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!