Many people might associate Argentine wine with punchy Malbec and nothing else. Not so. In the past decade the country has been showing us just how broad and deep are the styles and grape varieties it can handle. We recommend six Argentine wines that demonstrate that the country can produce world class wines that can compete with any others on the world stage. Wines from high altitude and cooler climates are creating wines of terrific tension and balance, that are lighter and fresher than the wines we may have expected.
Three Argentine reds and three Argentine whites: two from Salta, two from Patagonia and two from Mendoza
2016 Bodega El Esteco Old Vines Torrontés 1945, Salta
Forget everything you know about Torrontés this wine is in a league of its own. An inviting citrus and floral nose lures you into a wine that has considerable weight, a lovely fine texture, volume and length. This is a complex Torrontés that has good balance between being the typically easy drinking, fruity style that we have come to expect from the grape and something altogether more profound.
2014 Catena Zapata, Adrianna Vineyard, White Bones Chardonnay, Mendoza
Proof that Argentina can produce world class Chardonnay that can compete with the very best. The nose is simply gorgeous – citrus, saline, mint – and the palate is even better. There are flavours of lemon tart, saline, orange peel with the balance, minerality and freshness and sweetness of the fruit just right. The grapes are hand-harvested, whole bunch pressed, 70% malo in large used French oak and aged for 12-16 months with very little batonage. The wine is unfined and unfiltered, with a very low pH and very high acidity – a wonderful wine that will run and run.
2016 Riccitelli Wines, Old Vines Semillón, Patagonia
The climate in Rio Negro, where the grapes are sourced from, is cooler and drier than Mendoza which allows the old vines (some up to 70 years old) to reach maturity without losing acidity and to ensure a natural balance. The nose is complex with notes of vanilla, citrus and flowers which leads to a slightly oily-textured wine that has flavours of guava, yellow stone fruit and honey. Really nice balance and finish.
2015 Chacra Pinot Noir, Treinta y Dos, Patagonia
I have always had a lot of time for Chacra’s Pinot Noir and this just seems to get better and better, coming from what they feel has been their best ever vintage. Picked a little earlier than normal, fermented in concrete vats, whole cluster, then aged for one year in used French oak (which is half the time that they normally do with this wine). What we have is a pretty, fruity nose of red berries and red stone fruit – cherries, plums, then a layered palate with plenty going on – deep flavours of red stone fruit with just a hint of mushroom and barnyard to give the fruit a savoury edge. Gorgeous texture and length and very fresh indeed.
2014 Colomé Altura Máxima Malbec, Salta
From the world’s highest vineyard and from the oldest working winery in Argentina comes this outstanding Malbec whose power, fragrance and freshness are all a result of the thicker skins that grapes at this altitude need to develop to protect themselves from both the ultra violet rays and the altitude itself (hot days and cool nights). The wine is fermented in oak, then matured for 24 months in used French oak and then a further 12 months in bottle. The nose is a stunning powerhouse of dark fruits and spice, the palate very complex indeed, with beautiful texture and depth of flavours – blackberries, black cherries, mineral, stones. Drinking so well for a young wine. With age on these wines they are even better.
2013 Trapiche Terroir Series Single Vineyard Malbec, Mendoza
A lower price point than most of the wines in this piece, but it shares an ‘otherness’ that jumps out of the glass. The phenolics are intense and complex with black fruit and herbs, and a palate that has great acidity and freshness but also slightly grippy tannins and a bit of heat on the finish (the ABV is 14.8%!) Flavours combine blackberries, cherries, blue plums with licorice, mint and graphite.
All of the wines were tasted at Tim Atkin’s Top 100 Argentine Wines of 2017 held at the Argentine Ambassador’s Residence in London. A copy of his 2017 Report can be found here