28 September 2006

How ripe is too ripe?

Another Wednesday, another winemaker's night down at the Vines of Mendoza.  This week it was Familia Blanco from new bodega Mairena in the hotseat with four samplers for us:  2005 vintage Malbec and Bonarda - 15-20 day maceration prior to fermentation, six months French oak - and tank-samples of the 2006 vintage of these same wines.
And an interesting night it was too.  Starting with the 05s, the winemaker disclosed that a summer hailstorm had caused some light damage and led to a harvest 5 days earlier than planned due to the threat of botrytis setting in.  The slightly early harvest reflected in higher acidity and lower sugar (hence lower alcohol) in the 05s.  Lower by Argentine standards, that is - 13.5% or thereabouts.
Despite this, the Bonarda has already picked up a gold medal and the Malbec, while a little harsh for my tastes right now (good fruit, but slightly bitter on the aftertaste) should round out nicely with a year or two in the bottle.
So on to the 06.  These wines are being made using the same production path as the 05.  But this fruit had its full hang time, and a very warm summer to boot.  The result?  Wine with high alcohol (well over 14%) that is drinking pretty well right now out of the tank, and already tasting jammy with suggestions of all sorts of things you shouldn't by rights be tasting yet, like liquorice.  Wow, great vintage right?  Well, I don't think so.
A wine that smooth and drinkable is going to have trouble standing up to 6 months in oak.  Maybe, in mellow second or third use oak, it might come through round, smooth, and jammy if a bit on the flabby side.  New oak could kill it completely and leave it tannic without any remaining acidity.
But hell, I'm no expert.  They did well enough with the 2005 Bonarda without any help from me, so I'm intrigued to see what the eventually do with the 06 harvest.
That 05 Bonarda, by the way, is selling for 22 pesos here in Mendoza and good value at that price.  It's hard to find, but the folks at the Vines will hook you up if you're interested.


21 September 2006

My kingdom for a pen ...

Don't you hate it when you get a chance to taste absolutely stunning wine, but you have no pen or paper, and nowhere in a crowded room at the Vines of Mendoza to write even if you did.

So it was last week when the winemaker and owner from Ortega Fournier wines down in Valle de Uco (an hour and a half south of Mendoza city) came to lead a tasting through their range.  From the opening entry level Sauvignon Blanc, through to their premier B Crux and A Crux tempranillo-dominant blends - these guys are very, very good.

From their first couple of vintages, the A and B Crux are dense, complex, well-structured, fruity ... sure, if you were very cynical you could say they are deliberate 'Parker-pleasers' aimed at making a big bold entry into the 100-point consumer consciousness.

But so what - cynic or not, there is no mistaking absolutely top-class wine.  I've been resisting the temptation to try to review them from memory - that would be dishonest - but at the time, I was salivating and blurting things like "5-star plus for sure!".  Anyway - if you get a chance to try any of this range, you will not be disappointed.  As good as anything I can remember ever having tasted.  I'll try to spend some serious quiet time interviewing a bottle properly myself, and when I do you can be sure you will see lots of gold stars over at Argentina Wine Guide.

Meantime, I have just posted reviews of Luigi Bosca's Reserva Cab Sav 2003, and the Finca La Linda Viognier.  Whew!  Five Bosca reviews in 2 days.  You lucky people.


20 September 2006

Luigi Bosca reviews

I've just posted three reviews of Luigi Bosca wines over at Argentina Wine Guide. The 2003 Reserva Malbec is fabulous - soft, round, fruity, complex - excellent drinking. The D.O.C (single vineyard) Reserva Malbec from the same year is more dense, more complex, more tannic, and glows in the glass as if it has its own light source. Excellent wine that will keep improving for many years, but if (like me) you like a good tannic backbone in your heavier-style reds, it's fabulous drinking right now.

I've also posted a review of the 2005 Chardonnay from Luigi Bosca's entry-level Finca La Linda range. It's a good example of a Chardonnay where the winemaker has eased back on the oak and malolactic fermentation in an effort to preserve some fresher, more citrus-like characters: but not rejected these tools altogether. So, good fresh fruit with some structure and complexities. It's also Argentina Wine Guide's first white wine review! But that's what you get when you live in Mendoza ... red and more red!


12 September 2006

Latest reviews

Latest reviews posted over at ArgentinaWineGuide.com: Finca Natalina Syrah Malbec; Fabre Montmayou Malbec; Phebus Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Fabre is excellent, crisper than many and well-structured. The Phebus is a very interesting unoaked Cab, well worth a try if light and fresh is your style. The Finca Natalina, I'm afraid, is best avoided. But two out of three ain't bad!

More reviews to be posted in the next day or two.


11 September 2006

Argentina Wine Guide - the blog!

Welcome to the Argentina Wine Guide blog!

This is the companion blog to the ArgentinaWineGuide.com website - your free guide to Argentine wine. Visit ArgentinaWineGuide.com for wine reviews, and loads of information about the Argentine wine industry.

So far there are more than thirty wines reviewed so far, mostly at the budget end of the Argentine market, but all of a consistently high standard. If you are a traveller or backpacker looking for help making a selection from the hundreds of different wines available at every supermarket, this is the place to start!

I'm adding reviews every couple of days, so the reviews section will be growing rapidly. I am also progressively adding background information about Argentine wine regions and varieties for those who are interested in learning a bit more about where their favourite drop comes from. Those who are simply interested in the drinking part should jump straight to the reviews, and then down to their nearest local retailer!

I'll be using this blog to keep you up to date on the latest reviews and additions to the website. Stay tuned!