I have introduced a new section, called Esotérica. This section deals with wines that break the mould of peoples’ expectations of what Argentine wines are. Since the meteoric growth of Malbec began around 5 years ago, the name of this grape has now become firmly entrenched into the language of wine.There is a certain expectation around wines from Argentina. In my experience, the reds are expected to be rich, soft and opulent, whilst the whites are ripe and soft in the mouth, with low to medium acidity. However, in recent years, many winemakers are picking their grapes earlier, where less alcohol and more acidity give rise to wines of tension, elegance and finesse. I love these wines, but they don’t fall into this usual expectation.I decided to separate them into their own section so that they don’t get lost amongst all the other wines and also to provide a little warning as to what is to come. I am very excited about how these wines will bring a new dawn to the brilliant diversity of Argentina. Please try them, they are all made in small batches and only available in very limited numbers.
Gen del Alma ‘Ji Ji Ji’. Chenin Blanc. 2016
I fought hard to get this wine. Chenin Blanc is not a grape variety normally associated with Argentina, but there is plenty of old vine Chenin in Mendoza.
Gerardo Michelini, with his wife Andrea Mufatto, produced this wine from a small plot in Villa Seca, at the ‘low’ end of Tupungato in the Uco Valley. Made in one concrete egg, these grapes were picked early to avoid over-ripeness, and then aged on the lees without any oak treatment.
Gerardo and Andrea, like the rest of the Michelinis, concentrate on the Tupungato district of the Uco Valley for the majority of their wines. They were born and bred in the city of Tupungato and know all of the growers there. They see it as a socially responsible thing to buy from small, independent families who grow old vines with grapes that have, for one reason or another, become unfashionable.
Lean, mean, with extremely high acidity, this is a very cool climate. Pear, peach and quince, with green plum, a touch of honey and a chalky, mineral finish.
Chenin Blanc originates from the Loire valley in France, with Vouvray AOC being the main reference point. Chenin can also make sparkling wines and some very good sweet wines.
In the Esotérica section, priced at £47.00.
Costa Y Pampa. Sauvignon Blanc. 2016
A while ago I updated the map on the wine menu to include a small area in Buenos Aires province as a wine making region. It is called Chapadmalal, and is a popular holiday destination for many Argentines, being a few hours’ drive south of the city.
So now we have it, a wine that is the only one on our list that is cooled by ocean breezes, rather than the altitude of the Andes. The altitude is just 3m above sea level.
This gives the wine a slightly saline (salty) quality with earthy tones, rather like a good Chablis. Of course, there is no need to irrigate since there will be plenty of rain here, so the wine is ‘dry farmed’.
Grassy, with gooseberry, lemon and lime, a touch of yellow grapefruit and a dash of sour passion fruit on the finish with a very evident minerality. The closest thing to New Zealand in style.
In the Esotérica section priced at £47.50 and made by the brilliant Daniel Pi.
Trapiche ‘Iscay’. Syrah/Viognier. 2013
From grapes sourced in Los Arboles, right between Gualtallary and Chacayes, this is a cool climate red wine. The addition of 3% Viognier is in keeping with the famous Cote Rotie wines of the Rhone valley in France. The Viognier adds aroma and a delicate quality to the Syrah, being co-fermented. Strangely, a small number of white grapes in a fermentation of red also helps to ‘fix’ the colour of the wines, and is commonly used throughout the world, but rarely used as a means to make a point of difference.
‘Iscay’ means ‘two’ in the Quechua language, and these wines have always followed the rules of using two varietals. It is also a winemaking partnership born of a great friendship between Joey Tensley, a famous Californian winemaker, and Daniel Pi, winemaker at Trapiche.
Very aromatic, with white and red flowers on the nose. Lean and tight on the palate, with black fruits and kirsch and a taught and focused finish. A brilliant wine any Rhone winemaker would be proud of, but it’s from Argentina!
Gen del Alma ‘A Merced de Gualta’. Malbec. 2015
A tribute to vine growers in Gualtallary, Gerardo Michelini and Andrea Mufatto have conjured up what I believe to be a very focused and pure interpretation of Gualtallary. I doubt that there are many that have more of an understanding of this terroir than the Michelini brothers. ‘A Merced’ is a loose way of saying ‘in praise of…’ which is very apt.
For many years, winemakers have been unable to put the name Gualtallary on the label since the name is owned by another winery, and so is a brand. This is all about to change. But in the meantime, they like to call the place Gualta… And who are we to argue?
This is a very complex wine, tense and sinewy, utterly focused on fruit, but with the influence of chalk, giving a more vertical mouthfeel. By that I mean tight, not fat. Black fruits, violets, lavender and earthy tones, like great Pinot, and a purity which belies the multi-layered character of this Malbec. No expense has been spared in making this beautiful wine. One of the best I have tasted.
In the Esotérica section priced at £100.00
Riccitelli ‘Old Vine Patagonia’. Semillon. 2016
(Not available in Birmingham or Edinburgh)
Very much in the ‘past is future’ ethic that many new winemakers are exploring with their own take on what their ancestors did. Matias Riccitelli worked for many years with Bodega Fabre Montmayou, under the tutor Hervé
Fabre Montmayou, and was responsible for making the Patagonia wines that we have listed at various times over the years. His time spent there meant that he had a real understanding of what the region of the Río Negro used to be and how it can be revived.
This wine is from old vines in the Río Negro, planted by Moët
et Chandon in the 1950’s and brought back to life by Matias. It is very encouraging to know that young winemakers such as those in this section of the menu, have so much respect for those that struggled during the ups and downs of Argentina’s economic plight. These vines would have been lost, but for his vision and incredible talent.
Very concentrated, with honey and peach in spades and a hint of sour cherry and straw. 60% fermented in used French oak, with the other 40% being in concrete egg. Rich and full bodied, this is an excellent wine for food and will stand up to most of the dishes on our menu, but is at its best with strong blue cheese. One of the very best Sémillons in Argentina.
In the Esotérica section priced at £110.00
Riccitelli ‘Old Vine Patagonia’. Merlot. 2015
We know that Merlot is good in Patagonia, since it is a cool, more European climate, without much rain. The vines for this wine are in the village of Allen. Yes Allen, like the name.
This is a deeply complex and opulent Merlot, in the Pommerol style. Aromatics of violets, lavender and chocolate and a herbal character, as well as rosemary and laurel, sweet spice and a rich, plummy finish. Those who like Bordeaux will love this.
In the Esotérica section priced at £110,00
Zuccardi Poligonos ‘Tupungato Alto’. Malbec. 2015
By Tupungato Alto, we mean Gualtallary. I’m sure that in the next vintage Sebastian Zuccardi will be able to put this on the label, but in the meantime, here is another stonking wine from the new Zuccardi stable. Made with a minimum of oak (3rd and 4th use) and with the focus on purity, this is from new vines that have been planted in Gualtallary.
Blueberry, fresh herbs and black fruits, with violets and lavender on the nose. Lean and tight in the mouth, with a beautiful, delicate freshness on the finish. If the colour purple was a flavour…
In the Malbec Tupungato section priced at £59.00
Zuccardi Poligonos ‘Paraje Altamira’. Malbec. 2015
In the same mould as the Tupungato Alto above, this is made from the chalkiest of chalk soils in Altamira, San Carlos in the south of the Uco Valley. As you know, Altamira was given its own appellation two years ago as a result of extensive research done by Zuccardi, Trapiche and Catena in the last few years. The limit, next to La Consulta, is defined by the amount and nature of the chalk-rich soils.
Lemon verbena, sage and rosemary on the nose, with wild flowers and sour red fruits on the palate. Very complex in the mouth, taught and focused. An amazingly pure expression of Altamira, with concrete being the main vessel for maturation.
Zuccardi ‘Corte G’. Malbec blend. 2013
From a wonderful year, with fruit mainly from the Uco Valley, this is a blend of Malbec from La Consulta, Cabernet Sauvignon from Gualtallary and Tempranillo from Santa Rosa in the east.
I think this is the best ‘Corte G’ wine we have done with Zuccardi. The beauty of this vintage was the biggest contribution to this wine. It is complex, but very easy to drink. We made this wine to be a little more competitive when it comes to price, so is under £50.00.
Tobacco, nuts and black fruits, with plenty of structure. This wine is drinking beautifully and has a rich mouthfeel, but with a lovely freshness on the finish. Lots of cedar, cassis and mulberry on the nose, with a modern Rioja-like intensity. Great value.
Trapiche ‘Iscay’. Malbec/Cabernet. 2011
We often get requests for slightly older wines. So, this is it.
This is another in the Trapiche high-end stable. The Malbec is from vineyards in Los Arboles - the same vineyard as the Syrah/Viognier. The Cabernet Franc is from Cruz de Piedra, Maipú. These vines are exceptionally old, dating back to 1888. In fact, the same vineyard as the Trapiche Finca’s Cabernet Franc. These are perhaps some of the oldest surviving Cabernet Franc vineyards in the world.
I love the combination that cool climate and warm climate brings to this blend, as well as the combination of Malbec and Cabernet Franc (70/30).
As you would expect, this is complex. There is a very nice touch of bottle-age creeping in on this wine. It is well rounded, soft and rich on the palate. Violets, mint and eucalyptus on the nose, with a line of green capsicum giving tension and energy, but with an opulent and luxuriant finish.
Sonvida ‘Allegria’. Malbec blend. 2015
When David Smith, owner of Sonvida, told me he had made a blend, I was a little surprised. He has now built his own micro-winery on his property, but still had Alejandro Vigil as his winemaker.
This is a blend made from grapes at his own property, called Finca Allegria. It is in the heart of Paraje Altamira and this shows in the wine. It is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Taken from the best barrels, this is a lovely blend, combining red and black fruits, menthol, herbs and huge minerality. Although young, it has an opulence, no doubt because of the oak. Whilst evident, this supports the fruit rather than overpowering it.
Allegria is lovingly named after David and Sonia’s daughter.
In the Malbec section – San Carlos @ £59.00
Director of Wines