Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES August 17th: Getting Beyond Beef in Argentina

Getting Beyond Beef in Argentina

By David Lawrason with notes from Michael Godel

In the August 17 Argentina feature VINTAGES buyers got it right with an intriguing, diverse and quality group of wines. I have scored most 90 points or better.  The selection, although always maddeningly skimpy, is a well focused snapshot of what’s new and coming in Argentina – particularly beyond the Mendoza heartland.

But Vintages magazine editors missed the memo and defaulted to the overdone narrative of beef to sell the wines.

Yes, there is lots on the hoof in Argentina, and deep cultural traditions around BBQ-ing, bonfire-ing and otherwise searing, smoking and lambasting beef. There is the “asado” which Vintages kind of explains; but it doesn’t sound all that different from an extended family BBQ with good Canadian beef in Burlington. Once, in a famous Buenos Aires steak house I was served one cut of beef as an appetizer, then a bigger one as an entrée. That was twenty years ago.

Best Value Wines at the LCBO – Majestic Wines 

In our emerging “beyond beef” world, this kind of messaging is perhaps not what Argentina needs to be promoting going forward.  The problem with the all-beef message – aside from alienating the growing legion of vegans and those who know that cattle-produced methane is a huge contributor to greenhouse gases – is that it pigeon-holes Argentine wines.

What I really like about this release was trying a promising pinot from Argentina’s Atlantic seaboard, terrific malbecs from the upper reaches of Salta (love this place for red wines), and a decent malbec from Patagonia too.  Plus non-malbec varietals like cabernet franc and bonarda.  And a really good cabernet sauvignon!

While John and Sara have been away on summer breaks, Michael and I have highlighted some of the better buys below. Plus picks from other parts of the world.

There were many wines on this release however that scored average 85s to 87s on my account. VINTAGES tends not to put its best foot forward in the dog days of August, while its core demographic is at the cottage drinking G&Ts on the dock. I have noticed this over the last 25 years or so.

Argentina Feature

Cinco Sentidos Reserva Torrontés 2017, Mendoza  ($16.95)
David Lawrason – A tasty Torrontes with lifted, confected aromas of lemon-lime, black licorice and spearmint. It is fleshy, fairly soft yet dry with almost creamy texture. Try well chilled with ceviche or grilled veg involving fennel.

Susana Balbo Signature Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2016, Gualtallary, Uco Valley, Mendoza ($20.95)
Michael Godel – Certainly not shy to speak quickly out of the barrels’ gate. Plenty of apple fruit, crunchy but also baked into a pie. Big example and this is how it’s done in the sun, at altitude, in the southern hemisphere.
David Lawrason – From 1100 metre vineyards in the Gualtallary sub-region, this is quite a lean, toasty and nutty chardonnay made in a reductive, flinty style. Yet big fruit beneath, and a lot of character and structure for the money.

Cinco Sentidos Reserva Torrontés 2017, Mendoza  Susana Balbo Signature Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2016

El Esteco Malbec 2015, Calchaquí Valley, Salta ($21.95)
David Lawrason – From northern Salta high in the mountains comes an opaque malbec with ripe mulberry synched with fresh herbs, red earth and fine oak spice and vanillin. It is full bodied, dense with tension and intensity. Wow!
Michael Godel – The vintage was an exceptional one to combine high altitude solar radiation with great acidity and so the blackberries and native savoury brushy herb called Yerba Seca that grows in this cactus populated desert are so beautifully foiled.

Colomé Estate Malbec 2016, Calchaquí Valley, Salta ($24.95)
Michael Godel – The Estate gathering draws from all three Lote Especial vineyards (La Brava, Colomé and El Arenal) plus fruit from Altura Maxima at 3,100. Bring them all together and the broadest expression with the middle ground concentration and the fullest texture is realized.
David Lawrason – Deeply coloured with an equally dense, concentrated nose of blackcurrant/mulberry. Plus intriguing green caper, violet and oak. It is full bodied, smooth and almost creamy with fine, firm tannin.

Benmarco Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Los Árboles, Uco Valley, Mendoza ($18.95)
David Lawrason Very impressive, rich, smooth and generous with candied black cherry liberally oaked with chocolaty, spicy and slightly resinous aromas.  Very well balanced in its warmer climate style.
Michael Godel – Here’s a wonderfully aromatic varietal red from the Benmarco label that has been growing, moving and shaking from strength to strength for nearly two decades.  Crazy good value in Argentinian cabernet sauvignon with a sense of place. Los Árboles.

Fabre Montmayou Reserva Cabernet Franc 2016, Mendoza ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Very tidy cab franc, the grape making an important new impact in Argentina. Lovely raspberry/black raspberry fruit, some herbal lift tobacco and fine oak. Full bodied, fleshy yet dry and savoury.

El Esteco Malbec 2015, Valle De Calchaquí    Colomé Estate Malbec 2016, Calchaquí Valley, Salta   Benmarco Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Mendoza   Fabre Montmayou Reserva Cabernet Franc 2016

Other Whites

Leaning Post Riesling Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario ($25.20)
Michael Godel – There is some sugar (10 g/L) but it’s folded in, melded and glued to acidity, but even more, it’s the texture. Has improved dramatically over the last 18 months.
David Lawrason – Best white of the release!

Dr. Siemens Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb 2009, Germany ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Huge value! This deep lemon riesling has a complex, mature nose of lemon marmalade, mint, mushroom and honey. Very smooth ballooned by some sweetness with fine acidity and liveliness.

Edetària Via Terra Garnaxta Blanca 2017, Terra Alta DO, Spain ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Via Terra is Edetària’s entry-level garnaxta blanca from the Terra Alta tufo soilin Northeastern Spain. It’s spoken in clear territorial vernacular bringing straightforward and driven fruit. Perfect for these dog days of summer.

Leaning Post Riesling Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard 2016    Dr. Siemens Herrenberg Riesling Spätlese Feinherb 2009   Edetària Via Terra Garnaxta Blanca 2017

Other Reds

Domaine Belle Cuvée Louis Belle Crozes Hermitage 2015, Rhöne Valley, France ($43.95)
Michael Godel – Top, top syrah from the C-H appellation. Plenty of dark berry fruit suggest ripeness, agricultural vintage ease and no mess, no fuss, no mucking things up. ’Tis a delight to taste today and will reward those who have some patience

Carmim Terra Lenta Premium Reguengos 2016, Alentejo, Portugal ($13.95)
David Lawrason -A tidy value at $14, as Portuguese reds often are. Medium-full bodied, fairly rounded and a touch sweet, with ripe black fruit nicely set within oak cedar, vanilla and clove. Mindful of California zin.

Luciano Arduini Fontana Del Fongo Valpolicella Classico 2017, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Tidy, easy and pleasant Valpolicella exactly as intended. It has charming red cherry fruit, subtle savoury character, nicely fresh acidity and almost no tannin. A light chill recommended.

Domaine Belle Cuvée Louis Belle Crozes Hermitage 2015    Carmim Terra Lenta Premium Reguengos 2016    Luciano Arduini Fontana Del Fongo Valpolicella Classico 2017

Ancient Peaks Santa Margarita Ranch Zinfandel 2017, Paso Robles, California ($29.95)
David Lawrason – A distinctive zin with quite lifted peppery, blackcurrant and herbal aromas suggesting its cooler subregion near the Pacific. It is full bodied, intense and intriguing with sweet-tart ying-yang .

Yalumba The Strapper GSM 2016, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Great summer red, and I would chill a bit.  Soft aromas with classic bit non-confected grenache strawberry/plum jam, white pepper and nicely integrated shrubby and cedary notes. Equally soft on the palate with low acidity, warmth and easy tannin.

Ancient Peaks Santa Margarita Ranch Zinfandel 2017    Yalumba The Strapper GSM 2016

And that’s a wrap for this release. Wishing all the best to the Femmes du Vin gathering August 18 in Toronto as some of the nation’s leading women of wine get together to taste and debate.

I also want to mention two, very ambitious educational efforts around Italian that are landing in Toronto in September. Both tend to be trade-oriented and would require huge time commitments. One is called Indigena with Italian wine expert Ian D’Agata featuring in-depth four-day regional session on Piedmont Sept 16 through 19; then a regional session on Monferrato and Marche Sept 25 & 26.  Email [email protected]. The other called Native Grape Odyssey is a five-day exploration of Italian wine by the folks who run VinItaly. It is also happening Sept 15 through 19th.

Enjoy the remaining days of summer!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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