Argentinian Malbec is one of those wines which no wine retailer will be without, and it’s likely that most restaurants will offer one on their list – especially if they take their steaks seriously. However, Malbec is often seen as a commodity wine, one that is similar no matter who makes it, and thus price becomes the main differentiating factor.
Once you go beyond the big volume commercial blends, often in an independent off licence, the field opens up: “Mendoza” is not the only geographic designation on the label – with small sub-regions indicated – or even at all, with other regions such as Salta and San Juan also featuring. Even further down the specialisation route is the single vineyard bottling – and here’s one such expression:
Trapiche Single Vineyard Series Finca Ambrosia Malbec 2015
Like most Malbecs, this is fairly dark in the glass, though not quite opaque. The nose is perfumed, with lifted scents of cedar and ripe blackberries, plums and blackcurrants. Just fabulous! On the palate this wine is full of youth. It’s a big mouthful, certainly; delightfully smooth, with the cedar back again with the black fruits. There is great structure here, tannins which are fairly firm but not in the slightest bit austere: the fruit has the tannins put firmly in their place.
I tried this wine before noting the vintage – to think that this is close to seven years old is incredible as it is still so powerful. But not dauntingly so, it can be enjoyed on its own without food. A winner in my book.
RRP: €38 – €40
Stockists: Martins Off Licence, Redmonds of Ranelagh
What’s the best inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc from SuperValu? Here are four Sauvignons from the current SuperValu sale, from four different countries: France, Australia, Chile and Argentina.
La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc 2019: The minerally one
It’s rather fitting that the producer of this wine is named after a stone quarry in Sancerre as it has a wonderful mineral streak through its core. Yes there are plenty of citrus notes too – lemon, lime and grapefruit – but they are along for the journey rather than being the destination themselves. This is a fresh style of Sauvignon Blanc that has more than a passing resemblance to a dry Alsace Riesling, which is obviously a positive in my book!
“Sauv Block” is some sort of pun on Prison Block / Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s fairly weak (yes, this is me saying this!) I’ve already covered the 19 Crimes Red Wine and its unusual packaging, so this time we will just consider the wine inside. It has some of the typical grapefruit and gooseberry notes on the nose but there are also more soft and tropical fruit aromas. The palate reflects this, with melon and pineapple alongside the green fruits.
The 19 Crimes SB doesn’t have the zing and freshness of a typical SB. I haven’t tasted enough Aussie single varietal Sauvignons to compare it to, but this wine seems almost like it’s made with a different grape variety – something like Godello – though I’m sure it’s not. In short, this is a Sauvignon Blanc for people who don’t normally go for this variety as they find it too sharp – but there’s nothing wrong with that! Well chilled it is fine for sipping in the sun.
Cepas Privadas Sauvignon Blanc 2019: The herby one
Most wine drinkers will be familiar with Argentina’s signature black grape Malbec and the largest wine region in the country, Mendoza. As Mendoza is principally a warm wine region it may surprise some to learn that it has cooler parts, cool enough to be suitable for Sauvignon Blanc.
The nose is initially all about green pepper and herbs, with touches of green fruits in the background. The palate is fresh and zippy, with a core of minerality around which citrus and herbs are wrapped. I don’t think this wine lives up to the normal RRP of €18, but for €8 it represents very good value.
Aresti Estate Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2020: The grapefruity one
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the key varieties for Chile, especially in Ireland where it is available in pretty much every supermarket, convenience store and off-licence. Hailing from Curicó Valley, Aresti are a family business with several ranges within their portfolio; Estate Selection appears to be their entry level for the Irish market.
It ticks all the boxes you’d expect from an inexpensive SB, but it’s key attribute is drinkability. It’s not going to challenge Sancerre or Marlborough but it’s a very pleasant drop for mid week or even the weekend.
These are obviously inexpensive wines which are for everyday drinking rather than a special treat. The 19 Crimes is noticeably different in style, but has its place. The other three are quite similar and very reasonable wines for sipping outside on a warm summer’s day (if we see one this year in Ireland!) – it comes down to small differences in flavours, aromas and drinkability. On that basis, my narrow favourite is the best all-rounded, the Aresti Estate Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2020.
In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:
A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it
It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.
For the 14th episode of The Frankly Wines & Friends Wine & Music Series we head back to England with the irrepressible polymath Lee Isaacs. Not only does this bloke live and breathe wine, he also has a fabulous collection of shirts and plays a mean axe! By axe I mean guitar (and probably other instruments, knowing Lee). If anyone was the most apt person to write a guest post in this series, it’s Mr Lee Isaacs.
Now I’m not a diehard aficionado of The Stones, but their standout track for me is Gimme Shelter. This is the group that absorbed The Blues through imported LPs and ended up taking it back to the Americans, both in their own music and the limelight they shared with Blues legends.
Lee spreads the gospel about wine over several social media platforms – which gives us mere mortals an opportunity to enjoy his shirts and his music – but he’s also generous in praising other communicators including Katie Jones, so I thought this would be the perfect wine to pick for him.
I was chuffed when Frankie asked me to write a piece matching wine and music for his site, for two main reasons. Usually the only form of writing people ask me to do for them is filling in those legal forms the prevent me from playing the guitar within a ten mile radius, but also because wine and music are two of my greatest loves in life. They are both uniquely subjective and conjure up emotions and memories beyond our control. They have the power to weaken us at the knees or make us feel like anything is possible. Wine and music both have an incredible power over our soul and…I’ll stop; you get my drift.
The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter
Frankie’s opening musical gambit came in the form of The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter, from their 1969 album (also their best) Let It Bleed. The song sees Keef playing a portentous riff in open G while Mick Jagger and Merry Clayton trade ever darker lyrics about an impending storm of violence. This is The Stones at their very best; more than just dirty, grimy (so wrong, it’s right) blues, but deep and searing social commentary. The song is the death cry of 1960s peace and love and a dark vision of the dystopia that lay around the corner. It could have been written yesterday. Mick’s refrain of ‘If I don’t get some shelter, I’m gonna fade away’ could be any of us right now. It opens gently enough with an inviting, almost light, blues motif but it quickly builds to something much more brooding and enveloping. By the end of the song you need a breather, a chance to reflect on exactly what it all means.
But what wine to pair with this greatest of Stones tracks? Malbec may well be a superstar today, but that’s not always been the case. It was not Argentina’s most planted variety until 2006. In fact, previous to that it had been a bit of a workhorse, a variety that had yet to find it’s truest expression and was in danger of fading away without some shelter. That shelter was provided by Nicolás Catena Zapata. He gave it shelter by taking it as high as he could, planting his Adrianna Vineyard in Gualtallary at a breath taking altitude of 1,500 m.a.s.l. This was a call to arms for other producers to not only revisit Malbec but also to take on the challenge of high altitude grape growing. Nicolás saw a hard future ahead but made a stand and changed Argentine wine forever.
This Malbec is just as brooding and intense as Mick & Keef’s lyrics. It opens with a violet scented perfume while some subtle mineral notes invite you in before it quickly builds with deep black fruit and cassis flavours. Before you know it, you’re awash with dark chocolate, coffee, smoky vanilla and earthy spices. But then there’s a refrain; the violets and minerals reappear and bring you back from the blackcurrant precipice as you realise that perhaps there’s more to everything than it first seemed. By the end of the bottle one can only sit and reflect.
Domaine Jones Fitou
Frankie took his opening gambit and doubled down with the classic ‘Fitou Strategem’ first used by Francis of Gaul all those years ago. It’s a fine call as I’m a fan of the inimitable Katie Jones and her magnificent wines. It’s well documented that Katie met with some rather unfriendly locals who doubted her commitment & motivations. This only further emboldened Mrs Jones in her quest, and today she makes characterful wine with a huge sense of place. Katie takes a central theme for each wine she makes and then slowly and confidently builds to a wonderful driving crescendo.
This Fitou is a blend of Grenache, Syrah & Carignan with some of the contributing vines being over 100 years old. This brings to the wine an incredible concentration of deeply structured figgy, spicy and smoky fruit. There’s a wonderful rusticity to the wine; it’s filled with garrigue, warm herbs, roasting meats and the most alluring black fruits…all supported by melt in the mouth tannins and a fine seam of acidity. It feels like this wine, its style, its flavours, its structure…it feels like its always been here. Every time you drink it, you wonder why you drink anything else.
Led Zeppelin also met with some backlash. Indeed it’s the very origin of their name. They remained steadfast, and, building on the history that lay before them, they built something new and wonderous. It’s easy to get caught up in Stairway but Led Zep IV’s When The Levee Breaks is one of those tracks that is absolutely magical & timeless.
It is of course driven by the eternal, powerful & mesmerising drum work of John Bonham. That sound, that rhythm…it’s always been here, since the beginning of time. Jimmy Page eschews the standard I-IV-V blues tradition, instead opting for a modal approach. He takes a central theme and builds, builds, builds, to an incredible and long lasting crescendo. This song has history but also incredible depth and sophistication. Like Fitou it’s often overlooked in favour of more prestigious and well known names…but this just keeps getting better and better. Every time you hear it, you wonder why you listen to anything else.
Lee has been around wine since the age of 5 and when he turned 18, he passed up a place at university to study law and politics in favour of working in the wine trade. His bank manager has still not forgiven him. An Oddbins refugee, he ran one of the UK’s best indies for 5 years before becoming Head of Education for Oxford’s oldest wine school. A WSET Diploma holder, Lee has taught and lectured all over the world for MWs and MSs. Widely travelled, he specialises in Argentina, a country he visits almost every year, and Italy, a country he has travelled around extensively. Published by a variety of media, Lee continues to educate, entertain and immerse himself in the world of wine, running around 100 tastings every year (pre-Covid obvs). He now works for a multinational business in training, buying and marketing. When not doing something with wine he can be found failing to play the guitar and writing dreadful stand up comedy.
Trapiche make an almost bewilderingly wide range of wines, with around twenty different labels that vary from a single variety to a choice of thirteen for the “Vineyards” label. Their “Terroirs Series” has three single vineyard Malbecs from different sites around Mendoza, an exercise in showing the effects of terroir has on the same grape. Ambrosia comes from Gualtallary in Tupungato, the highest of the three at 1,307 metres above sea level. The other two in the series are Suárez Lastra at 1,072m and Orellana de Escobar at a “mere” 990m.
Disclosure: this bottle was a sample, but opinions remain my own
Even before the first glass is poured, on opening this reveals itself to be a serious wine, with a left bank Bordeaux sensibility: French oak rules the day. The smokinessand hints of vanilla on the nose are joined by pencil shavings, leather, and bold black fruit. On the palate, there’s ripe black fruit on the attack along with tangy oak. Beautiful mineral notes join for the long, elegant finish. Although this is a “fruity” wine, it’s far from jammy and confected; rather, it’s beautifully balanced and serious, though doesn’t take itself too seriously. Ambrosia is well worth its status as a single vineyard wine.
There seems to be a wine-related celebration of some sort on virtually every day of the year, but World Malbec Day is definitely one of the most keenly observed by wine aficionados. Started in 2011 by Wines of Argentina to celebrate the country’s signature grape variety, it has grown each year (always on the 17th of April); last year there were 120 events held in 100 cities across 60 countries.
Terrazas de los Andes was founded as recently as 1996, but there is a long history of Europeans – especially French and Italians – heading to South America and taking their grape-growing and winemaking expertise with them – and of course their home varieties. Terrazas is a part of well-known drinks group Moët-Hennessy so remains in French hands, and doing well – it was the winner of the Argentine Wine Producer of the Year 2018 Trophy at the International Wine & Spirit Competition.
Disclosure: sample provided for review, opinions remain my own
Terrazas de los Andes Malbec 2017 (14.0%, RRP €25.70 at independent wine merchants)
There are two important facts about the vines from which this wine was produced:
High Altitude Vineyards – which is important enough to be stated on the front label just below the grape. There is something of an “arms race” in Argentina to have the highest vineyards. The Mendoza vineyards are just over a kilometre above sea level!
Old Vines – the age of the plots varies between 20 and 80 years old, giving some concentration to the flavours.
Most Argentinian Malbecs are big, bold, fruity wines that pack an unmistakable punch. This is no lightweight, but the high altitude has definitely given it some elegance and a (relative) lightness to go with the power. Plumsdominate the palate, with blackberryand vanillafrom ageing in French (80%) and American (20%) oak. There are some fine grained tannins on the finish which give a nice savoury edge. This would actually be better with the ubiquitous steak than many cheaper commercial style Malbecs, and so it’s definitely worth your consideration – whatever you might be eating on the 17th of Aprl!
An unusual grape for Argentina, Pinot Noir is much more often seen on the western side of the Andes, but this is a remarkably drinkable example from Bodegas Salentein. Although it’s their entry level Pinot, it has plenty of upfront but elegant fruit, and is nicely balanced – quaffable without being either jammy or thin. There’s more complexity further up the range but this is the ideal mid-week quaffer!
9. Loggia Della Luna Morellino di Scansano 2014 (13.5%, RRP €15.00)
This Tuscan treat is predominantly Sangiovesi and comes from the Maremma region of coastal Tuscany. Morellino is (yet another) synonym for Sangiovesi with differing stories over the origins of its name. However, given the prominent cherry flavours and high acidity I think the story of it being named after the morello cherry is the most likely. This isn’t a hugely complex wine but is more likeable than many lower priced Chiantis so it gets a firm thumbs up from me. Would make a great party wine that you’re not afraid to drink yourself!
Chilean Cab Sauv is something of a commodity nowadays, so it’s nice to find one that stands out from the crowd for its intensity of flavour and balance. In addition to cassis so vibrant that you can almost feel the individual blackcurrants popping in your mouth, this wine also offers the cedarwood and pencil shaving that are more often associated with left bank Bordeaux.
This was one of the standout value wines at Liberty’s 15th anniversary portfolio tasting. Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre, aka Mataro) is a grape which needs plenty of heat – and gets it in south east Spain – but crucially this is grown at altitude so the vines get to rest at night and acidity is preserved. This has some structure behind the big and bold fruit but can happily serve as a tipple on its own.
6. Frères Laffitte Le Petit Gascoûn Rouge 2016 (12.5%, RRP €13.50)
Yes the label is cute, but the wine is pretty nice as well – an easy drinking Tannat-dominated blend which is surprisingly quaffable (or “smashable” in modern parlance). The lighter alcohol also suggests that this would make a great picnic wine in the warmer months – it’s exactly the wine to have on hand in case of an impromptu barbecue.
5. Casa De La Ermita Lunatico 2015 (14.0%, RRP €18.99)
Another Spanish Monastrell shows that there is lots of good value wine being made from the grape – and Spain is one of the few European countries with a climate hot enough for it to fully ripen. 12 months ageing in French oak adds structure to blueberries and blackberries.
4. Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja 2011 (14.5%, RRP €22.99)
Rioja wines are generally easy to like, but, on reflection, not all of them are easy to admire – some have have too much wood at the expense of fruit, some have a big bang of strawberry fruit from Tempranillo but not much else, and some are just plain weird. As with most European wines, the region is most talked about but the producer is key to what’s in the glass. This is one of the most accomplished and well rounded Riojas I have tasted at any price – wonderfully rich red fruit with delightful vanilla in support. As an aside, it was also given the stamp of approval from DNS Wineclub!
3. Fog Mountain California Merlot 2015 (13.5%, RRP €20.95)
It’s sometimes said that Sideways killed California Merlot (and gave a big boost to Pinot Noir). There’s an element of truth in that statement as the trajectory of the grapes’ sales moved in opposite directions, but the reality is that it was the poorer Merlot wines which lost out, leaving the good stuff behind. The name of this wine alludes to the cooler sites from which the grapes are sourced helping to preserve acidity and balance. The presence of 14% Petit Sirah in the blend adds a touch of backbone and complexity.
2. Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge 2016 (11.5%, RRP €23)
The assemblage of this wine – 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Gamay and 5% Malbec – would rarely be found anywhere else but the Loire. It’s made with minimal intervention from organic grapes, resulting in a light but fruity red which tastes more alive than almost any other wine. It’s like having freshly squeezed orange juice after a glass of squash!
I had sung the praises of the contrasting 2009 and 2011 vintages of this wine during the year (with my personal preference being for the 2009), but on tasting the 2010 at SPIT Festival I found that put those both in the shade. It’s a rare thing that Bordeaux is classed as good value nowadays, but this bottling from the De Mour group is the most superior Supérieur around!
As most regular readers will know, I’m very lucky to receive sample wine bottles on a regular basis, in addition to invitations to trade and press tastings. While spitting at tastings is de rigueur (and, quite frankly, necessary if you want to maintain both your palate and the ability to walk unaided), sample bottles are drunk without spitting chez moi.
So what do you do when you have a good few samples that you need to try, but you’re cutting back on the booze for a bit? Share them with wine friends is the obvious answer! Thus, at an informal dinner with friends from the DNS Wine Club I produced four bottles of relatively inexpensive red wine all wrapped in foil – for a mini blind tasting.
The objective of the blind tasting wasn’t to see which was the best wine, but rather to see how good we were at guessing the vintage, main grape(s), country of origin etc. And we were painfully average at that! However, one wine was agreed to be the tastiest – and happened to be the go-to bottle of one of the tasters:
Finca Las Moras Dadá Art Series 1 2016 (12.5%, €10.00, widely available at SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and all good independent off licences)
There are actually lots of different wines in the Dadá Art Series, but this Bonarda / Malbec blend is the most widely available. It’s actually quite an unusual blend, as Bonarda in Argentina is the same grape as the obscure Deuce Noir from Savoie in France (and formerly part of Italy) rather than the slightly better known Bonarda Piemontese. Malbec is of course Argentina’s signature black grape.
Obscure or unusual don’t matter in the end, it’s what’s in the glass that counts – and this is lovely! Blackberry crumble with lashings of custard, it’s that kind of lovely – black fruit from the grapes with plenty of vanilla from the American oak. And for a tenner in Ireland, this is great value for money!
As most people know, Malbec is the signature grape of Argentina. It’s become the classic match for steak and anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s one of the few red wines that casual wine-drinking blokes are prepared to pay a little more for.
But as so often is the case, when a signature grape becomes almost synonymous with a country, other varieties are unfairly overlooked. Here are a few examples of Life After Malbec:
Regular readers may be quite flabbergasted by the inclusion of a Pinot Grigio, and it’s true that I rarely like wines labelled as such, but for me this wine is leagues ahead of the cheap “chick water” that flows out of Italy. Compared to Alsatian Pinot Gris it does exhibit some of the varietal characteristics such as stone fruit and spiciness (particularly ginger) and has decent acidity, but it isn’t at all oily (which I like but isn’t for everyone). Just so nice to drink!
Amalaya Torrontés / Riesling 2016 (13.0%, RRP €16.99 at Martin’s Off Licence; Red Island Wine Company; Red Nose Wine; World Wide Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Sweeney’s)
Apart from a few exceptions I rarely enjoy varietal Torrontésas I find it a bit too full on – too perfumed, too flowery, and in all honesty better suited as air freshener rather than wine. The Hess Family have a solution with their Torrontés / Riesling blend – 85% of the former is freshenedby 15% of the latter, and it really is more than the sum of its parts. This is one of my go-to Argentinian white wines.
Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay Grande Reserve 2014 (13.5%, RRP €23.99 at Searson’s)
The Bousquets are a southern French wine-making family, now into the fourth generation of vignerons. They began looking into vineyard sites in Argentina in 1990 and took the plunge with a purchase in 1997. This is a fairly full on Chardonnay with eight to twelve months maturation in French oak, depending on the vintage. I found the 2014 still a little young so would benefit from being decanted; when I tasted the 2011 in 2016 it was already well-integrated. This level of quality costs much more in other countries!
Alta Vista Premium Bonarda 2012 (15.0%, €20.00 at Mitchell & Son)
Italian wine fans might be saying “Oh, Bonarda in Argentina? Makes sense with all the Italian migration to Argentina in the past”, and they’d be partially right – this isn’t the same grape as the Bonarda of Piedmont, but has been found to be the same as Deuce Noir which originated in the (formerly Italian, now French) region of Savoie. This is a fairly big wine (15% abv!) with lots of red and black fruit but enough acidity to keep it fresh.
Bodegas Salentein Portillo Pinot Noir 2014 (14.3%, €12.99 at Wines On The Green; Baggot Street Wines; Clontarf Wines; Fresh, Stepaside; McCabes, Blackrock)
Although widely planted in Chile, Pinot Noir is not that common in Argentina; it’s a finicky grape that needs fairly cool growing conditions and much of Argentina is just too warm. Bodegas Salentein make several Pinots at different price points, and this is the entry level from their Portillo range. Despite the low price tag this is proper Pinot Noir – it’s amazingly drinkable for the price.
Callia “Magna” Shiraz 2014 (14.5%, RRP €18.99 at Redmonds Ranelagh; Vintry Rathgar; World Wide Wines Waterford; Bradley’s Cork; Sweeney’s; McHughes)
Callia’s “Magna” range sits above their “Alta” (see Pinot Grigio above) and “Selected” ranges. All of Callia’s wines come from their home San Juan province, but for Magna wines the grapes come from specific sub-regions – in the case of the Shiraz (also labelled as Syrah in some markets) this is the Tulum Valley (don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either). This Shiraz is round and full bodied with lots of delicious black fruit, but also some black olive / tapenade notes.
Leading Irish off licence chain O’Briens have some excellent premium wines and some are on sale (in store only) for a short time. Here is a selection of my favourites:
Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Viognier 2012 (14.5%, €31.95 down to €25.56)
I had tried this wine previously and, although it was pretty good, I wasn’t overly impressed. Tasting is such a subjective pastime that I’m always ready to give a wine another try – and I’m so glad I did! I didn’t find this as oily as some Rhône Viogniers but it was peachy and rich – the abv of 14.5% should be a hint that it’s on the dry side. More of a food wine than a quaffing wine, but very well crafted.
Henri Bourgeois Sancerre d’Antan 2014 (13.5%, €45.00 down to €36.00)
This upmarket Sancerre is not for the casual drinker; it’s pricey but excellent. If I bought it I’d stick it away for a few years at least – it’s still fairly tight and closed up, but undoubtedly has fabulous potential.
La Comtesse de Pazo Barrantes Albariño 2013 (13.5%, €42.00 down to €33.60)
This is a fine wine to sit and sip, and to reflect upon the world. It has lees work and some oak, so it’s unlike most Albariños on the market, but it’s no Chardonnay clone either. Probably my favourite Albariño ever tasted!
Chanson Puligny-Montrachet 2013 (13.5%, €55.00 down to €44.00)
Top class Burgundy isn’t cheap, so why not try it when it’s on offer? This is another youngster that really needs putting away for a while, or at least decanting for a few hours if drinking now. Oak is noticeable on the nose (which I like, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea) and adds depth to the palate. Don’t drink it too cold, and only share with friends who appreciate good wine!
Caro 2013 (14.5%, €50.00 down to €40.00)
This is a serious Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon blend which is the result of collaboration between Bordeaux’s Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite and the Catena family. At this young age it still has lots of oak and tannin and primary plum and blackcurrant fruit characters, but also cedar and sandalwood notes. Far better value than most posh Bordeaux reds, keep it for as long as you can bare!
Marqués de Murrietta Gran Reserva 2007 (14.0%, €34.95 down to €24.95)
When it comes to Rioja I normally go for a Crianza or Reserva style where the fruit is more prominent than the longer aged Gran Reservas. They can be too dry and “woody” (for me “oaky” can be good but “woody” rarely is). Marqués de Murrietta have a beauty on their hands with the 2007 – it’s exactly how Gran Reservas should be: lots of fruit (strawberry, raspberry and blackberry) with vanilla, all in a soft and cosseting package. Get in!
Delheim Grand Reserve 2013 (14.0%, €36.95 down to €29.56)
This is of course a South African wine but – tasted blind – does a great impression of a classy left bank Bordeaux. The main difference is that it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape which never ripens sufficiently to be used as a varietal in Bordeaux (though can be a very high percentage of some Pauillacs). It’s definitely a dry wine, with pencil shavings and cedar notes that you’d associate with a more mature wine – so treat yourself to a bottle and a big steak! More info here.
Gérard Bertrand Cigalus 2014 (14.5%, €38.95 down to €29.95)
Probably the best wine in Gérard Bertrand’s portfolio, this is a biodynamically produced blend using both Bordeaux and Languedoc varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Caladoc (a cross between Grenache and Malbec). Interestingly, the Syrah and Carignan undergo whole berry carbonic maceration (similar to Gamay in Beaujolais) which adds a little approachability – it’s a big wine, but not too intimidating.
If Argentina’s wine producers can be said to have a certain nobilityabout them, then Bodega Achaval Ferrer is royalty.
To my shame I hadn’t tasted their wines before the Wines of Argentina event earlier this year, but they made a big impression. More precisely, they didn’t make an impression by just being *big* (though there are very few 12% light-bodied Malbecs made in Argentina), but rather due to their elegance – probably the most elegant wines I tasted at the whole event.
Elegance doesn’t come without a cost, of course; apart from the pair featured below the range includes more expensive wines such as:
Quimera, a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (RRP around €35)
The Fincaseries, three single vineyard expressions of Malbec with a RRP of €85 – €90
The Mendoza series are blends from different vineyards across the Mendoza wine region. Based on the idea that blends can be more than the sum of their parts, they are designed to highlight the qualities and characters of their varieties rather than be a transparent window onto the terroir where they are grown. Though to be honest, given the strength and power of Malbec, wouldn’t translucent be more appropriate?
This is a 100% Malbec wine made from 60 hectares of vines in the Perdriel (3,150 ft), Medrano(2,790 ft) and Uco Valley (3,608 ft) subregions. Close to opaque in the glass, it has a highly perfumed nose, with a range of red and black fruits and a twist of spice. The fruit is also present and correct on the palate, but elegantly presented rather than the punch in the gob which most Malbecs give you. It’s hard to describe accurately, but this is a classy wine.
The companion Cabernet Sauvignon is also a 100% varietal, but made from just 15 hectares in the Agrelo (3,215 ft) and Medrano(2,790 ft) subregions of Mendoza. It also has a beguiling nose, outrageous amounts of elegant fruit coming through. On the palate it could almost be mistaken for a serious Pauillac, with black and red fruit plus hints of cedar and tobacco – though I don’t think a Pauillac of this class could be drunk so young! Fine grained tannins also add a bit backbone against which the fruit is framed.
Conclusion:Yes, this pair do showcase their respective varieties as intended – but I think far more than that, they showcase the care and attention taken in the vineyard, low yields and high altitude setting. These are wines fit for a king!