We are off to Argentina in our trip around the World of wine. This country has a climate that ranges from mild in the Buenos Aires region to sub-tropical, to cold and dry near the Andes Mountains, and sub-Antarctic cold in the south. We’ll stay away from the cold, feeling our share of a “winter” here in Tampa Bay, and head straight to wine country in Mendoza and Salta- the two prime grape growing regions in Argentina.
The famous red grape of Argentina did not actually originate there. Malbec is an original Bordeaux varietal from France often used as a blending grape. The Malbec grape has flourished in South America, with its deep, dark inky color, heavy tannins and deep structure. The Malbec grape is thick skinned and less resistant to pests and bad weather. Argentina has been growing Malbec since the late 1900’s with over 75,000 acres planted.
Salta has a mild climate year round, and is the highest elevation for grape growing in the world. Salta La Linda or Salta “the beautiful” is located in the northwest section of the country. Tourist friendly with Colonial architecture and stunning valley views, the area encompasses the Andes, lush forests and vineyards. The town of Cafayete is a gateway to wineries and features a high altitude railway, let’s climb on board and take a trip with our wine glass.
Bodega Amalaya Malbec Blend owned and operated by the Hess Family of California, this winery is located nearly 6,000 (1800 meters) above sea level. This elevation is important for many reasons. Pests do not thrive in higher elevations, so minimal pest control chemicals are needed. The soil is rocky and sandy so when there is infrequent rain, it drains down through to the roots of the vines where it is most effective. Struggling vines produce more intense, riper fruit, and this Malbec shows plum and dark fruit flavors with hints of spice and vanilla. Blended with 10% Tannat and 5% Petite Verdot, I give it two bones!
Mendoza is located just north of central in the country of Argentina, with an average yearly temperature of 61, the diurnal range during growing season is about 30 degrees, excellent for wine growing. Olives are the second big agricultural crop for Argentina with a large export business of olive oil in addition to wine. The Cuyo area in Mendoza has extreme temperatures, but due to the natural irrigation from runoff of the Andes Mountains, wine grapes can still thrive in the hot summers.
Padrillos Malbec or Finca de los Padrillos was founded by Ernesto Catena, a fourth generation winemaker originally from Italy. Padrillos means horse in Spanish, the native language of Argentina, and Ernesto has homed over 30 retired Polo Ponies on his winery and farm in Mendoza, the Padrillos logo pays homage to them. Light to medium bodied this 100% Malbec is a fresh style with violet floral aromas and flavors of plum, cherries and dried berries. I give it two bones.
Torrontes (torh on tez) is a white grape varietal specific to Argentina. DNA testing suggests the grape is loosely related to the Muscat grape from France, and has a slightly similar taste profile. Both Chile and Spain grow the varietal, but it is not considered to be related, and is the premier white grape of Argentina’s wine growing regions. If you’re like me, and you like to smell the flowers, this is a great wine to try! Over 20,000 acres are planted to Torrontes and the grapes tend to like harsh growing conditions. Wind and cool temperatures allow the fruit to attain a higher level of acidity and offer more intense fruit flavors and a floral nose.
Pascual Toso Torrontes is highly aromatic with floral notes of honey suckle and orange blossom. 100% Torrontes grown in the Maipu District of Mendoza, all stainless steel fermentation this wine is fresh, clean and crisp. A great starter before a meal or with spicy foods. I give it three bones.
We have a large selection of South American wines and rows and rows of several price points from Argentina to choose from. Give us a call and we can hand select a few for you, or come in and say hello. I am anxiously awaiting a scratch on the ears or a dog cookie!
By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown