And a Bit More of the Grape

2007.Oct.12 Friday · 2 comments

in Drink

 The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.”

– Galileo Galilei, Physicist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Philosopher

Buenos Aires – It’s been awhile since I’ve been to what folks in the wine business call a “trade tasting”, i.e., a wine tasting designed for those who are in the business of buying wines and/or writing about them for a living to come and taste through a series of wines, without being surrounded by masses of consumers who are just there to drink as much as they can for free, and squeal “ewwww” every time one of us spits the wine out into a spittoon. Trust me though, if you really want to make sense of wines, the spitting part is necessary – you can’t taste through 30, 40, 50 wines, drinking even a small tasting glass of each – certainly not if you want to form any coherent opinion of them. I found out about a tasting of the wines owned and/or represented by Ernesto Catena Vineyards, apparently their feria annual, being held out in Palermo in a design studio, and decided it might be a fun sort of thing to do. These won’t be in the order I tasted them, but rather divided up by vineyard.

Bodega Siesta en Tahuantinsuyu

  • Tahuan Torrontés 2007, Cafayate, 13% alcohol, 12,000 bottles made – rich, decent acidity, light floral notes on the nose, plenty of peaches and a touch of kiwi, a strange briny component that persisted onto the finish. Good.
  • Tahuan Malbec 2004, Mendoza – red plum, bittersweet chocolate, orange peel, good acidity, burnt toast on the finish, didn’t seem like a Malbec to me. Good
  • Tahuan Malbec 2005, Mendoza, 90% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% French oak, 25% of it new, 13.9% alcohol, 5,406 bottles made – more or less the same profile as the 2004, slightly less acidity and less intense flavors, with a touch of volatile acidity on the finish. Okay.
  • Tahuan Merlot 2004, San Juan, 100% French oak, 25% of it new, 13.9% alcohol, 5,706 bottles made – strawberry candy, astringent tannins, green stem finish, a touch of raspberry, high acidity. Not recommended.
  • Tahuan Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Mendoza & San Juan, 100% French oak, 25% of it new, 14% alcohol, 17,364 bottles made – strong upfront note of coffee grounds, with black fruit, pencil lead, good acidity, nicely balanced, touch of bitterness on the finish. Good.
  • Siesta Malbec 2004, Mendoza & San Juan, 12 months 100% French oak, 25% of it new, 13.9% alcohol, 6,720 bottles made – immediate hit of sulfur on the nose, mixed red fruits, good acidity, and a cherry candy finish, very atypical I thought. Not recommended.
  • Siesta Syrah 2004, Mendoza & San Juan, 100% French oak, 30% of it new, 14.3% alcohol, 12,720 bottles made – boysenberry syrup, soft tannins, medium acidity, a touch of bitter chocolate, faint hint of volatile acidity on the finish, but not off-putting. Good.
  • Siesta Bonarda Malbec 2003, Mendoza, 100% French oak, 25% of it new, 13.6% alcohol, 22,304 bottles made – stewed plums and cherries, low acidity, nearly fat and flabby, evident butteriness from malolactic fermentation (100%), green tobacco on the finish. Not recommended.
  • Siesta Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Mendoza & San Juan – red currant, bittersweet chocolate, good acidity, soft tannins, a little closed, and short on the finish. Good but needs time.

Alma Negra

  • Blanc de Blancs 2006, Mendoza, 100% Chardonnay, methode champenoise, 13.2% alcohol, 1 year bottle aging, 12,000 bottles made – nice, steady, fine bead, very creamy, baked apple, vanilla, a little on the soft side, lacking just a touch of acidity to really sing. Good.
  • Rosado de Malbec 2006, Mendoza, 100% Malbec, methode champenoise, 13.2% alcohol, 1 year bottle aging, 10,666 bottles made – beautiful salmon pink color, medium, somewhat sporadic bead, bright raspberry fruit, dry, good acidity, nicely balanced, but a strong coppery, metallic note on the finish that marred the overall package. Okay.
  • Misterio I 2004, Mendoza, 70% French oak, 30% American oak, 20% of it new, 13.5% alcohol, 15,732 bottles made – black plum, dried tobacco, touch of coffee, clay, soft tannins, good acidity, medium length, a little closed. Good.
  • Misterio II 2003, Mendoza, 14 months in French barrique, 35% new, 65% second use, 14% alcohol, 6,200 bottles made – peppermint patties, red fruits, dry tannins, good acidity, toothpaste finish, despite all the strange mint going on there was plenty of fruit and it was well balanced. Good.
  • Misterio III 2003, Mendoza, 14 months in French barrique, 35% new, 65% second use, 14% alcohol, 5,000 bottles made – way too young, eucalyptus and menthol up front, high acid, very dry astringent tannins, lots of concentrated black fruit, needs at least another year to come together. Good.


  • Rosado de Syrah 2006, Mendoza, 100% Syrah, methode champenoise, 13% alcohol, 1 year bottle aging, 10,666 bottles made – lurid pink in color, virtually no bead and only a hint of gas on the palate – almost more frizzante than sparkling, dry, high acidity, lots of lemon rind, blackberry fruit, refreshing. Good.
  • Syrah 2003, Mendoza, 93% Syrah, 7% Bonarda, 100% French oak, 25% of it new, 14% alcohol, 22,494 bottles made – black cherry coke, white pepper, good acidity, soft tannins, a touch of warmed lard on the nose, good length. Good.


  • Patriota 2005, 50% Malbec, 50% Bonarda, Mendoza, 12 months in 70% French and 30% American oak, 13.7% alcohol, 54,000 bottles made – sweet fruit on the nose, giving way to a mix of candied cherries and plum pudding on the palate, soft tannins, a bit lacking in acidity, and a somewhat sweet, cloying finish, hard to believe the listed 1.9g/l residual sugar is accurate. Okay only if you like notedly fruity wines.
  • Amorío 2005, 90% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, 12 months in 100% French oak, 13.6% alcohol, 24,000 bottles made – overextracted, super-ripe, super-concentrated stewed black plums, decent acidity, very soft, nearly non-existent tannins, and a slightly sour, short finish. Not recommended.
  • Júbilo 2003, 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 10% Syrah, Mendoza & San Juan, 12 months in 100% French oak, 14% alcohol, 6,000 bottles made – beautifullly ripe black currant fruit, notes of black olives and dry tobacco, good acidity, soft tannins, almost more like a Cabernet Franc than a Cabernet Sauvignon, really well balanced and put together. Recommended.


  • Petit Caro 2005, 50% Malbec, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 months in French barrique, 25% of it new, the rest 2nd and 3rd use, 14% alcohol, 160,000 bottles made – black fruit, mace, lime peel, soft tannins, quite good acidity, nice long finish. Good.
  • Caro 2003, 50% Malbec, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 months in French barrique, 80% new, 20% 2nd use – semisweet chocolate, black fruit, violets, low acidity and nearly non-existent tannins, touch of pencil lead on the finish. Good, if a bit soft.
  • Caro 2004, 50% Malbec, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 months in French barrique, 80% new, 20% 2nd use, 14.2% alcohol, 44,000 bottles made – very similar to the 2003 but with more intense flavors, especially the chocolate, and soft but far more present tannins. Recommended.


  • Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Mendoza, 3 months in new French barriques, 13.5% alcohol – grapefruit rind, grass, fat and lacking acidity, vanilla, toast on the finish. Okay.
  • Tempranillo 2005, Mendoza, 1 year in 50% French and 50% American oak, 13% alcohol – dried out leather, apple skin, red fruits, hint of spice, good acidity, soft tannins. Okay.
  • Malbec 2004, Mendoza, Mix of new and 2nd use French oak, 13.5% alcohol – plum jam, good acidity, drying tannins, and a strong note of cardamom from upfront through the finish. Okay.
  • Primera Zona 2003, Mendoza, 50% Cabernet, 30% Malbec, 20% Merlot, 1 year in new French oak, unfiltered, 13.5% alcohol – allspice, black fruit, low acidity, soft tannins, closed and young with a short finish, needs time. Good.


  • Chardonnay 2006, Mendoza, 12 months in French oak, 13.5% alcohol, 12,000 bottles made – oak, Oak, OAK, baked apples, cream, orange peel, good acidity, did I mention OAK? Good if you like really oaky Chardonnay.
  • Pinot Noir 2005, Mendoza, 12 months in French oak, 13.9% alcohol, 3,600 bottles made – burnt chocolate, red fruit, low acid, non-existent tannins, evident carbon dioxide gas, short finish. Not recommended.
  • Malbec 2005, Mendoza, 12 months in French oak, 13.5% alcohol, 8,400 bottles made – red plums, nutmeg, cinnamon, touch of violets, good acidity, soft tannins, one of the few Malbecs in the tasting that was point blank obviously Malbec, slightly hot finish. Good.
  • Syrah 2005, 95% Syrah, 5% Malbec, Mendoza, 12 months in French oak, 13.5% alcohol, 144,000 bottles made – sweet black raspberry, burnt toast, good acidity, soft tannins, lacking balance. Not recommended, I’d like to think it just needs time, but I don’t think it has the structure to come together.
  • Beso de Dante 2003, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec, Mendoza, 12 months in French oak, 2,100 bottles made – black currant, pencil lead, green tobacco, especially on the finish, medium acidity, soft tannins, young and a touch closed. Good.

Masi – this is a new, joint venture with the Masi winery of the Veneto in Italy.

  • Passo Doble 2006 65% Malbec, 5% Merlot, 30% semi-dried Corvina, made in ripasso style, Mendoza, 9 months in French oak, 13.7% alcohol – black fruit, green olives, a touch of dried figs, good acidity, soft tannins, nicely balanced. Good.
  • Corbec 2005, 50% Corvina, 50% Malbec, made in amarone style, Mendoza, 14.5% alcohol – mix of ripe and dried figs, black fruit, spice, great acidity, soft tannins, beautifully balanced, long finish. The star of the tasting, and, of course, it turns out it’s an experimental bottling and is officially unavailable. Highly recommended.

Overall impressions: I was surprised at the lack of standout wines, especially given the reputation of some of the labels like Tikal and Luca, many of which I’ve tasted in past vintages. Overall, most of the wines were lacking in tannins or had very sweet, soft tannins, which doesn’t bode well for their aging potential, especially given that most of them are only 1-2 years old at this point. While not unusual to attend a tasting and only come up with one highly recommended wine out of 33 tasted, it is unusual for me to taste that many supposedly high quality wines and only have two other wines that I even particularly recommend. Most were just okay to good, meaning I wouldn’t send them back if they were put in front of me, and would probably even enjoy them, especially with a meal, it is surprising to have 6, or roughly 18% of them to be wines that I simply wouldn’t find acceptable to drink. I would have liked to have a price list available, even after the tasting, to be able to give a sense of the wines’ value, something that’s usually offered at trade tastings.


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