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There’s a whole (new) world out there
By Rachel Walne, Manager of Majestic Wine Chapel Allerton

Andes

When we think of South American wine it’s Chile that usually springs to mind. But it would be a real crime to overlook the treasures of South America’s second largest country. And before you ask, there’s more than Malbec to discover…

Argentina’s wine-producing history goes back a long way. Vines were first introduced here during the Spanish colonisation of the Americas in the 1500s, eventually becoming properly established in the late 1800s when European settlers planted vineyards in the foothills of the Andes. A high proportion of old vines and unique geographical settings have enabled regions to establish their own terroirs, and Argentina has come of age as a wine-producing heavyweight – most notably for its Malbecs. Originally hailing from the Cahors region of France, Malbec has found its second home here, just as Sauvignon Blanc has become the signature of New Zealand.

Argentinian Food Match However there’s more to Argentinean wine than mighty, meaty Malbec. There is a wealth of other grape varieties at the winemaker’s fingertips and it would be sacrilege to dismiss what else Argentina has to offer. A dry climate, lack of pests and disease, and high altitude vineyards combine for near-perfect growing conditions, yielding high-class wines bursting with true varietal character. From Torrontes to Viognier and Bonarda to Cabernet Sauvignon, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds.

Michel Torino Torrontés 2009, Calchaqui Valley, Salta
£7.99 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Considered indigenous to Argentina, Torrontes is believed to be a cross between the two varieties of Mission and Muscat (just as Pinotage from South Africa is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault). A typically aromatic nose with hints of jasmine precedes fresh flavours of orange, apricots, and citrus fruits on the palate. Light and crisp, it tastes great as an apéritif or as a partner to a chargrilled tuna steak.

Alamos Viognier 2009/10, Catena, Mendoza
£7.99 or £6.49 when you buy 2 bottles

Hand-harvested and unoaked to retain the delicate flavours and aromas of the Viognier grape. Crisp pear, peach, and apricot, with floral notes of orange blossom and a touch of spicy nuttiness on the finish. Try this with soy ginger pork fillet or herb-crusted salmon.

Amalaya de Colomé Malbec Blend 2009, Salta
£8.99 or £6.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Amalaya means “hope for a miracle” in the local native language; appropriate perhaps, given the current economic climate! This blend of Malbec (75%), Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and a touch of Tannat offers pure, juicy black cherry, damson, and blackcurrant fruit. Sourced from the foothills of the Andes, the grapes produce a wine of intense fruit character and balanced acidity. Just the thing with rib of beef or sausage and lentil casserole.

La Posta Bonarda 2008, Estela Armando’s Vineyard, Mendoza
£9.99 or £7.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Although Bonarda is the second most planted grape variety in Argentina, it was until recently used chiefly in blending, rather than as a variety in its own right. Looks like we’ve been missing out! Velvety-smooth, ripe black cherry and brambly fruit are combined with a herby earthiness on the palate. Serve with a big bowl of chilli con carne, Provencal barbecued lamb or a simple plate of charcuterie.

Catalpa Chardonnay 2009/10, Atamisque
£11.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Bodega Atamisque aims for small yields and harvests by hand to carefully select the best fruit. This Chardonnay is produced from a single vineyard at altitude. It is fermented in oak barrels before 40% goes into French oak barrels for 10 months, adding a creamy toastiness to the wine. Elegant and dry in style, it offers pineapple, peach, and honeyed vanilla notes. Great with smoked fish pie or crispy baked plaice.

Catalpa Pinot Noir 2009, Atamisque
£11.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Named after the Catalpa tree found growing on the Atamisque estate, this Pinot Noir offers crunchy, herbal-infused red cherries, violets, and spicy vanilla on the finish hinting at the use of oak. Fine-grained tannins and racy acidity makes it the red wine to drink with duck or rack of lamb.

Catena Cabernet Sauvignon 2008/09, Mendoza
£11.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles

The Catena family have been producing wine for 100 years. This Cabernet Sauvignon spends 12 months ageing in a combination of French and American oak barrels before bottling. Intense cassis is interwoven with menthol, cedar, and pencil shaving aromas. This wine offers superb concentration and balance with fine-grained tannins and a long finish. Enjoy with hearty casserole or warming cassoulet.

Catena Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2009, Mendoza
£11.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Barrel fermentation and a spell spent gradually maturing in French oak lends this wine a creamy, buttery character. Silky mango and peachy fruit is held together with an elegant acidity, fresh citrus, and vanilla. If you enjoy rich white Burgundy, why not try this alternative with crab cakes, or monkfish?

Catena Malbec 2008, Mendoza
£11.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles

Malbec is, after all, the variety that put Argentina firmly on the wine map for us. Catena sources grapes from a selection of vineyards to produce a top-quality Malbec that truly showcases the best of Argentinean terroir. A blend of plummy dark fruit flavours and smoky blueberry, with chocolate, cedar, cloves, liquorice, and vanilla make it the perfect accompaniment to the obligatory beef steak or strong cheeses.
Prices valid until 31 October 2011.

3 thoughts on “Country in the Spotlight: Argentina

  1. Also worth a mention is the Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec / Corvina. Masi is a famous Italian producer of Amarone but they have done a great job in setting up in Argentina and producing some super reds.

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