Why Argentina is Unique and Our Monthly Wine Reviews
Argentina is an ideal place for wine and Vintages had a recent release of Argentinean wines that are well worth exploring. As expected there is great Malbec, but there’s also Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Sparkling that you should investigate.
That begs the question what makes Argentina ideal? Actually, there are numerous reasons, but here are some key ones. The climate is perfect for grapes to mature due to what is known as diurnal variation – warm days and cool nights. That allows the sugars to develop as the grapes ripen, while preserving the acidity to give the wines balance. Then there is the sunlight. Most of the vineyards are at altitude where the intense ultraviolet rays give another benefit. They contribute to an astonishing phenolic ripeness (ripeness of the skins), which is different than sugar ripeness in grapes. Phenolic ripeness results in the conversion of bitter compounds to softer, rounder flavours. Finally, the rain shadow of the Andes Mountains provides a dry climate that reduces disease pressure on the vineyards.
All in all, it’s a great prescription for producing exceptional wines.
As usual, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.
El Enemigo Chardonnay 2018 ★★★★ $24.95 (Vintages)
An excellent wine from the Mendoza region. Its pale lemon colour does not foreshadow the wonderfully full bodied, Burgundian character. A white with mouth filling lemon curd, yellow apple, vanilla, cream, butterscotch, burnt sugar, toast, and smoke finishing with pineapple and wet stone. If you are serving seafood like crab or shrimp, roast chicken, or pasta in a cream sauce, this wine will make your dinner spectacular.
Jasmine Monet Organic Brut Sparkling 2019 ★★★★ $19.95 (Vintages)
Mendoza can also produce excellent sparklers like this one made by the traditional method, which has an incredible richness and body with a fine mousse. You’ll notice notes of bread, dried strawberry, lemon, yellow apple and a pleasant grapefruit on the finish. Prepare a shrimp pasta dish with olive oil, garlic, and lemon to enjoy with it or experience it with appetizers. Both will complement this charming wine.
Tornatore Etna Bianco 2019 ★★★½+ $24.95 (Vintages)
If your style is crisp, dry, citrusy Italian whites, you will be fond of this one from the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. It’s vinified from the native Sicilian Carricante grape that was almost extinct until it was rescued by a few forward thinking vintners. The flavour profile would be a perfect complement for grilled calamari dressed with good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2017 ★★★★ $18.95 (Vintages)
This review is dedicated to one of our great winemakers, Paul Pender, from Niagara’s Tawse and Redstone Wineries. Paul left us much too soon; his talent, vision, and energy will be missed. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues.
Riesling has found its place in Ontario and consistently produces great wines. This white is an attractive pale lemon in the glass and shows the intense citrus, particularly lime, that characterizes Ontario Riesling. Even though it’s medium dry, your palate will tell you it’s only off dry due to the vibrant acidity. Rieslings are extremely food friendly wines and you could enjoy this one with a variety of cuisines. Drink it German style with pork sausage smothered with caramelized sautéed onion or put it to the test to complement spicy East Asian dishes.
Tapiz Alta Collection San Pablo Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ★★★★+ $19.95 (Vintages)
The most famous red from Argentina is Malbec, but Cabernet Sauvignon may soon catch up. The high altitude vineyards in the Uco Valley in Mendoza have produced a red with incredible ripeness balanced by remarkable acidity. This single vineyard wine is dry, delicious, and full bodied. It illustrates the aromas and flavours that have made Cabernet so popular. Expect intense cassis, blackberry, black cherry, tobacco, vanilla, and mint with earthy underbrush on the finish. Lovely addition to a meal with spice rubbed pork roast, steak, or mushrooms roasted with olive oil and thyme.
Sur de los Andes Pinot Noir Reserve 2018 ★★★½+ $17.95 (Vintages)
This bigger bodied Pinot Noir from Patagonia in Southern Argentina has flavours to match while maintaining its trademark high acidity. It has plenty of black raspberry, strawberry, and cherry with a buzz of vanilla, tobacco, and sage to stand up to bolder foods. Blackened salmon would make a good pairing as would most stews.
Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Malbec 2018 ★★★½+ $19.95 (Vintages)
This quite smooth, dry Argentine red is an intensely black fruited Malbec intermingled with vanilla, cedar, herbs, and barrel smoke ending with a longish finish. It’s very good and would make a superb accompaniment to your cheese and charcuterie board.
The Velvet Devil Merlot 2019 ★★★½ $16.95 (Vintages)
A great every day, crowd pleasing wine that was created in answer to Merlot being ridiculed in the movie from the 90s, Sideways. It has 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and a splash of Malbec in the blend that makes for a nicely fruity, full bodied wine filled with sweet blackberry jam, blueberry, red plum, tobacco, and coconut, vanilla underpinning. It’s a cheerful red that would match up with regular/veggie burgers or meatballs in tomato sauce.
El Angosto La Tribuna 2018 ★★★½+ $13.95 (Vintages)
Here’s a red blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mouvedre that’s from the Valencia region in Spain. It’s infused with strawberry, red cherry, spice, and smoky vanilla with a refreshing acidity. Not wine for the ages, but it’s very good to drink now and great value. Serve it with your favourite hearty winter fare.
Tawse Quarry Road Pinot Noir 2018 ★★★★ $35.95 (Vintages)
To experience more of the magic that Paul Pender created, try this Pinot. It showcases Pinot fruit: raspberry, Montmorency cherry, cranberry with a milieu of violet, forest floor, smoke, resin, and earth. This is an excellent medium bodied Niagara Pinot that would make your Beef Wellington better.