Dec 15, 2012

Posted by in 1/2 Day Vacation, Articles | 0 Comments

Exploring Argentine Wines: Malbec, Torrontés and Bonarda

IMG_3501I recently watched the documentary, Boom Varietal: the Rise of Argentine Malbec, a film based on the progressing popularity and quality of Argentine Malbecs.  Produced by Southern Wine Group – an importer and producer of Latin American and Oregon wine, Boom Varietal gives an in-depth look at some of Argentina’s past and present vineyards and wineries that are known for the production and boom of the Malbec varietal.

In addition to importing several different brands from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Baja California, Southern Wine Group owns and operates Bodega Calle winery in Mendoza, Argentina. Headquartered in Bend, Oregon, Southern Wine Group’s founder/President, Kirk Ermisch, under the label Ermisch Family Cellars, contracted Willamette Valley winemaker Robert Brittan to make an incredible Oregon Pinot Noir named, Erendira. I reviewed and loved the 2010 Ermisch Family Cellars Erendira.

IMG_3499Southern Wine Group’s Bodega Calle winery is a small-lot, red wine making studio located in Mendoza, Argentina, in the well-known viticulture area of Luján de Cuyo. All wines are made using a process called gravity-flow winemaking – wines are never crushed or  pumped to deliver the grapes to the fermentation tanks; instead, they are made with the use of gravity. This process allows Bodega Calle wines to showcase a notably softer texture with smoother tannins.

As impressed as I was with the Erendira, and with the documentary, Boom Varietal, I was elated to have a chance to sample Southern Wine Group’s Bodega Calle Ca’ de Calle Red Blend, Bodega Calle Alberti 154 Malbec ’10, Bodega Calle Alberti 154 Torrontés ’10; along with, Carlos Basso Viña Amalia Reserva Malbec ’10 and Durigutti Bonarda ’08.

~($18.99) Bodega Ca’ de Calle 2010 Reserva Red Blend is 70% Malbec, 16% Tempranillo, 12% Syrah and 2% Petit Verdot – a blend of some of the best wines at Bodega Calle. The grapes were hand harvested, made using gravity glow, and aged in new and used French oak for twelve months. A gorgeous deep, dark purple hue in the glass, aromas of ripe plums and blackberries are immediately revealed. On the palate, generous fruit flavors of blackberry, spice and oak offer a luscious mouthfeel. Big and bold, but also very approachable and easy to drink. I love the super smooth, palate pleasing finish.

IMG_3497~($14.99) Bodega Calle Alberti 154 2010 Malbec is a combination of grapes sourced from old and new vines, which allows the wine to take on ripe fruit characteristics with solid structure and fine grained tannins. Aromas of dark fruit and earth are enhanced by a hint of leather, which follow through on to the palate with added raspberry and spice. Nice acidity rounds out the dark fruit flavors, and ends with a soft, smooth finish. Excellent value.

~($12.99) Bodega Calle Alberti 154 2010 Torrontés was sourced from two separate terroirs – LaRioja and La Salta. At first whiff of this super aromatic wine, I was reminded of my favorite pie from my days in Florida: Key Lime Pie. Along with the Key Lime Pie, other alluring tropical aromas and flavors included oranges, mangoes and stone fruit. A solid acidic backbone rounded out the fruit flavors – delivering a nicely balanced, silky, yet dry wine with a beautifully bright, clean finish. Yum. At just $12.99 a bottle, this tropical beauty will easily add a little liquid sunshine to anyone experiencing the winter blues.

IMG_3493~($18.99) Carlos Basso 2010 Viña Amalia Reserva Malbec is fruit forward and displays pleasant red fruit aromas along with hints of licorice and wood. A super juicy entrance on to the palate is full of smooth, round tannins with plum and vanilla flavors. I love the big, bold finish on this – it lures me back in for another taste. A surprising and truly gratifying find for under $20 dollars. The Basso family, originally from Genoa, Italy, has been producing wine since 1922. The family once owned Santa Ana Winery, which is one of Argentina’s largest Bodegas. Selling Santa Ana in 1996, the Basso’s purchased a small winery in Menodoza the following year, where the Carlos Basso wines were born. The winery is 100% percent estate, and is owned and operated by father and son team, Carlos and Adolfo Basso.

IMG_3491~($12.99) Durigutti 2008 Bonarda is a fruit bomb! This is a really, excellent, easy-going, full flavored wine for the price – there’s a lot going on in this wine for $12.99. In both aromas and flavors, lush plums, black cherries and blueberries abound. Excellent structure with its bright acidity and bountiful fruit. Full bodied loveliness in a bottle. This is the first Bonarda I’ve ever had, and now I’m inclined to definitely have more. Bonarda vine cuttings were brought to Argentina by Italian immigrants in the late 1800’s. Current thinking suggests that the Bonarda grape is related to the Italian grape, Dolcetto. Brothers Hector and Pablo Durigutti are truly passionate about this varietal, and it definitely shows in the 2008 vintage.

This is just the beginning of my exploration with Argentine wines, and I’m positively excited about the excellent quality and value of the wines I tried from Southern Wine Group. It’s rare to find such solid, full-flavored, complex wines under $20 dollars. I have a feeling I’ll soon be discovering all sorts of value beauties from Argentina and other Latin American wine regions – I’m looking forward to tasting my way through these solidly structured, fruit driven wines. Cheers!