"The Beautiful South" London 2013 Trade Tasting: Chile and Argentina

Tasting Notes: Eric Entrikin MS

Old Vines in Chile and Argentina: Of the themed tables for tasting the most interesting to me were the Old Vine wines. The Old Vines provided a glimpse into what these regions can do with lower yields. Unless the wines were overdone there was a true sense of terroir in many of these wines.

  • Chakana Estate Bonarda 2012, Lujan de Cuyo: From 100-year-old vines, this wine displayed a taught mineral undertone to the rich black fruit and balanced oak overlying the wine.
  • TintoNegro Vineyard 1955 Malbec, 2011, TintoNegro, Uco Valley: From 58-year-old (and more) vines, levels of complexity washed over this wine, with blackberry, plum, dense rock and elements of flowers and dried herbs.
  • Achaval Ferrer Finca Altimira Malbec, 2008, Uco Valley: A familiar wine in the states, but the Altimira always shines above the other two single vineyard wines; really a stunning achievement in what you can get from low-yielding Malbec in the right soil. Rich long and complex but never heavy, attaining a fantastic floral quality that usually is missing from Malbec.
  • Cremaschi Furlotti, Carignan Limited Edition, 2011, Loncomilla, Maule: From 60- to 80-year-old vines, could old vine Carignan be Chile's hidden secret? Bright cocoa-tinged cola berry, raspberry and cherry fruit, with a hibiscus floral note. A balanced wine showing true old vine character.
  • Odfjell, Orzada Carignan, 2011, Maule: From 100-year-old vines, this had a surprising level of depth (even with 15% ABV, 3.09 RS and 3.69 pH). From the specs this does not look appealing, but its spicy, rich character was not overpowering.
  • Vina Undurraga, Vigno 2011, Maule: 88% Carignan, 12% Cinsault from vines that are 55 years old. Great balance between the intense cherry/raspberry fruit, earthy elements and notes of spice; a wine that was relatively dry by this tasting's standards.

TintoNegro in Mendoza impressed me across their entire range. With their low levels of residual sugar, they really let the quality of the fruit shine. Across all five of their wines that I tasted there was a level of balance that was hard to find in some of the highly extracted, high-RS wines. I'm in complete agreement with Christopher Bates on the quality being displayed by TintoNegro.

Tasting Notes: Chris Tanghe MS

El Porvenir de Cafayete: Started in 2000, this is a high-end boutique winery where Paul Hobbes consults. High elevation in Salta keeps the wines fresh and vibrant in this rich winemaking style.

  • 2012 Laborum Malbec: A very refined style of Malbec; the blood, iron, cocoa and purple flower elements are all in place with a polished presence of oak (aromas of vanilla, caramel and toast). Ripe and slightly dried black fruits. 100% French & American new oak – not overdone.
  • 2012 Laborum Tannat: Single vineyard, 50-year-old vines. Firm tannins but definitely a softer more approachable version than we see from Madiran. Figs, blackcurrant, grilled meat. Same oak regimen as the Malbec.
  • 2012 Amauta Corte IV: A blend of Malbec, Tannat & Petit Verdot that spends 6 months in second-use barrels. This a fresher, more approachable style in its youth, and the Tannat and Malbec really work well together. Black crisp fruits with mint, chocolate, tobacco – slight blueberry liqueur on the finish.

NQN: Located in Patagonia, this winery started producing in 2001. Large diurnal shifts help the clusters ripen slowly and retain acid here.

  • 2012 Malma Finca La Papay Pinot Noir: 20% of the wine sees oak for 6 months and is then blended with the remainder (in stainless), resulting in bright red cherry, raspberry, citrus peel, and tea leaf notes with silky texture. Drinking well now but will benefit from some time in bottle.
  • 2011 Malma Cuvee Extra Brut: 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. 6 months on the lees. Nothing too complex, just a refreshing glass of bubbles.
  • 2013 Picada 15 Malbec: Definitely a cooler climate style of Malbec, with more red fruits than black. Mostly stainless élevage that is allowing the fruit character to really shine. Sour red plum, black pepper, cooked rhubarb and rose. 

Bodega Benegas: Founded by the great-grandson of Tiburcio Benegas, who founded Trapiche in the late 1800s. Vine material is impressive as it ages from 80-120 years. Really polished and well made wines. They are based in Lujan de Cuyo.

  • 2008 Estate Syrah: A clear example of new world Syrah here, reminiscent of Washington state. Juicy black fruits, cocoa powder, fine tannins, long pepper, rosemary, game. Oak is well utilized.
  • 2011 Estate Malbec: Bright purple hue, violets galore, sweet tobacco, kirsch, concord grape preserve with a decadent layer of salted caramel, vanilla cream and allspice.
  • 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: Expressive nose of chocolate, ripe & lush black fruits of plum, cherry & blackberry. Sage, mint & camphor are here as well but in trace amounts. Fruit dominates.

Emiliana: Biodynamic estate making wines from Colchagua, Rapel & Casablanca. Established in late 1990s. We had the opportunity to taste one of their wines from 2001 and it was still very primary, lots of life left.

  • 2010 Coyam: A blend of 38% Syrah, 27% Carmenere, 21% Merlot, 12% Cabernet, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Mourvedre. Lots of structure here – everything isn’t quite intergrated, a little disjointed but just needs time. Black plum, violet liqueur, thyme, bay, star anise, blackcurrant, jerky.
  • 2001 Coyam: A blend of 36% Merlot, 21% Carmenere, 21% Cabernet, 18% Syrah, 4% Mourvedre. The first vintage of this wine and the only vintage to be Merlot-dominant. Still extremely youthful and primary in the glass – chocolate covered cherry, dense beautiful red & blue fruit, macerated blueberries, dried strawberry, sweet tobacco. Everything is just starting to jive and you can see the potential of the 2010 now.
  • 2010 Gê: 48% Carmenere, 38% Syrah, 14% Cabernet. This is what we want from a wine dominated by Carmenere; some leafy pyrazine notes but they are not overwhelming. The Syrah gives it great flesh and the Cabernet some backbone. Wish there was an older vintage to taste.

Maquis: Based in Colchagua and established in 1927. They sold all their crop until they planted preferred clones in the late 90s. First vintage was 2002. All wines were 13.5% or less.

  • 2010 Franco Cabernet Franc: First vintage of this wine. Beet skin, green tobacco, dark cherry, moderate tannins. Chinon like but rounder and softer. Very good.
  • 2011 Carmenere: All stainless steel. classic leafy character balanced by sour plum, cherry, raspberry, very clean and translucent. Moderate tannin and moderate acid.
  • 2012 Malbec Rose: Strawberry-riffic, rhubarb, cranberry. darker style of rose. Slight herbal note keeps the juicy fruit in check.

Tasting Notes, Christopher Bates MS

Tintonegro: A project dedicated entirely to Mendoza Malbec and its terroirs.

  • Malbec “Limestone Block” 2012, Uco Valley: A lighter, fresher style of Malbec with limited oak use, and a bright red fruit nose full of raspberry and fresh briar fruits.
  • Malbec “Finca la Esquela” 2011, Uco Valley: Ripe red briar fruits and creamy raspberry aromas are supported by a moderate oak influence with vanilla and toasted marshmallow.
  • Malbec “Vineyard 1955” 2011, Uco Valley: The most classically styled Malbec, this wine is inky black at the core with a florescent purple rim. Jammy black and blue fruits are integrated with coffee and cocoa nib aromas and a grippy tannic structure.

Dante Robino: Begun in 1920 by Dante Robino after emigrating from Italy, this winery remains a family business.

  • Chardonnay 2012, Uco Valley: Ripe tree fruit, spicy smoky aromas of lapsang souchong and baking spice. The wine is plump but with crisp acidity.
  • Torrontes 2012, Mendoza: Bright floral notes, with a slightly soapy aroma and orange oil on the nose and medium plus acid keep it balanced though the finish is slightly phenolic.
  • Malbec 2012, Mendoza: Stainless steel fermented, this wine shows bright sour red and black fruits on the nose, with a slight green herbaceousness and meatiness to the palate. Medium-plus acid keeps the wine fresh.
  • Malbec “Reserva” 2011, Mendoza: Bright sour fruit balanced with spicy oak and notes of earthiness in the background (noticeable brett), and a bright cranberry note on the palate with medium-plus acid and decent integration of tannin.
  • Malbec “Gran Dante” 2009, Mendoza: Inky black with a florescent purple rim and high viscosity, this wine has seen notable raisination of the berries and offers a deep baked/dried/stewed fruit note, similar to Amarone. Notes of VA strengthen that bond, and the peppery, black fruit notes carry over on to the well balanced finish. Full bodied style, but with a certain appeal.
  • Bonarda “Gran Dante” 2010, Mendoza: Delicious and spicy, savory quinine and tonic notes over balanced ripe and rich fruit.
  • “Novecento Capriccio” Sweet Natural Sparkling Wine, Torrontes 2012, Mendoza: Floral and bright fruit nose, which delivers bright fruit on the palate with frothy, low alcohol, high acid and medium plus sweetness. This wine is simple but delicious.

Bodegas del Fin del Mundo: Located in Patagonia, with its dry winds and huge diurnal shifts helping to maintain balance. This winery planted its first vines in 1999 and has now planted 2000 acres since.

  • Malbec “Postales del fin del Mundo” 2013, Neuquen: Ripe red fruit with a lushness and a balance of briary fruits and black pepper spice deliver a simple but attractive wine.
  • Malbec “Newen Reservado” 2013, Neuquen: Spicy blackberry, tonic, black pepper on the nose and a soft creamy mouth feel.
  • Malbec “Reserva del Mundo” 2012, Neuquen: Deep roasted fig, plum, blackberry and blueberry jam give way to cedar on the finish. The wine is very well balanced.

Belasco de Baquedano: A Spanish distiller-turned-winemaker purchased this estate, comprising 222 acres of old vine Malbec, in 2003.

  • ROSA de Argentina Torontes 2013, La Rioja: Bright, fresh, floral, soapy/hand lotion, with green herb notes, soft ripe peach and tangerine. Bright acid and balanced alcohol make this wine quite delicious.
  • Malbec “Moncagua” 2012, Lujan de Cuyo: Balanced, light and fresh aromas of red fruit, sour cherry/cranberry and no wood make this wine a fresh little drink.
  • Malbec “Llama Roble” 2012, Lujan de Cuyo: 6 months in French oak, 80-year-old vines. Balanced and concentrated black and blue fruit aromas with spice and cocoa, complimented by slight vanillin and toast notes coming from the oak influence.
  • Malbec “Ar Guentota Old Vines” 2010, Lujan de Cuyo: 12 months in French oak, 100-year-old vines. Unfortunately the fruit is not able to stand up to the wood here, leaving a wine that is marred by its oak components.
  • Malbec “Swinto Old Vines” 2010, Lujan de Cuyo: 18 months in French oak, 100-year-old vines. Inky, black core with florescent purple rim, showing lots of wood, but with the concentration to handle it. Classic black/blue fruit aromas, with a slight jammy-ness and a ton of spice, vanilla, burnt marshmallow, caramel, cocoa, and coffee on the silky creamy finish. Well done. $32 retail.
  • Malbec “Antartica” Ice Wine: Grown at 1200 meters in Lujan de Cuyo and harvested naturally frozen at the end of April. 2 years of wood aging. Sweet black fruit notes of confit blackberry, black plum and black cherry with chocolate and a hint of VA adding a delicate lifted aromatic note. The wine remains clean and crisp. Fun wine from an unexpected region/style.  

Vina Ralco: This line from the Sur Valles group offers a huge range of wines; although some performed better than others, they offer a great value.

  • Merlot “Conquistador Seleccion” 2012, Maule: Stemmy notes balance ripe black plums and cocoa on the nose. The palate brings more loamy earthy notes, and the wine finishes balanced with medium body.
  • Carmenere “Conquistador Reserva” 2012, Maule: Black fruits and charcoal frame a grilled meat note and green pepper-leafy character keeping the ripeness in check. The wine sports a full body.
  • Syrah “Conquistador Reserva” 2012, Maule: Immediately and classically reductive with smoked meats, black pepper, spice and jammy black fruits.

Apultagna: Producing wines from a wide range of regions from the Maule to San Antonio, this winery has a large portfolio, but the Carmenere really stuck out as being both typical and distinctive.

  • Carmenere “Reserva” 2012, Apalta, Colchagua: Peppery, spicy, green notes balance ripe black fruits and highlighted by medium plus acid and tannin.
  • Carmenere “Envero Gran Reserva” 2011, Apalta, Colchagua: Smoky and roasted notes are balanced with just enough pyrazine to keep the wine true to form. The oak keeps the texture creamy and delicious.
  • Carmenere “Grial” 2008, Apalta, Colchagua: 65-year-old vines. Classic black core with a florescent rim. Roasted and burnt notes of bell pepper and cassis/plum fruits are followed by a full body and a meaty texture.

Vina Arboleda: Edwardo Chadwick’s personal project in the Valle de Aconcagua is broken into two vineyards, the Chilhue (costa) vineyard and the Las Vertientes vineyard.

  • Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Aconcagua Costa: Bright green notes, grass, grapefruit, green apple, with high acid, bright fruit and balanced alcohol.
  • Chardonnay 2011, Aconcagua Costa: Ripe melon aromas and notes of sweet fruit are in the forefront with bruised & fresh golden apple, showing richness but balanced with a crisp finish.
  • Pinot Noir 2011, Aconcagua Costa: Reductive and a bit stemmy with restrained black, red and sour cherries and a bit of sweet spice. Quite an elegant little wine.

Von Siebenthal: Founded by a Swiss lawyer-turned-Chilean winemaker, this winery brings the traditional style of the Valle de Aconcagua to life. The wines show ripeness, but are still balanced by that very distinct Chilean undercurrent of pyrazine.

  • Carabantes 2009: 85% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot. Smoke, mint, eucalyptus, roasted beef and baked fruits. The wine is rich but with balance and elegance.
  • Carmenere 2011: With 15% Cabernet. Roasted meats, dill cream and fresh fruits come together in a rather light and bright offering.
  • Montelig 2007: 80% Cabernet, 15% Petit Verdot, 5% Carmenere. Classic cab notes of ripe fruit and pyrazine with a ripe and rich palate and lavish oak taking hold on the finish.
  • Parcella #7 2010: 55% Cabernet, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc. Slightly earthy notes bring complexity to the black fruit dominated nose that shows hints of fried herbs and mint.

Other Notable Producers in Chile: I would like to also add a shout out to a few more well-known wineries including Concha Y Toro (brilliant), Cono Sur (really well made range) and Carmen (for Carmenere).