Posts Tagged ‘salta’

Cafayate’s Cabernet Sauvignon

February 3, 2011

Move on Malbec! just kidding. But hey, a jewish celebrity said two thousand years ago “not on bread alone”, and the wisdom of this phrase still holds today, especially when it comes to wine, where searching for new flavors, grapes, styles and appellations is the only way to learn and enjoy more. After the 2012´ish tsunami wave of Malbec sweeping all six continents (they drink it in the research stations in the Antarctic), one has to wonder what else may come from the land of the gaucho, cheap beef and omnipresent botox applications. Well, it turns out that the king of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon is doing really well there, and thanks to the long ripening season the phenolic ripeness many a time coincides with the sugar ripeness. The latter is the one that makes the fruit taste like a grape and not like mouthwash. It breaks down the acids and increases  the sugar content. Phenolic ripening is related to tannins, and when picking happens while the tannins are not mature enough this can have an unpleasant effect on the wine, giving it a “green” character. In grapes with heavy loads of tannin, like Cabernet Sauvignon, this problem can be a nightmare for the grower and the winemaker. In Argentina, however, due to the high elevation of the vineyards and lack of autumn rains, this is less of a concern, resulting in “sweet” tannins, also called “redondos” (round) and some other names that are reminiscent of the phemale anatomy and that I will discuss in another post dealing with the sexuality of wine.

Anyhow, and going back to the subject of interest, no better place for Cabernet Sauvignon than Cafayate, a colonial city in the province of Salta, far up north toward Bolivia. Cabernets from the area are intense, big, unfathomably fruity and have those beautiful sweet round tannins that tickle your buds long after you swallow. The province is famous for the Calchaquies Valleys, which boast truly high elevation vineyards, up to 2000 meters above sea level, dwarfening the “high vineyard” monicker that many wineries from Mendoza love to stamp on their back labels. Cabernet Sauvignon does so well there that in fact, wines from Cafayate have won national challenges in Argentina, leaving behind not only wines from famed Mendoza but those made with the legendary Malbec grape. Names to look for include Etchart, Colome, San Pedro, Nanni, among many more.


In Focus: Argentina’s Wine Regions

March 15, 2010

Glancing at a map of Argentina’s wine regions the first thing that comes to mind is how far those regions are from any large body of water. Separated from the Pacific Ocean by the massive wall of granite of the south Andes Mountains, Argentina is perhaps the only important wine region in the world to enjoy continental climate exclusively. This fact, which might have been a problem in other areas, is rather a blessing in the case of the south american country. In continental climates, summers are hot; hot summers are scorching; many times cooking the berries while still on the vine. It happens, however, that Argentina’s wine regions are not only inland but also are located at high elevations. In fact, some vineyards, like in Northern Salta, thrive at altitudes of over 2,000 meters above the sea level. This results in cooler conditions and a counterbalance to the parameters dictated by a continental climate. 

Anyone who has been to the Andes will remember the tremendous amount of solar radiation, bright, white light that sweeps the land. During most of the ripening season the skies are an endless blanket of spotless, immaculate blue. This, together with the latitude, work into a long ripening season. If that were not enough for a viticulture paradise, rainfall is quite low, averaging 150 mm per year. That is very dry. This landscape would be a harsh desert was not for the snow capped mountains to the east, separating it from neighboring Chile. Hundreds of years ago the Andean peoples mastered irrigation technology, to a level unparalleled anywhere in the world at that time. If you visit Mendoza, Argentina’s viticultural core, you won’t fail to notice the canals crisscrossing the city. Fresh, unpolluted glacier water reaches the vineyards, making the whole area into a veritable oasis. To complete the picture, add poor soils and you have some of the best terroirs in the world. 

The Regions


The sheer size of Argentina’s wine country is staggering. From the northernmost vineyards, in Salta, to southern Rio Negro in Patagonia, they cover 1,600 kilometres, with several different microclimates determined by a diverse combination of latitude and elevation. The core of this vast wine expansion lies in Mendoza, some 1000 kilometres northeast of Buenos Aires. This area alone has close to 140,000 hectares of vineyards. By comparison, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley wine country amounts to some 2,000.   

Mendoza is divided in what could be called sub-appellations, five in total. North Mendoza is a plain of sandy loam soils, planted mostly with Bonarda, Sangiovese, Chenin Blanc and Pedro Ximenez. Most wine produced there is for early drinking.

The Upper Mendoza district is perhaps Argentina’s current top terroir. The sub-area of Lujan de Cuyo (loo-han deh coo-yoe) has a recognized DO status or Denominacion de Origen. It is also an area of great scenic beauty, with the lush greenery of the vineyards and tree hedges set against the backdrop of the snow tipped Andes.  Malbec reigns supreme here and some of the premier Argentinian wineries are located in this area. Stony soils, excellent thermal amplitude* and minimum rainfall result in wines of depth, flavor and concentration. Besides Malbec, quality wines are made of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Among the white grapes, Chardonnay and Semillon stand out. Many bodegas located there have their wines available in Vancouver: Altos Las Hormigas, Terrazas de los Andes, Ruca Malen, Renacer, Norton, Nieto Senetiner, Foster, Dominio del Plata, Chakana and Catena Zapata. 

In a next posting we will visit the Uco Valley, an exciting new development in Upper Mendoza district.


Ivan Alfonso

*Thermal amplitude. Refers to the difference between day and night temperatures. Ideal conditions allow for a hot day and a cool night –a wide amplitude- so that acidity can be sustained in until full grape maturation.  

ps. Photos. Dominio del Plata winery. Lujan Fall landscape from Flickr by Nino Calogero.

Import Vintners & Spirits Association New Products Salon Part II

September 23, 2009

Import Vintners & Spirits Association
New Product Salon
4 Seasons Hotel
Vancouver, September 21, 2009
Part II
Let’s continue with more white wines that hit a good spot.

Mc William’s Pinot Grigio 2007, Australia. $15.99. A nice effort but at this price, and with the declining reputation of Australian wines, it might have a hard time getting off the shelves. Agent: NA.
Campagnola, Le Bine Soave. Garganega Trebbiano. Veneto. $19.49 Spec. Delicious, chalky, refreshing and with a wonderful long finish. Agent: Red Dog
Cantina Breganze. Terracrua Bianco (100% Friuliano). Veneto. $14.99 Spec. Low alcohol (10%) may be an attractive point for a decent Friuliano, lacking a bit in acidity but at the price point could move. Agent: Vinoallegro.
Sartori Marani Bianco Veronese 2007. Garganega. Veneto. $24.99. Spec. A soft, plump, refreshing Garganega. Agent: Pacific Wine & Spirits.
Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2008. New Zealand. $19.99 Specialty. A tasty, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc with the quality that Marlborough wines always deliver. Agent: Calibrium.
Michel Torino Cuma Organic Torrontes 2006. Salta, Argentina. $13.99. A serious competitor in this class. Intense, fruity and organic. Agent: The Kirkwood Group.
Sileni Cellar’s Pinot Gris. Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. $19.99. Pear and citrus, ripe and with very good texture. Agent: The Kirkwood Group.
La Sauvageonne Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Les Ruffes, Languedoc, France. $22.99. Spec. Intense nose, good acidity and balance. Agent: Barbara Mills.

Inca, a Smooth White from Argentina

May 20, 2009

A blend of 80% Torrontes and 20% Chardonnay yields a bright lemon colored wine, brimming with aromas of canned pineapple, apricot and lime. In the palate is medium bodied, with citrus and lemongrass flavors, refreshing acidity and a good finish carried by lime zest. Unoaked, the Chardonnay softens the aggressive nature of the Torrontes grape in a wine that screams “value”. inca-white

Product: Inca

Variety: Torrontes Chardonnay

Vintage: 2007

Winery: Inca

Origin: Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Northern Argentina

Alcohol: 13.0%

Price: 13.99 (Everything Wine)