Featured Monthly Tasting:

Focus on Argentina & Chile
with Selections from France,
Portugal and Spain

April 2008

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ARGENTINA

Argentina is on a roll.  Few wine regions can match the high quality and reasonable prices of the wines being produced in Argentina today. In our December 2006 report entitled Argentina’s Magnificent Malbec the International Wine Review provided subscribers an in-depth look at Malbec, Argentina’s principal grape. Here we review the new vintages and releases of not only Malbec, but other varieties. We also include several new producers whose wines we tasted for the first time.

Argentine Wines Reviewed

Antis Catena Alta Dolium La Posta del Viñatero Paso de Piedra Reserva
Bodega A Dominio del Plata Luca Tikal
Bressia Ben Marco Luigi Bosca Tilia 
Bodega Catena Zapata Crios Maipe Tiza
Alamos Susana Balbo Mapema Viña las Perdices
Catena Familia Mayol Mendel  

Antis WineryAntis

This small modern family winery is located in Lujan de Cuyo with vineyards at 800-1,200 meters some of which contain up to 90 year-old vines. This winery produces high quality wines at fair prices.

Importer: William Harrison Imports, Manassas, VA. Tel. (703) 815-9463

Antis 2005 Malbec Reserve Mendoza ($15) 89

This dark ruby, uncomplicated Malbec is made from the fruit of 60+ year old vines aged 12 months in 50% new small French oak barrels. A rich plum nose gives way to a soft, ripe attack of fresh plum with a hint of oak.

Antis 2005 Merlot Reserve Mendoza ($15) 89

This ruby garnet colored Merlot is aged 12 months in small French oak barrels, half of which are new. A spicy nose of leather and black cherries give way to a ripe, rich palate of black cherry fruit with a dusting of cocoa. Dry tannins on the finish.

Bodega A Viejo Isaias Reserva 2007 Malbec Mendoza ($22) 87

Opaque ruby color with a nose of vanilla and sweet oak. The attack is soft with vanilla and new wood outweighing the underlying blueberry and blackberry fruit. Finishes with somewhat hard tannins.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd. Winchester, VA Tel. (540) 722-9228

Monteagrelo Bressia 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($30) 91 Top Quality

Walter Bressia’s winery produces well-made wines in small quantities. The 100% Malbec wine, displays a dark ruby color spending 18 months in French oak The nose displays light plum fruit with notes of spicy oak. The attack is soft and beautifully textured with flavors of concentrated dark fruit and bitter chocolate. Ripe, round tannins finish it off. A gorgeous wine.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA (540) 722-9228

Bodega Catena Zapata
Bodega Catena Zapata

Bodega Catena Zapata is Argentina’s best known and respected family winery. Over the past three decades the winery has served as the undisputed leader in producing high quality wines for export at competitive prices. Bodega Catena Zapata owns 425 ha of vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo, Tupangato and San Carolos and produces a wide variety of wines at different price levels: Alamos, Catena, and Catena Alta, Winemaking is under the direction of Chief Enologist, Jose Galante.

Importer: Billington Wines, Springfield, VA. Tel. (703) 455-4700.

Alamos

These are Bodega Catena Zapata’s entry level wines. They are well-made and offered at modest prices and are good for everyday drinking. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Torrontes are especially noteworthy in terms of value.

Alamos 2006 Bonarda Mendoza ($10) 86

An opaque ruby, medium weight wine showing gamey aromas with clove and huckleberry notes. Attacks softly with straightforward black cherry fruit. Finishes very dry with gripping tannins.

Alamos 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($10) 89 Top Value

Opaque ruby in color showing a clean, dark red fruit nose with elements of graphite, dark cherry and a touch of sandalwood. Medium weight and nicely balanced with a welcoming palate of red and black fruit and a touch of cigar box, finishing with chewy tannins. Very good quality for the money.

Alamos 2006 Chardonnay Mendoza ($10) 87

This straw yellow color, New World style chardonnay leads with prominent oak and ripe banana aromas. Very ripe and round on the palate with buttery malo characteristics, good ripe fruit and balancing acidity. Alamos

Alamos 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($10) 86

This ruby purple, medium weight Malbec displays fresh plum fruit aromas as if it were still in barrel. Made in an easy drinking, uncomplicated style with upfront fresh plum fruit and young tannins on the palate.

Alamos 2006 Merlot Mendoza ($10) 87

This dark ruby Merlot displays cedar, plum, and cinnamon spice aromas. An attractive, straightforward wine with nice, spicy plum fruit on the medium weight palate and showing round tannins.

Alamos 2006 Seleccíon Malbec Mendoza ($15) 88

A step up from the regular Alamos Malbec, the dark ruby Seleccíon Malbec has aromas of red and black fruit with a touch of cigar box. Medium weight in the mouth with uncomplicated, soft plum fruit and a full, round mouth feel. Finishes soft and fruity.

Alamos 2007 Torrontes Salta ($10) 88 Top Value

This bright, lemon gold, medium bodied Torrontes has a typical nose of honeyed tropical fruit, passion fruit and rose petal aromas. There’s plenty of sweet, fresh lychee fruit, a touch of anise, and good acidity on the dry, well-balanced palate.

Alamos 2007 Viognier Mendoza ($10) 86

Light gold in color with a floral honeyed nose. The attack is soft with modest fruit and a touch of sweetness on mid-palate. Finishes very dry.

Catena

Catena Zapata’s flagship wines are gems for the price and among the very best examples of mid-priced winemaking in Argentina.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2006 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($20) 91 Top Quality

Dark ruby color with a bouquet of sandalwood, cigar box, and red currants, Modern and elegant in style showing a nicely balanced, soft, silky attack of luscious plum and currant fruit with herbs and beautifully integrated oak. This wine shows the potential for Cabernet Sauvignon in Mendoza.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2006 Catena Chardonnay Mendoza ($18) 91 Top Quality

An interesting, complex nose of toast, and honey with mineral and petrol notes gives way to a very soft attack of spicy, ripe fruit with integrated toasty oak. This well-balanced, straw gold, medium bodied wine enjoys a long, tropical fruit finish.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2006 Catena Malbec Mendoza ($20) 88

Ruby opaque color with aromas of nicely integrated oak and fruit. Has a fairly polished and lush mouth feel with a soft palate of dense dark red fruit but is somewhat short on the finish. This youthful Malbec needs more time in bottle to fully show what it is made of.

Catena Alta

Cantena AltaThese are the top of the line wines of Bodega Catena Zapata in terms of quality and price. They are first-class wines displaying boldness of flavor with finesse.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2005 Catena Alta Chardonnay Mendoza ($35) 90

A yellow gold colored, New World style chardonnay showing very ripe tropical aromas with toasty oak. Rich and round in the mouth with the moderately acid palate showing rich tropical flavors wrapped in sweet French oak. Finishes rich and sweet.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2004 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($45) 93 Top Quality

This outstanding dark ruby opaque Argentine cabernet has a very ripe nose with touches of sandalwood, black fruit, earthy, and cocoa. A beautifully integrated, rich concentrated palate exhibits a very attractive flavor profile, including notes of coconut, chocolate, dark fruit, cassis, and graphite. The finish is lovely, long, and flavorful.

Bodega Catena Zapata Catena Alta 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($45) 90

Dark ruby opaque in color with a nose of ripe dark plum, black fruit and a touch of toasty oak. Has a soft attack with a velvety mouth feel and an uncomplicated but rich and well-balanced palate of black fruit. Finishes with chewy tannins. A very good wine but doesn’t quite match the exceptional quality of the 2003 vintage that we tasted earlier.

Dolium

DoliumDolium is small winery with a first-rate winemaking team that turns out high quality Malbec. These wines are of the same high quality as those we previously reviewed from the 2003 and 2004 vintages.

Importer: Elite Wines, Lorton, VA Tel (703) 339-8150

Dolium 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($15) 87

Dark ruby color with red and black fruit aromas. Has a soft attack and a full flavored, palate of blueberry, blackberry and plum. Rather hard and astringent tannins show on the finish. This is a solid malbec offering good value.

Dolium 2004 Malbec Reserva Mendoza ($24) 92 Top Value

This is a luscious, over-the-top, dark ruby opaque Malbec with an inky nose of cedar, chocolate, blackberry liqueur, and coconut. Shows a dense, highlyconcentrated, super extracted palate of bittersweet chocolate, dark fruit, cedar, and pencil shavings. Finishes long with rich, rounded tannins. This international, oak-infused style of winemaking isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but this is an excellent example of the genre.

Dominio del Plata

Dominio del Pata is owned and operated by the team of Susana Balbo and Pedro Marchevski. Susana is a skill winemaker, Pedro an expert in managing vineyards. Their winery located in Lujan de Cuyo produces several high quality wines which display complexity and finesse: Ben Marco, (Pedro Marchevski’s wine made by Susana Balbo) Crios, and Susana Balbo.

Importer: Vine Connections, South Saulito, CA (Tel. (415) 332-8466

Ben Marco

Ben Marco 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($20) 88

This Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits a dark ruby color with aromas of green pepper and herbs. It is medium-bodied with a good concentration of black currant fruit. Still quite young and finishes with hard tannins that will need time to soften.

Ben Marco 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($20) 89

A well-made velvety-soft Malbec that spends about 1 year in French and American oak. Ruby opaque in color it exhibits dark fruit and oak on the nose. It boasts a fresh, lush palate of ripe black cherry extract accented by spice and smoke, with a touch of cassis and has a good lingering finish.

CriosCrios

Crios de Susana Balbo 2007 Malbec Mendoza ($15) 87

A solid entry level wine from one of Mendoza’s premier producers of Malbec. Ruby opaque in color with a fresh nose of blackberry and blueberry. Quite dry but fruity on the palate, it displays youthful hard tannins on the finish.

Crios de Susana Balbo 2005 Syrah-Bonarda Mendoza ($15) 88

Dark ruby colored, medium bodied 50% Syrah - 50% Bonarda blend showing an herbal, earthy nose. Has a friendly, fairly lush attack of raisin, plum, and cherry flavors complemented by a moderately tannic finish.

Crios de Susana Balbo 2007 Torrontes Mendoza ($15) 87

A fruit forward nose of perfumed rose petal, lychee and orange mandarin show off this pale lemon colored Torrontes. The generally pleasing palate is unusually brisk and dry for a Torrontes and a bit out of synch with the nose. Finishes nice and tart.

Susana Balbo 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($27) 87

Dark ruby color with woody aromas. The tasty palate is fairly soft with flavors of herbs, dark cassis, and oak. Finishes dry and tannic.

Susana Balbo 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($27) 91 Top Quality

This is Susana Balbo’s best wine, by far. Dark ruby color with a very clean, complex nose of freshly crushed berries, meat and leather Displays a nicely balanced, very ripe palate of concentrated blackberry and boysenberry fruit with a little bit of spice. This is a lovely, easy drinking Malbec.

Familia MayolFamilia Mayol

This small family winery, launched in 1990 is located in the Valle de Uco and produces outstanding modern-style wines from three well-managed vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo, Tupungato and Vista Flores.

Importer: Elite Wines, Lorton, VA Tel. (703) 339-8150

Familia Mayol 2005 Finca Montuiri Single Vineyard Mendoza ($39) 91 Top Quality

A lovely, slightly rustic, opaque ruby Malbec made from the fruit of 80 year old vines on their original rootstock. It has a ripe rich, extracted nose of blackberry liqueur and cedar with a touch of violet. Lush in the mouth, it displays a ripe, rich very flavorful attack of blackberry fruit with fine, round tannins.

Familia Mayol 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($13) 87

Very pale straw color with a green tinge and aromas of pear with a grassy note. Unfined and unfiltered. Shows brisk acidity and a crisp, dry attack with citrus and grapefruit flavors. Finishes brisk and long. 86+

Familia Mayol 2006 Malbec Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza ($23) 88

This dark ruby colored Malbec displays ripe, dark fruit and sweet oak aromas. It shows a very soft attack with sweet dark cherry fruit on palate and displays somewhat drying tannins on the finish.

La Posta del Viñatero

La PostaThese wines are part of a custom crush winemaking project. The wines are sourced from single vineyards and produced by winemaker, Luis Reginato, who also makes wine for Tikal.

Importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA Tel. (415) 332-8466

La Posta 2006 Cocina Blend Mendoza ($15) 89

A dark ruby, medium weight blend of 60% Malbec, 20% Bonarda, and 20% Syrah showing a sweet vanilla oak nose with just a touch of rubber boot. Very soft, nicely balanced and quite elegant on the palate with red and black cherry fruit and a hint of earthy mushroom.

La Posta 2006 Malbec Paulucci Vineyard Mendoza ($18) 89

Nicely balanced, this medium weight dark ruby Malbec exhibits spicy wood and leather on the nose. Has a very soft, fruity attack of attractive dark cherry fruit and leather notes. Finishes with dry tannins.

La Posta 2006 Malbec Pizzella Family Vineyard Mendoza ($18) 86

This medium weight, dark ruby Malbec from Pizzella has a welcoming spicy wood nose. On the palate, it attacks softly with a somewhat chalky character, offering up lightly extracted flavors of dark cherry and berry fruit with a slightly bitter edge.

La Posta 2006 Bonarda Estela Armando Vineyard Mendoza ($17) 85

The medium-weight, dark ruby Bonarda displays wood spice and herbal notes on the nose. The lush attack is offset by somewhat astringent tannins.

LucaLuca

Luca is made by Laura Catena, daughter of Nicolas Catena, and winemaker, Luis Reginato. Laura Catena is a physician who resides in San Francisco, but she is nonetheless, fully involved in the winemaking at Luca spending an average of 3-4 months a year in Mendoza.

Importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA Tel. (415) 332-8466

Luca 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($35) 88

Aged for 12 months in French oak, this opaque ruby colored wine, displays ripe plum with a vanilla and sweet oak aromas. While there are flavors of blueberry and blackberry fruit, the palate is dominated by oak and has a strongly tannic finish. Time in the bottle may help integrate the oak and soften the tannins.

Luca 2006 Malbec Altos de Mendoza ($32) 93 Top Quality

This wine is a benchmark against which Argentine malbec should be judged. Opaque ruby in color, there are rich, ripe black fruit aromas with chocolate notes followed by a concentrated, full bodied attack of blackberry liqueur and bitter chocolate. This is an elegant wine with great structure and integrated tannins.

Luigi BoscaLuigi Bosca

This winery is one of Argentina’s oldest and most successful family wineries. Founded in the early 1900s by Leoncio Arizu, the winery is today one of Argentina’s largest exporters of fine wines. Luigi Bosca has a large portfolio of wines at all price levels. The Gala series are top class.

Importer: William Harrison Imports, Manassas, VA. Tel. (703) 815-9463

Luigi Bosca 2005 Gala I Mendoza ($36) 92 Top Quality

A dark ruby opaque blend of 85% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Tannat displaying a dense, rich nose of French oak, pencil shavings, and cassis. There’s a soft, rich, juicy attack of dark fruit and cocoa and a lush mouth feel. This is one very polished, elegant wine that’s very much worth the price.

Luigi Bosca 2005 Gala II Mendoza ($36) 89

This 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot blend is dark ruby opaque in color with aromas of coconut from the toasty oak and rich dark fruit. On the palate non-fruit flavors of cedar, French oak, and dark chocolate dominate the dark fruit. Finishes dry and firmly tannic.

Luigi Bosca 2005 Malbec Single Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo ($21) 90

A Malbec produced from the 70 year-old vines of the Vistalba Estate with 14 months aging in oak. Dark ruby color with a purple tinge and showing aromas of French oak and graphite. Very soft and lush in the mouth with black fruit flavors and a definite elegance.

Maipe

MaipeThese wines, produced in Luján de Cuyo by the Pelizzati family, are well-made, fruit-forward and easy drinking; they are also offered at a bargain price.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd. Winchester, VA Tel. (540) 722-9228

Maipe 2007 Chardonnay Mendoza ($10) 90 High Value

Now, here’s a bargain for you! Medium gold lemon color with an elegant nose of butter, vanilla and tropical fruit. Medium bodied in a creamy, almost lush, style. Nicely balanced with a round mouth feel and subtle, integrated wood. Stock Up.

Maipe 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($10) 87

Medium gold color with a lactic nose of vanilla, butter and tropical melon fruit. Fresh with good acidity on the palate with white cherry flavor. Finishes very dry and a bit short. .

Maipe 2007 Torrontes Mendoza ($10) 85

This light-bodied Torrontes is pale straw in color with a ripe, white peach fruit nose. The attractive nose doesn’t carry through to the very dry palate.

Maipe 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($10) 86

Opaque ruby color with a spicy cedar and green tea nose. The dry attack is soft and tannic with flavors of warm oak and a modicum of underlying plum fruit. Mapema

Mapema 2004 Tempranillo Mendoza ($15) 86

This winery is a joint project of two seasoned Argentine winemakers, Pepe Galante and Mariano Di Paola. Medium garnet color with a spicy nose showing leather notes. This medium weight wine has a light mid-palate and a somewhat funky character. Sure doesn’t taste like a Spanish Tempranillo. The Tempranillo is good value but not up to the high standards of the Malbec that we tasted previously.

Importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA Tel. (415) 332-8466

Mendel 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($27) 92 High Quality and Top Value

MendelThis is a first-class boutique winery launched by Ricardo de la Mota, former winemaker at Terrazas de los Andes. And here’s a wine that shows not all Argentine malbec has to be gutsy and masculine. This gorgeous Malbec is sourced from 80 year-old vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo. Aged 12 months in 40% new and 60% old French oak, this opaque ruby colored wine exhibits a beautiful perfumed, almost floral, nose of violet and vanilla. This elegant, nicely balanced, almost feminine wine has a soft, lush attack of dark fruit and cocoa. While pretty integrated, a bit more time in bottle will improve this beautiful wine still further.

Paso de Piedra Reserva

Paso de PiedraThis is the second wine of Viña Alicia, a small producer of high quality Malbecs sourced from low-yielding old vines in Lujan de Cuyo vineyards.

Importer: William Harrison Imports, Manassas, VA. Tel. (703) 815-9463

Viña Alicia 2005 Paso de Piedra Malbec Reserva Mendoza ($27) 87

Dark ruby opaque. Somewhat rustic nose of dark red and black fruit and licorice. Medium weight palate. Drying tannins on a short finish.

Viña Alicia 2005 Paso de Piedra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Mendoza ($ 27) 86

Dark ruby opaque. Sandalwood, fruit compote on nose. Herbal, dark fruit, drying tannins.

Tikal 2006 Amorio Mendoza ($31) 89

This winery is owned by Ernesto Catena and is named after his son. The wines are made by winemaker Luis Reginato and are modern in style and of a high quality. This 2006 Tikal is opaque ruby color with a wood spice nose. Lush in texture, this wine offers up a rich, ripe attack of dark fruit. Fairly tannic with a slight bitter note on the finish. We rated the 2005 vintage of this wine exactly the same.

Importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA Tel. (415) 332-8466

Tilia

TiliaTilia wines are produced at Bodegas Esmeralda, a Catena family winery in eastern Mendoza. The wines were originally produced for the local market in Argentina but are now being imported into the United States. These are well-made wines offered at bargain prices and are great for everyday drinking.

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Tilia Chardonnay Mendoza ($9) 87

Pale yellow straw color with an attractive bouquet of pear and melon with floral notes. Steely in characters with a very dry mid-palate and medium intensity of fruit.

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Malbec Syrah Mendoza ($9) 86

Opaque ruby color showing a fruit forward, very young plum nose. Displays attractive flavors of red and dark fruit with young tannins. At this stage needs a few more months in bottle.

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($9) 89

This opaque ruby purple, slightly rustic Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits a ripe, concentrated nose of black cherry and black currant. Full bodied and nicely balanced on the palate with secondary flavors of leather, espresso, and cigar box. Finishes with assertive, somewhat dry tannins. Excellent value!

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Tilia Malbec Mendoza ($9) 86

This entry level, opaque ruby Malbec has a nose of spicy dark fruit and cedar notes. It has a soft attack with a fairly simply flavor profile of dark fruit with young tannins.

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Tilia Merlot Mendoza ($9) 87

An opaque ruby, medium weight wine exhibiting a very ripe nose of plum and dark cherry. Earthy on the palate with dry, young tannins and a tart, dried fruit character.

Bodegas TizaBodegas Tiza 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($18) 91 High Quality

This family-owned winery in Lujan de Cuyo has produced a superb 100% Malbec from old vine low-yielding vineyards situated at 1,000 meters. It is a young, dark opaque ruby showing oak spice and concentrated ripe fruit aromas. The attack is soft with a palate of layered flavors of cherry, cocoa powder and spice. Somewhat tight at this stage but with lots of potential. A superb wine from a new producer.

Importer: Kysela Pere et. Fils Winchester, VA Tel. (540) 722-9228

Viña las Perdices

Vina las PerdicesLocated in Lujan de Cuyo with 173 acres of vineyards, this family winery established in the 1950s by Juan Muñoz Lopez produces high quality wines at very affordable prices.

Importer: Elite Wines, Lorton, VA Tel (703) 339-8150

Viña Las Perdices 2007 Pinot Grigio Mendoza ($12) 87

Pale gold in color, this Italian-styled Pinot Grigio exhibits light aromas and flavors of pear, melon and anise with medium weight, moderate acidity, and a light finish.

Viña Las Perdices 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($12) 88

This 100% Sauvignon Blanc displays a pale yellow-green color and offers aromas of passion fruit and melon. Full-flavored on the palate, it is ripe and full-bodied, offering good mouth feel and acidity with a bright finish.

Viña Las Perdices 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($12) 90

This is a lovely dark ruby-colored Malbec offering spicy ripe raspberry and plum fruit aromas with notes of cedar. It exhibits a soft lush attack and a beautifully balanced palate of ripe red and black fruit and a long finish.

Viña Las Perdices 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($12) 87

This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon displays a dark ruby color and offers aromas of black currants, sweet cedar and cigarbox notes. Aged for 6 months in French and American oak, it has a soft attack of light to medium-bodied spicy black fruit on the palate and a firm finish.

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