Posts Tagged ‘cabernet franc’

Wines of Argentina WofA

March 13, 2010

Like in the past years, Argentina‘s wines will be the darling of the media in the coming month and a half, as the south american wine power shares the stage with New Zealand for the annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Because of that I will start covering some ground here and for the days to come, with wine reviews and notes on Argentina’s wine culture, regions, grapes, personalities and other etceteras. 

Let’s begin with a flashback, the Wines of ArgentinaWofA- show of last September, held at the Sutton Place Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Pablo Cuneo, winemaker for Ruca Malen, introduced nine wines representing the wide diversity of Argentinian terroirs as well as grape varieties. Among other interesting things he mentioned was that Argentina’s wine exports amount to only 2% of the global market. This was surprising to me and I’m sure, to many others. Before Mr. Cuneo’s presentation, I thought Argentina’s market share to be a lot bigger than that. But then, you need to understand that Argentina only became a global wine exporting power in the nineties.

In terms of surface cultivated, Malbec takes 50%, followed by Bonarda, in the mid 20’s and Syrah with about 13%. Of these, Bonarda may be the least familiar to Vancouver wine enthusiasts. Traditionally this grape was used exclusively for blending. There is a reason for this, as the variety is very vigorous, so much that some call it -jokingly- a weed. By saying this, they mean that grape production can be huge if the growth is left unchecked. As we all know, too many grapes per vine and the quality of your wine goes down the sink. However, some winemakers have placed their hopes on this variety, restricting berry production and launching some interesting varietal bottlings to the market. A few of these have reached Vancouver, but we will visit them some other time.

Syrah is another grape that not everyone will associate to Che Guevara’s motherland; such is the strong positioning of the Argentina-Malbec tandem in the mind of the global consumer. However, some good Syrah varietals are made there, with my favorite ones coming from the San Juan region. And we should not forget about Cabernet Sauvignon. Argentina, with a long ripening season virtually free of rainfall, has great potential for the king of black grapes, and some good examples have already reached the shelves of the Liquor Distribution Brand and private wine stores. 

In looking back, it would have been nice to have a Pinot Noir from Patagonia or a sparkling wine in the flight. I am sure there will plenty of those in the upcoming Playhouse International Wine Festival. Let’s now go to the nine wines tasted. 

Lurton Gran Lurton Corte Friulano 2008

Corte is Spanish wine jargon for blend. This is a Tocai Friulano, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Torrontés blend from the Uco Valley, near Mendoza. My notes mention floral citric quince*, good acidity, slightly bitter background, creamy texture and lingering finish. In spite of said bitterness or price ($27.99) I gave it a B and a ☺, which means I quite enjoyed it. 

Etchart Ayres de Cafayate Torrontes 2008

Cafayate is arguably the region that has the potential for the best Torrontés, although personally, the best varietal I have tasted is Andeluna‘s from Mendoza. The Etchart version has a pronounced, terpenic nose (chemical term for “floral.” Now go impress your friends). Sweet aromas, a bit rustic, grapey flavors, persistent finish, 15.99 Cdn.  

Las Moras Gran Shiraz 3 Valleys 2005

I discussed Las Moras winery in a previous posting and this one was a head turner during the show. I had to turn my head because the WofA staff forgot to fill my glass and not wanting to disturb Mr. Cuneo’s talk , I gave a convincing look to a staffer who promptly poured some for me. Sometimes I can look very menacing, you know. I found floral (lavender), dark fruit, coffee, rock, sweet tannin, integrated alcohol in a medium-bodied wine that warms up the mouth uniformly, very pleasant all in all. Syrah feels at home in San Juan and I am convinced this will be more evident in the future as more varietals are imported. $24.99. 

Norton Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

In my vinous ignorance I said once that Argentina was in debt for not producing good Cabernet Sauvignon. Time and time again I have been reminded of  my insolence, tasting very interesting vatietals, particularly from the Mendoza area. This Bodega Norton rendition showed a mellow nose with spice, very subtle green note in the biggish body, red fruit and sweet tannin and a long, warm finish with pepper spice. Good at 17.99. 

Andeluna Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc 2005

This is probably the weakest –or the only weak- link in the long chain of excellent wines by this award winning winery. And I am not saying it is not good. Only that at the price (54.99) I’d rather take the brutally good Limited Reserve Malbec 2004** or the elegant Bordeaux style Pasionado blend. This Cabernet Franc showed subdued red fruit, pepper leaft and tannins a bit angular, although the effect of these on the mouth was rather pleasant. Good, like I say, but not at that price.

Ruca Malen Kinien Malbec 2007

Another Malbec from the Uco Valley, which is a cool area within the Mendoza wine district. The nose was closed but the palate was smooth, sweet tannins with solid fruit and firm but gentle grip. The finish was long and soft, like the whispers of a slow stream. I quite liked this one. $34.99. 

Montes Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2007

Aurelio Montes is a bit of a wine King Midas. Every wine he touches, no matter the grape, seems to turn to gold. He is also a bit of a wine Marco Polo, not hesitating much before setting up wineries far from his native Chile, in places like Napa or as in this case, Luján, in Mendoza. The Kaiken Ultra is the bigger brother of the Kaiken Malbec Vancouver wine lovers know so well. The 10 extra dollars are fully justified. Dark purple with floral and plum, sweet scents. Montes’ hallmark smoothness in mouth is present, with pronounced dark fruit and lingering, spicy finish.  Rock solid at $28.99.

Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Federico Villafañe 2006

Sweet, gentle  fruit aromas. A jammy, soft, sweet-tannin full bodied palate make this one into one crowd pleaser Malbec. It was the show’s favorite, although myself would hesitate to fork out the 80 dollars required to taste this beauty. 

Flichman Paisaje de Tupungato 2006

This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Merlot and Malbec woos the nose with ripe fruit followed by even riper fruit, smooth, sweet tannin body. The alcohol is very well integrated, warming up the mouth uniformly for the length of the finish. Lovely at 18.99.

 

*In 15 years in Vancouver I have never seen one quince. Does anybody know what it tastes like? Back in Peru, where it is very common (membrillo, mem-bree-yoe), as kids we loved to hate it. It looks like a small pale yellow-green apple. It has an interesting herbal –quincey– fragrance. On biting is crunchy, grainy, with zingy acidity and slightly sweet; after a few seconds en bouche it turns excruciatingly astringent, but then, you want more.

** The Andeluna Limited Reserve Malbec 2004 is now just over $60.

Saludos

Ivan Alfonso

Note. Photos courtesy of Andeluna Cellars

Advertisements

Wine 101: Varietals und Blends

April 22, 2009

argentina-604Who doesn’t know what Chardonnay is? Or Cabernet Sauvignon? These two are highly recognizable grapes, which are commonly sold all on their own, as varietal wines. Meaning that the predominating -or exclusive- grape variety in the bottle will be the one shown on the label.

Blends involve varying amounts of different grapes that may have been fermented separately or together. The archetypal blend is the French Bordeaux style, which usually includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and/orCabernet Franc. This successful style has been replicated virtually in every wine region in the world, and it is known in North America as Meritage.

In blends, the winemaker seeks to highlight some characteristics of a particular grape, or to polish off edges, to add structure, lift up the fragance or the acidity, in order to work a final product that will better the outcome of the individual varieties.

Varietals are easier to approach, because they showcase typical characters like fruit and aroma. They tend to be more “extrovert” than blends, in which the winemaker intends to achieve something more complex,  more subtle and elegant. It could be said that varietals are more about the grape and blends are more about the winemaking.

Examples of red blends are Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Grenache-Shiraz-Mouverdre, Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz. For whites we have Semillon-Chardonnay, Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc among others.

Cabernet Franc with Little Oak

April 21, 2009

Not nearly as popular as its better known relative -Cabernet Sauvignon- Cabernet Franc is slowly gaining more adepts. The grape yields wines of medium body and marked herbal character when made in its home, the banks of thealluvia Loire (Chinon) or in cool areas, including Vancouver’s own wine backyard, the Okanagan. Just like Chardonnay or other grapes that offer different flavors and aromas depending on the weather where they are cultivated, Cabernet Franc does the same and this example from Uco Valley, in Argentina,  is a delicious one.

Doña Paula, a winery well known by Vancouverites for its Malbecs, brings its Alluvia Cabernet Franc, a scrumptious drink of tremendous inky crimson that saturates the nose with spice and floral aromas.  It is bigger than its cool weather counterparts and its fruit stands out a lot more, due to the minimum oak treatment. The vibrant red fruit and  a touch of vanilla do not mask the quintessential herbaceaous streak so typical of the variety.

Product: Alluvia

Variety: Cabernet Franc

Vintage: 2006

Winery: Doña Paula

Origin: Valle de Uco, Mendoza

Alcohol: 14.5%

Price: 19.99 (was 25.99 when introduced)

Recommended? Absolutely!