’s made in the Alentejo region but is a Vinho Regional (VR) rather than a DOC, and the back label suggests it’s a fun rather than serious wine.
On tasting I’d have to agree that it’s fun, but although nice it is very young indeed (only six months old?) It shows promise but needs to relax and come out of its shell – perhaps in time for the annual week of Dublin sunshine?
Vale da Mata VR Lisboa Tinto 2010 (13.0%, €20)
Although only a VR, the back label does state that this is from the Sub-Região Alta Estremadura. Estremadura is the historical name for the province around Lisbon and in fact was the previous name of the VR Lisboa, so perhaps this is an indicator of quality.
After the Lab and the Segredos de São Miguel this is a bit more serious. It has darker fruit and a touch of tannin (steak here we come!). On its own it was good, but not great – I think it definitely needs food to shine.
Herdade de Rocim VR Alentejano Tinto 2010 (14.0%, €19)
We almost have a full house of varieties here: Aragonez, Alicante Bouchet, Syrah, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. As you might expect it is full of dark fruit, particularly blackberries and plums. Note the vintage – 2010 – it’s already showing some development, with violets and pencil shavings on the nose.
Among the higher priced reds on show this was definitely my favourite. Given the flavour profile and structure it reminded me of an Haut Médoc from a ripe vintage (such as 2010 in fact). Interestingly (and reassuringly), when I last took notes on (the same vintage of) this wine nearly two years ago I recommended it to Claret lovers. This wine and I are on the same page!
Herdade de Sobroso DOC Alentejo Tinto 2013 (14.0%, €22)
The back label for this wine states that it is made from the “noble” varieties of the Alentejo, later revealing them to be Aragonez (30%), Trincadeira (30%), Alicante Bouschet (20%) and Alfrocheiro (20%). This last grape was another one new to me, apparently favoured for the deep colour it brings to blends, and amusingly also known as Tinta Bastardinha.
“Barrique Select” on the front lets you know it has been aged in oak – and a wine geek like me would presume 225 litre French oak barrels, though the back reveals this to be only partly true; the wine was indeed matured in French oak barrels for 12 months, with the forest (Alier) even specified, but in 500 rather than 225 litre barrels. If this seems like splitting hairs, perhaps it is, but the larger sized barrels add a certain roundness as much as oakiness.
I liked this wine, but I think it suffered from being after the Herdade de Rocim which had more intense flavours. I’d like to give this wine another try in a big wine glass after a few hours in a decanter – I suspect it would really open up.