Led by a group of highly dedicated producers, Argentina has been producing wines of exceptional quality and value. In report #5 Argentina’s Magnificent Malbec and in follow-up Featured Monthly Tastings, the International Wine Review has noted that Argentina can lay claim to producing some of the best wine values and best quality wines in the New World. The producers featured in this month’s tasting--Doña Paula and Bodegas Salentein--are notable for producing stylish wines of quality and value at both the entry and fine wine price points.

Doña Paula

Doña PaulaDoña Paula belongs to the Claro Group, a Chilean investment company which also owns other notable Chilean wineries such as Viña Santa Rita, Viña Carmen, Sur Andino and Los Vascos, a joint venture with the Baron Eric de Rothschild of France. The Viña Paula sources its grapes from high altitude vineyards in Ugarteche, Lujan de Cuyo. Doña Paula Los Cardos is their high quality entry level label.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL

Doña Paula 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($16) 90

Youthful saturated dark ruby. Sweet and high toned black fruit and smoky oak aromas. Soft attack of pure ripe black currants and cassis. Concentrated and mouthfilling fruit on the palate with beautiful balance, velvety tannins and a long finish. A delicious wine.

Dona Paula 2007 Chardonnay Mendoza ($16) 86

Lemon gold. Ripe banana and leesy aromas. Very soft attack. Aromas carry over to the palate. Very ripe fruit flavors of banana and tropical fruits. Fairly short finish.

Doña Paula 2006 Merlot Mendoza ($16) 86

Saturated ruby. Pure ripe plum and toast on the nose. Somewhat tart on the attack and dry on the mid-palate with moderate red fruit flavors and youthful chewy tannins.

Doña Paula 2006 Shiraz-Malbec Mendoza ($16) 90

Saturated dark ruby. Fruit forward in character. A blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Malbec, It reveals ripe and juicy black fruit aromas with nicely integrated cedar notes. Soft, sweet and lush on the palate, it offers rich and juicy cassis fruit flavors, plum and chocolate notes. A wine that would stand well with food, but would be enjoyable to drink on its own and savor all the nuanced flavors. Lovely balance and a long lasting finish.

Doña Paula 2007 Estate Malbec Mendoza ($16) 88

Deep ruby. Attractive blue fruit aromas on the nose followed by pure supple spicy fruit and toasted oak flavors on the palate. Nicely balanced and integrated with good acidity and round tannins on the finish. Consistently good from year to year.

Doña Paula Los Cardos

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($10) 87

Medium lemon. Gardenia floral and pungent fruit aromas. Fruit rich attack. Ripe and round on the mouth with floral and grapefruit character. Finishes fairly light. Lacks the crispness and acidity one often expects from this varietal.

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Chardonnay Mendoza ($10) 87

Medium green gold. Citrus aromas of lemon and lees. Fairly crisp attack with bright citrus flavors on the palate. Good acidity. Firm finish

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($10) 87

Deep ruby. Lovely black currant fruit aromas on the nose followed by youthful ripe mouth filling black spicy fruit flavors on the palate. Nicely balanced with good acidity, soft round tannins and a firm finish. Delicious and easy drinking.

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Malbec Mendoza ($10) 85

Deep ruby. Black peppery aromas. A soft attack with lingering flavors of black currant and wood spice. Good acidity. Uncomplicated and easy drinking.

Doña Paula 2007 Los Cardos Merlot Mendoza ($10) 87

Medium ruby. Youthful spicy plum aromas. Soft mouthfilling red fruit on the palate with nicely integrated notes of cedar. Well balanced and tasty with a pleasant lingering finish.

Importer: Vineyard Brands, Inc.

Doña Paula 2006 Los Cardos Syrah Mendoza ($10) 86

Dark ruby. Blackberry fruit and earthy aromas. Soft attack of juicy ripe black fruit flavors and some spicy black pepper notes. Good acidity and balance with soft tannins and a firm lasting finish.

Bodegas Salentein

Bodegas SalenteinBodegas Salentein located in the Valle de Uco is producing some of the finest wines in Argentina today. Its owner, Dutch entrepreneur Mijndert Pon has spared no expense in acquiring first class vineyards and building a state of the art winery on a grand scale. Wine making is directed by the talented Laureano Gomez who in the start up of operations was assisted by consultant, Michel Rolland. Finca El Portillo is the entry-level label of Bodegas Salentein and offers some real bargains.

Importer: Palm Bay International, Port Washington, NY

Salentein 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Mendoza ($20) 91

Dark ruby. Fragrant ripe black currant and cassis aromas on the nose with lots of cedar notes and a touch of black pepper. Soft and lush texture on the attack, followed by mouthfilling black fruit. Beautifully balanced and juicy with depth. Round tannins and a firm finish.

Salentein 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($20) 88

Dark ruby. Aromas of red and black fruit, earth and black pepper on the nose. Soft attack with a silky texture on the palate with flavors black currant, red berries and roasted meat. Nicely balanced with found tannins and a firm finish.

Salentein 2003 Merlot Mendoza ($20) 89

Medium ruby in color, sweet aromas of plum and toasty oak. On the attack it displays ripe concentrated plum fruit, wood spice, vanillan highlights and round tannins on the finish.

Salentein 2003 Pinot Noir Mendoza ($20) 88

The 2003 Pinot Noir displays a lovely dark ruby color and aromas of brambly black cherry fruit, spice and toasted oak. It exhibits a soft attack with ripe spicy fruit on the palate. good acidity and balance, and rounded tannins with a firm finish. This Pinot is reminiscent of Oregon Pinot.

Finca El Portillo

El Portillo 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($11) 87

Medium-dark ruby. Ripe and spicy black currant and red fruit aromas with notes of black pepper. Soft attack with black fruit and toasted oak flavors on the palate. Juicy with good flavor. Easy drinking.

El Portillo 2007 Chardonnay Mendoza ($) 88

Medium straw. Nice lemon curd and leesy aromas. Soft attack. Round full mouth feel. Lemon citrus flavors. Good long finish.

El Portillo 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($11) 86

Lovely deep ruby. Attractive aromas of black cherry fruit with notes of black pepper. Soft on the palate offering light black fruit flavors, round tannins and a firm finish. Easy drinking.

El Portillo 2006 Merlot Mendoza ($11) 88

Deep ruby. Ripe black cherry fruit aromas with a touch of anise and minerals. Soft on the attack with lush mouth filling red fruit on the palate and nicely integrated oak. Good balance, soft tannins and a nice finish. A bargain.

El Portillo 2006 Pinot Noir Mendoza ($11) 85

Bright medium ruby. Aromas of brambly cherry with light red berry fruit flavors on the palate. High acidity, dusty tannins. Easy drinking.

El Portillo 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($11) 88

Medium lemon with slight green tinge. Very aromatic bouquet of white melon and red grapefruit. Ripe and round mouth feel. Rich fruit flavors on a mouthfilling palate. Persistent lemon citrus finish. Good acidity.