The Malbec Experience 2

2005.Oct.26 Wednesday · 7 comments

in Drink

Buenos Aires – Continuing on with tasting notes from last night’s Experiencia Malbec:

Bodega Sangiorgio & Fornari, Mendoza – Unfortunately I have little to say about this winery as the person pouring samples at their table was not from their, and really knew little other than how to pour a glass and look pretty. A shame, as the second wine poured was my favorite in the tasting and I’d have liked to know more about them.

  • 2000 “Tiberius” – For example, why “Tiberius?” The wine is aged in oak for one year, and interestingly, the one piece of literature provided described it as “maintains an international profile,” which I wouldn’t agree with at all. Thankfully, it was a bright, raspberry flavored wine with a long finish, and just a touch of a CO2 spritz. Recommended.
  • 2002 “Tiberius” – This was leaps and bounds better, not that there was anything wrong with the 2000. There’s a strong earthy component upfront, with lots of dark berry fruit and that same slight spritz to it. Highly recommended.

López Sainz Bodega, Mendoza – I have to admit to being predisposed to dislike this wine, as the person representing the winery was so odious and self-important that I really just wanted to walk away. He seemed far more interested in trying to impress people with how important he was than with letting them taste his wine – in fact it took me three requests just to get him to pour it, and then he poured with an air of complete disgust. Needless to say, I found out very little about the winery other than a brochure that is just as self-important describing it as a family venture of first quality and international distinction. That said, I did like the wine.

  • 2002 “Quintales” – dark fruit, lots of spice, milk chocolate, very smooth and well integrated, nice balanced oak, and a long finish. Highly Recommended.

Bodega Familia Gimenez Riili, Mendoza – A family owned and operated winery since 1945 when they took over an existing winery that had been built in the 1920s. All vineyard practices are handled manually, and fairly traditional winemaking processes are used.

  • 2004 “Perpetuum” – Red plums balanced by a mixed spice box, and milk chocolate in a very smooth, well integrated package. The finish is slightly short. Recommended.
  • 2004 “Terramedia” – A Malbec based blend with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot added to the mix. Red plums, cassis, a bit lighter on the spice side than the pure Malbec. Definitely more depth and body. Recommended.

Bodega Familia Zuccardi, Mendoza – Don Alberto Zuccardi planted his first vineyards in 1963 as a way of demonstrating the advanced irrigation practices that his irrigation company was offering. The wine and olive oil business followed and have been quite successful and are now run by his son, though he has not retired yet either.

  • 2004 Vida Orgánica – An organically grown vineyard and proper handling yields the only organic Malbec offered in the tasting. It is unoaked, and shows red fruit and some spice. It’s fairly simple, and I found the finish to be a bit overly alcoholic. Okay.
  • 2005 Santa Julia – The unoaked version of the Santa Julia line, this shows blackberry fruit with a nice dose of black pepper. It could easily be mistaken for a Syrah if tasted blind. Recommended.
  • 2003 Santa Julia Roble – And the oaked version. Very much the same as the unoaked with the addition of a strong vanilla note from the oak. Recommended.
  • 2003 Santa Julia “Magna” – The reserve of the line, aged in new barriques for one year. Strangely, the fruit characteristic is much lighter, far more raspberry-ish, with white pepper notes. It also tastes like very over-ripe grapes, with a strong stewed fruit quality to it. Not recommended.

Viñas de Altura, Salta (Cafayate) – The new name for the famous Argentine winery, Bodegas Lavaque. This winery dates back to the late 19th century and is being run by the fifth generation of the family in the wine business.

  • 2003 Félix Lavaque – A blend of 50% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Tannat, from vines that are roughly 55 years old. This is a limited edition “reserve” wine that is aged for 10 months in new oak. Rich, full-bodied, lots of dark fruit and spice, with soft tannins. Oak is a very strong component here, and probably will continue to be so even as the wine ages. Recommended.
  • 2003 Finca de Altura – A much lighter wine, but still fairly rich – 100% Malbec aged for 8 months in oak. Blackberry fruit, peppery spice, well balanced, and noticeable though not overpowering oak. Recommended.
  • 2004 Quara – I’d tried the Quara Tannat back in July, and at the time hadn’t found out much information about it, though I’d liked it quite a bit. Now I know it’s an entry-level label of this winery. Light, simple, red fruit, a touch of spice, and fairly short. Okay.

Cava Ferrer, San Juan – The real name of this winery is Bodegas y Vinedos La Esperanza de Los Andes… no surprise that they prefer to be known by their tradename. The winery is family owned and operated.

  • 2004 Finca La Soñada – My immediately thought on tasting this wine was that it tasted like a raspberry ice, or sherbet. It’s fairly simple, with lots of fruit, and just a hint of oak. Recommended.

Bodega Viñas del Barón, Mendoza – Despite their well designed website, the one thing missing is much in the way of information on the winery. It is family owned, and the wines are marketed under the name Finca del Marqués.

  • 2004 Finca del Marqués – Bright raspberry fruit, white pepper, light oak, and a spicy finish. Recommended.
  • 2002 Finca del Marqués Top Reserve – Earthy, with lots of raspberry fruit, white pepper and spice. Well integrated oak. Recommended.

Bodega Los Haroldos, Mendoza – Part of the Grupo Familia Falasco, which also makes Bodega Balbo wines, this is an award winning family run winery. The bulk of their grapes are contracted from 300 vineyards throughout Mendoza, though a small percentage comes from their own.

  • 2004 Roble – I wasn’t clear why the sommelier pouring this wine had decided it need to be iced down. Perhaps it was warm on arrival. Nonetheless it was being served absolutely ice cold which made it quite difficult to taste much of anything. Some raspberry fruit and milk chocolate seeped through. I’d want to retaste this at a reasonably normal temperature.

Aristides, Mendoza – Again being marketed under its tradename, the winery here is Bodega en Manuel Cruz Videla. It is a joint venture between three different families – Baro, Sottano, and Vila – I gather for the purpose of producing one super-premium wine from a blending of their best grapes. Certainly the most elegant packaging of any wine presented at the tasting!

  • 2002 Aristides – Vegetables. That was all I could think of. Having spent 16 months in new oak barrels, and with fruit clearly picked under-ripe, this wine has little to offer other than the elegant labelling. Some hints of red fruit, oak, and spice. I could have had a V-8. Not recommended.

Bodega El Esteco, Salta (Cafayate) – The website is under construction, and the brochure had little to say about the winery. I was able to find some interesting reviews of the winery’s colonial architecture, and apparently they run a hotel their, and that seems to be what it is most famous for.

  • 2005 “Elementos” – The winery’s young, lightly oaked wine entry. Showing plenty of red fruit with varied spices, light oak, and a slightly tannic finish. Recommended.
  • 2004 “Don David” – Their next level up (out of four, though only these two were being shown), this wine shows bright raspberry fruit, spices, and soft oak tannins. I found it slightly high in acidity, but that may calm down with a bit more aging. Recommended.

Bodega el Plumerillo, Mendoza – Yet another table with no information being offered. A real shame, as one of their wines was truly outstanding. The young ladies pouring knew absolutely nothing about the wines.

  • 2003 Clasico – Soft, red plumfruit, with light spice and decent balance. Easily could have been mistaken for an easy-drinking Merlot.
  • 2002 Malbec-Cabernet – A 70:30 blend of the two grapes, this wine is tannic and closed. It shows signs of red fruit, pencil lead, and oak, but these are all pretty muted at the moment. Okay, but really I’d want to retaste this in about a year.
  • 2002 “El Plumerillo” – Blackberry fruit, light spice, good balance, and a bit of oak. Pretty classic Malbec. Recommended.
  • 2003 “Histórico” – Lots of dark fruit, plenty of spice, bitter chocolate, and well-integrated oak. This was my second favorite wine of the tasting. Highly Recommended.

Bodega Navarro-Correas, Mendoza – An easily recognizable name to anyone who’s explored Argentine wines, Navarro-Correas has long enjoyed widespread international distribution. One of its newer features is a $3 million visitors’ center that reflects the winery’s commitment to its consumers.

  • 2004 “Los Arboles” – A 50:50 blend of Malbec and Cabernet, this wine shows characteristics of both grapes. Raspberry fruit competes with cassis flavors, a touch of pencil lead, and light spices. A very “juicy” finish. Okay.
  • 2003 “Collección Privado” – With a full year of aging in new oak barrels it’s not surprising that this wine is dominated by oak flavors. Plenty of dark fruit and milk chocolate are there. The finish is pretty alcoholic. Not recommended.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

BsAsWino April 3, 2006 at 22:30

Hello. I read, with great interest, your comments about an Aristides 2002 (vegetable?) . What varietal were you referring to? I’ve greatly enjoyed the Aristides Merlot 2002. I would rate it amongst the top 10 of the over 70 wines I recently sampled during my stay in BsAs. It has won accolades from a lot of the locals as well as won a Medalla de Oro en el Concurso VinoSub30.

dan April 3, 2006 at 23:22

Being the “Malbec Experience”, it was Malbec. Tastes are personal, and winning accolades from locals doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t like the wine, and vice versa if you do, but locals don’t, does it really matter? My experience living here, and with the volume of wine I taste both on my own, on panels, and with others, is that much of what wins accolades here wouldn’t be passable in many other countries in the world; and, much of what is ignored here because it doesn’t have the right credentials is amongst the best being produced.

It reminds me of a comment made by one of the members of the Austral Spectator panel a week or two ago (the company that produces the annual Vinedos, Bodegas y Vinos guide, and gives out awards for the top wines) – I was comparing a locally made blended wine to a Bordeaux – his comment – “I’ve never tasted a Bordeaux and don’t have any reason to. We make Cabernet – Merlot blends here, and they’re certainly of equal or better quality than anything produced in France.” That, from one of the people giving out those awards…

BsAsWino April 4, 2006 at 10:44

Me bad for “forgetting” that this entry was dedicated to Malbec.

I do agree with you that taste is a personal choice. I won’t appreciate a wine any more or less just because it’s well rated, but I will be tempted to use a higher rating as an inducement to try it, just as a poor rating will most likely cause me to reject it. That’s human nature, and I know I’m not alone in my interpretation. The best strategy, IMO, is to allign yourself with a wine writer who has tastes that roughly parallel yours. I participated in an organized blind tasting recently here in BsAs. It was very interesting how half of us always seemed to prefer one wine over the other. The opinion was never unanimous, and we all felt our choice was clearly superior to the other, regardless of the significant price discrepencies that were later revealed. One man’s plonk is another man’s nectar.

That being said, can I persuade you to try the 2002 Aristides Merlot?

dan April 4, 2006 at 11:11

Oh, I’m sure I will at some point – I probably have at least blind-tasted it without knowing it for the wine guide. However, given the recommendation, I’ll keep my eyes open for it.

I agree – finding a wine writer whom you agree with often enough to trust their palate is a great strategy. They can be so vastly different it’s astounding at times. When I created the wine program at Veritas, one of the things I did was created a page at the back of the winelist to demonstrate this. I put quotes from three different wine writers, along with their scores, about the same wine. I wish I still had a copy of that page, but can’t find it amongst my papers – but the three quotes were radically different, from appalling to loved it, and the scores ranged from I think 54 to 88, all about the same wine, same vintage, and all had been published! Customers used to argue with me that that simply wasn’t possible, because if it was, what were they to do?

geoff April 23, 2008 at 14:08

I enjoy a bottle of 2003 Malbec Coleccion Privada from Navorro Correas and loved it. I bought three more to travel home. Don’t get your ‘not recommended’ advice but to each his own.

dan April 23, 2008 at 17:42

Well, as you said, to each his own. I’m not a fan of wines that are heavily oaked, which the Coleccion Privada line features. Many people are – just as many people like Napa Valley Cabernets, but in general, I don’t – same reason. But that’s what makes wine fun and interesting – if we all liked the same wines, there’d be no reason to have more than a few brands and grapes out there… Also, keep in mind that I was tasting this wine both in a mass tasting up against many others, and it didn’t compare favorably to many of them, plus, if you tasted and/or bought it recently, it’s had another two years to soften, develop, and integrate – things that can drastically change the quality of the wine.

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