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It's Not Just About the Malbec: Mendoza, a Wine Destination


Some people love adventure travel, some love cultural trips, but if the wine-o in you is seeking a themed vacation, then Argentina’s Mendoza might be the perfect prescription. It’s welcoming, affordable, easy to get around, and it offers incredible food and wine (and the strikingly beautiful Argentines ain’t so tough on the eyes either). If you don’t speak Spanish, don’t worry. You’ll get along just fine speaking wine. Malbec is the region’s most prevalent varietal, but cabernet, tempranillo, and chardonnay are booming there as well.

Getting There

You can fly to Buenes Aires from the United States, but you’ll have to change airports for the 1.5-hour flight to Mendoza. Another option is to fly into Santiago, Chile, change planes, and go on to Mendoza. What’s the upside of South America travel? The 10- or 12-hour flight from New York gives you plenty of time to sleep and since there’s little shift in time, unlike Europe, jetlag is nearly zero. Depending on your citizenship, you’ll need to pay a reciprocity fee online before you leave. Don’t forget — they check on it coming and going.

Accommodation

Centrally located, family owned, and quaint, Finca Adalgisa is a winery and small inn with views of the Andes. Its rooms are rustic and chic, and the inn makes its tapas and wine on site. Add in the pool amid the vines along with the empanada-making lessons and you’ll never want to leave.

If you prefer luxury, a city environment, and a larger hotel, the Park Hyatt Mendoza is within walking distance to many cafés and shops and boasts an elegant spa and pool, and a casino. Breakfast out front facing the Plaza Independencia is a wonderful way to start the day. The kitchen makes a mean empanada as well.

Food and Wine

You can zip-line, hike, bike, or go horseback-riding, but let’s face it: If you’re reading this, you probably want to drink red wine and eat steak. Most hotels can arrange transport and a day of winery tastings. Don’t miss the very tiny family-owned Domaine St. Diego. Leave room in your suitcase for a few bottles or ship a case because you can only buy it onsite. Unlike many other wine destinations, most Mendoza wineries combine tastings with incredible meals, making an afternoon of over-indulging well worth the hit on your waistline. Try Ruca Malen for an elegant outdoor food and wine pairing or the lower key but equally indulgent Clos de Chacras. Nadia O.F. is considered a top culinary hot spot for dinner at night and don’t worry, they’ll pair your meal with wine, too, including some great sparkling and white wines as well.

If you’re stopping over in Buenos Aires, stay at Home, a boutique hotel in the trendy Palermo district or the Four Seasons in the more upscale La Recoleta neighborhood. The seasons are opposite ours, so high and hot summer is in January.

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The Latest from Argentina | Malbecs from Argentina's Mendoza Region

Ignoring the risk of earthquakes, Wine Editor Lettie Teague heads to Argentina's Mendoza region to try the rich, intense Malbecs.

Before I arrived in Argentina, I knew just three things about the country: It had produced an incredibly important writer (Jorge Luis Borges) it had defaulted on an incredibly large loan ($90 billion or so) and it had turned out some pretty nice wine (mostly Malbec). By the time I went home eight days later, I&aposd met Borges&aposs widow (she even signed my copy of his book) and tasted some really good reds (almost all made from Malbec). I didn&apost, however, manage to help out with the loan.

I&aposve tasted Argentinean wines over the years, and though some were quite good, they were often hard to find. But suddenly Argentinean wines are all over the place, and every winemaker I talk with has either just been to Mendoza or is planting a vineyard there. And exports are posting big numbers too: 40 percent more Argentinean wine was shipped internationally in 2003 than in 2002, when 6.4 million cases were exported. And this was over a million more than the year before.

Mendoza is an arid province at the foot of the Andes, some 600 miles west of Buenos Aires. It is where Argentina&aposs wine industry began about 500 years ago, and it&aposs still the most important region in terms of volume (accounting for 75 percent of the country&aposs total production) and quality. The first vineyardists came from Spain, followed a few hundred years later by their counterparts from Italy and France. The latter two brought cuttings of their native grapes: the Italians brought Bonarda, while the French contributed Malbec, from Bordeaux. And though the Italians won the award for most prolific (Bonarda is Argentina&aposs most widely-planted grape), the French took home top prize for quality: Argentinean Malbecs are deep-colored wines of great intensity and flavor with sweet tannins and spicy bouquets.

Some people fly to Mendoza via Santiago, Chile, but I&aposd heard so much about Buenos Aires that I wanted to see that city first. I&aposd heard that it looked European. (Like Milan, but with more trees.) And that practically everyone had a plastic surgeon. (The faces didn&apost look any more stretched than they do in Manhattan.) I&aposd also heard there were several great wine shops. It was in one of the newest, Terroir, that I first tasted the wines that its owner, Claudio Fontana, calls Super-Mendozans. (Thanks to the Italians who created Super-Tuscan wines, every expensive, nontraditional wine is now accorded the term Super.)

While the bottles were being opened, I took a tour of the store. I didn&apost see many familiar names. Was it because most Argentinean wines are never exported? Until a few years ago, Argentines consumed almost all of their own wines, a distinction not even the intensely patriotic French can claim. This was probably just as well for the rest of the world for a long time Argentinean wines weren&apost very good. They were tired and oxidative, often aged too long in wood. But they were cheap. And most of them still are: 70 percent of the wine consumed in Argentina costs 2.50 pesos or less per liter—that&aposs under a dollar.

And even the best Argentinean wines are relative bargains. The 10 Super-Mendozans I tasted (all Malbecs or Malbec blends) cost $40 to $85 a bottle, notably less than the top wines of any other country. The wines themselves were a mix of styles—some more fruit-forward and international, others more old-fashioned and rustic. Two of my favorites (both from wineries on my Mendoza itinerary) were the modern, barrique-aged 2001 Achával-Ferrer Finca Altamira Malbec and the more rustic 1999 Terrazas de Los Andes Gran Malbec.

First Tremors of Excitement

My first look at Mendoza was less than auspicious: Aside from the decorative vineyard at the airport, there wasn&apost much to suggest wine. Where were the welcome-to-wine-country signs? The restaurants? The tasting rooms? Even the shops in downtown Mendoza were oddly wine-free. Indeed, the focus of Mendoza&aposs commerce seemed to be $4 shoes and discount perfume. It wasn&apost that I wanted a grape-printed hand towel, I just wanted some evidence that wine was made there.

The city of Mendoza is on an active fault line indeed, major earthquakes have destroyed it several times. That might explain why most Mendoza buildings aren&apost more than a few stories high. In fact, one of the tallest structures in town turned out to be my hotel, the Park Hyatt Mendoza. Its facade was that of a 19th-century colonial palace, but its interior was more of an homage to a W hotel. Among the Park Hyatt&aposs attractions is a mod restaurant𠅋istro M, whose wine list features top Mendoza producers𠅊nd a large casino. (Was this why the doorman was packing a pistol?)

My first real look at the countryside came the following morning, with a visit to Terrazas de Los Andes, a winery whose name is derived in part from the notion that there are perfect heights to grow particular grapes in the Andes. For example, Malbec is cultivated on "terraces" 3,500 feet above sea level while Chardonnay is grown even higher, at almost 4,000 feet. High-altitude vineyards are one of Mendoza&aposs big selling points, and wines made with grapes from such sites are said to have many of the same qualities as those made from grapes grown on hillsides—greater complexity and depth of flavor.

Although an optimistic cartographer made Terrazas seem just a few minutes from town, it took over half an hour to get there. Much of this had to do with an unfinished highway there&aposs a lot of construction taking place in Mendoza. Not so great for tourists, but good for the local economy. Not to mention the donkeys, who, thanks to the slow-moving cars, can graze right up to the edge of the road. The Mendoza landscape was unlike any wine country I&aposd ever seen: desert scrub and adobe encampments giving way here and there to well-tended vines, many covered with netting to protect against hail.

A guardhouse occupied by a man and a dog marked the entrance to Terrazas. The winery itself was a study in beautifully restored brick, set back from an impeccably swept courtyard. A trim little house was set off to one side, its wide lawn encircled by cypress trees. This was where the winery entertained visitors, though tourists could rent it too, I was told. Included in the very reasonable price ($35 a night) were the services of the winery chef and, presumably, the winery guard and dog.

Terrazas is part of Bodegas Chandon, a company owned by Moët & Chandon. Bodegas Chandon was Moët & Chandon&aposs first foray outside France, and its fruity sparkling wines have long been some of Argentina&aposs best sellers. Bodegas Chandon is less than a 10-minute drive from Terrazas (one of the few distances the mapmaker got right) and is one of Mendoza&aposs most touristed wineries. It&aposs easy to understand why. In addition to a visitor&aposs center that resembles Versailles&aposs Trianon châteaus, it has a Napa-style tasting room (with an un-Napa-like cigarette machine) and a gift shop𠅊 rare Mendoza amenity. A restaurant is said to be in the works.

When Chandon acquired Terrazas, the property was being used as a brandy distillery it had become unprofitable during one of the country&aposs many economic crises. Indeed, the specter of economic disaster is never far from the minds of Argentines. Most recently they&aposve had to deal with the devaluation of the peso two and a half years ago (which Argentines call simply "The Crisis"), when the peso was no longer pegged to the dollar. And while this resulted in the near collapse of the banking system as well as high unemployment (not to mention the decimation of the middle class) it created opportunity for investment in wine. Vineyard land dropped precipitously in value, and panicked landholders began selling off parcels at fire-sale prices. The winegrowers who remained reoriented themselves away from the domestic market, refined their product and entered the international fray. As a result, Argentina&aposs wine business is doing better than the country as a whole.

The Terrazas label is fairly new although the winery building itself is over 100 years old, the first vintage of Terrazas debuted just five years ago. Terrazas makes a range of wines and varietals, but its old-vine Gran Malbec is unquestionably the star. The head of winemaking at Terrazas is Roberto de la Mota, a reserved, soft-spoken man. He told me, "Much of Argentina&aposs success is thanks to the French." (Not a bad sentiment considering his employer.) But De la Mota&aposs no corporate cipher he comes from a distinguished Argentinean winemaking family—his father, Raul, was the most famous winemaker in Mendoza when he worked for Bodega Weinert.

Michel Rolland is Much in Argentina

I considered De la Mota&aposs contention. The roll call of French names was certainly impressive: the Lurtons from Bordeaux, the Rothschilds and of course, Michel Rolland, the globe-trotting wine consultant from Bordeaux. Rolland has been a regular presence in Argentina for more than 16 years. In fact, so frequent are his visits that Rolland even said of himself, "Michel Rolland is much in Argentina." (A sure sign of success: referring to yourself in the third person.)

Rolland has consulted for many Argentinean wineries over the years (his first was Bodegas Etchart), but he only recently began to invest his own money in projects, including Clos de los Siete, or Vineyard of the Seven. This elite all-French consortium includes Rolland and his wife Dany as well as Catherine Péré-Vergé (Pomerol-based Château Montviel), the D&aposAulans (former owners of Piper Heidsieck) and Laurent Dassault (Château Dassault). Each will make wine in a separate facility. Rolland&aposs label, Val de Flores, just appeared on the market.

The owners of Lafite teamed up with Argentine Nicolás Catena at Bodegas Caro to produce an elegant if somewhat anonymous-seeming Malbec-Cabernet blend. But even if the wine itself is not yet memorable, the winery&aposs location certainly is, next door to the only famous restaurant in Mendoza: Francis Mallmann&aposs 1884. Patagonian-born Mallmann is a culinary deity in Argentina, and his restaurant draws diners from all over the world. Housed in a Romanesque former winery, 1884 is an eclectic place: The waitstaff wear Asian-style tunics, while the menu runs to various pizzas, goat (served several ways) and (very good) empanadas.

Roberto de la Mota has a French partner too, Pierre Lurton, of the legendary Château Cheval Blanc in Bordeaux. Their wine, Cheval des Andes, has only just been released (the 2001 vintage is their first to be sold) but it may be the best modern wine in Argentina to date. A blend of Malbec and Cabernet, it&aposs a gorgeous synthesis of Bordeaux finesse with Argentinean power and fruit.

Banging on the Winery Gate

Of course, the French aren&apost the only ones who have contributed money and expertise to Mendoza. Plenty of Italians have done so too. As have several natives, or in the case of Santiago Achával, of Achával-Ferrer, near-natives. Achával, whose winery was next on my list to visit, was born in the U.S. but grew up in Argentina. He returned to the States for his MBA, but when he got "the wine bug," he went back to Argentina. He bought much of his vineyard land around the time of The Crisis. "Everyone was panicking," Achával recalled. "They were afraid the dollar would suddenly be worth 100 pesos. We bought all the land we could. We bought a Malbec vineyard that had been planted in 1910 for $6,000 an acre."

It certainly seemed like a wise investment the Malbecs I tasted (single-vineyard wines, still in barrel) were extraordinarily rich and intense. The 2003 Finca Bella Vista was a particular standout. ("Almost half of the wine will go to the States," said Achával, which I was happy to hear.) Achával&aposs wines have already won praise: Wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr., gave his 1999 Merlot-Malbec a score of 91 and called it "complex, nuanced and extremely refined." Such success doesn&apost appear to have affected the modest Achával or, for that matter, his winery𠅊n unglamorous building hidden behind a graffitied wall inside the town of Luján de Cuyo. Visitors, allowed in by appointment, may have to (as I did) bang on a metal gate to get in.

My next stop, Bodegas Salentein, was even farther away from the city of Mendoza, nearly a two-hour drive into the Andes. The winery had been the inspiration of a Dutch investor. This Dutchman (who would not be named) had fallen in love with Mendoza and taken an Argentine, Carlos Pulenta (whose family once owned Trapiche), as his business partner. Bodegas Salentein is located in a part of Mendoza known as Tupungato, in the Andes foothills. Many wealthy Mendozans have weekend homes, or posadas, there, and quite a few wineries, such as Terrazas, maintain vineyards—which are said to be some of the highest in the world (at up to 5,500 feet high).

Although the Salentein winery itself was the work of two local architects, it looked like they had borrowed their blueprints from NASA: It rose out of the vineyards like a docked spaceship, the enormous stone building serving as evidence of the unnamed owner&aposs considerable ambition. (Though only established six years ago, Salentein already produces three lines of wine, which include a wide range of varietals: Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and even Pinot Noir. The Primus Pinot Noir, to my mind, is their best wine so far.) More to my taste than the modernist winery was Salentein&aposs rustic guesthouse set off in the vineyards. Available by the week or the day, it includes meals made by Salentein&aposs chef, the talented Marita Montivero, as well as the company of her numerous roosters and hens.

The final stop on my Mendoza tour was Bodega Catena Zapata, probably Argentina&aposs best-known winery today. Although it too is an architectural oddity (a pyramid mimicking the look of a Mayan temple), it seems somehow at home in the landscape.

This wasn&apost surprising, as its owner, the visionary Nicolás Catena, has spent decades integrating unlikely combinations of old and new. Though born to an Argentinean family with a long winemaking history, Catena has always looked to the outside world for inspiration. He studied in the States (acquiring a Ph.D. in economics at Columbia University) and has worked with famous outsiders like Frenchman Jacques Lurton and the highly regarded American winemaker Paul Hobbs—who has since gone on to an acclaimed Argentinean venture of his own. Catena is currently hoping to bring some Australian winemakers to Argentina, to hear what they think of his wine. "We&aposve had the Americans, now we need the Australians," he said.

Catena&aposs daughter, Laura, is a doctor in the United States, but she happened to be visiting the day I was there. (She also makes very good wine under her own label, Luca.) Laura gave me a tour of the winery that began with a walk around the top of the pyramid and concluded with a tasting of Catena&aposs full range of wines.

Nicolás Catena joined us for lunch. When I asked him what he thought about all the foreigners in Mendoza, Catena, true to form, tried to turn the question back on me. But eventually he replied: "They are coming with the intention of producing high-quality wines. If they&aposre successful, they will help the image of the region." He paused, and added with a laugh, "And of course, I will receive the benefit of that prestige."

On the plane back to Buenos Aires, I thought about the view from atop Catena&aposs pyramid: the well-tended, symmetrical vines that ran down the road into the wilder greens and browns of the valley below, and up into the very mountains, it seemed. I thought of how Mendoza must have looked to those winemakers from so long ago: a land of great difficulty (those earthquakes! that hail!) but at the same time a place of great promise—its true potential perhaps only now fully realized.


A Gaucho Guide to the Land of Malbec and Grilled Meat

With a gaucho by her side, F&W 's Megan Krigbaum explores Argentina's Uco Valley, a once-overlooked region that now offers spectacular wines, fantastic resorts and seven different ways to cook with fire.

With a gaucho by her side, F&W &aposs Megan Krigbaum explores Argentina&aposs Uco Valley, a once-overlooked region that now offers spectacular wines, fantastic resorts and seven different ways to cook with fire.

A lot of promises are made in midtown Manhattan office buildings, but after the words "Sure, I&aposll ride a horse" jumped out of my mouth (knowing full well that I&aposd not saddled up in at least 15 years), they stayed in my brain and echoed around for a good couple of months, until one early morning in Argentina. At which point, I was so transfixed by the 4:30 a.m. Mendoza sky—where not only a jaw-dropping concentration of stars but truly the entire Milky Way spilled out above me—that I hardly noticed being boosted up onto my perfectly slow (if not a tad reluctant) steed.

I was part of a cavalcade from The Vines of Mendoza winery and resort, in the Uco Valley, and we were heading up a mountain to see the sunrise. When we reached the peak, someone pulled biscuits, chicharrónes and a carafe of coffee from a backpack and began filling espresso cups for the group. But Michael Evans, The Vines&apos co-owner, was too busy for breakfast. He was there to photograph the sun as it inched up the Andes, turning the sky and everything beneath it pumpkin orange. This is precisely what made him move to Argentina from Los Angeles 10 years ago and cofound The Vines with Pablo Gimenez Riili, a Mendoza native.

Their concept for The Vines of Mendoza was novel: allowing ordinary people to buy parcels of land on the property to make wine. These owners select a plot and choose the grape varieties, and The Vines does everything else under the supervision of consulting winemaker Santiago Achával (who has his own highly respected Mendoza winery, Achával-Ferrer, as well as a couple of other projects, even one in California). During my week in Argentina, I met several owners—including a pet cremator from Missouri, no less—who were there to weigh in on the blending of their wines.

The world generally thinks of Malbec, and only Malbec, when it comes to Argentinean wines. Yet The Vines property is planted with 20 different kinds of grapes, from Cabernet Franc to Chardonnay. This diversity reflects a bigger and really exciting change in the Uco Valley. I&aposd traveled to Argentina to get a better sense of that change, to see how winemakers are taking advantage of the extraordinary growing conditions to produce wines from seemingly countless grape varieties. The Uco Valley has really only come into its own in the last 15 years or so, making it a very young wine region. Back in New York, I&aposd tasted a range of Uco wines—vibrant, concentrated, distinct. I wanted the chance to taste these wines in the place where they were made.

At the same time that Uco wines are becoming more enticing, so is the region as a travel destination. Some of its best wineries, like Sophenia and Clos de los Siete, only recently opened tasting rooms to the public. And now there are incredible resorts with star chefs—including The Vines, with a restaurant by grilling legend Francis Mallmann. Another resort and winery, Casa de Uco, just opened this spring, with a restaurant by talented Mendoza chef Pablo del Rio.

Also onboard at Casa de Uco is world-renowned wine consultant Alberto Antonini. When I asked him why he decided to come to Uco, he spoke of the region as if it were almost mythical. "The Uco Valley has the best terroir in Mendoza," he said. "It has warm days and cool nights. I have so much energy when I&aposm here—it&aposs sunny and dry and makes me feel so fresh."

When I first pulled through the gate at The Vines of Mendoza, I thought I&aposd been tricked. There was no building in sight. The 10-minute drive down a bumpy dirt road from the entrance to the lodge is lined with enormous boulders that snake through the desert into row after row of lush grapevines, and just at the moment when I was sure I&aposd been kidnapped, there was the resort. The place defines a sort of gaucho glamour: Most of its 22 villas come with indoor and outdoor fireplaces and fully stocked kitchens (though why would one want to cook when Mallmann&aposs restaurant is only yards away?). Everything is situated with a view of the magnetic Andes Mountains. The place is unobtrusively luxurious, down to the bright red hand-knit wool pouf cushions from Indias Argentina and the delicious Fueguia 1833 soaps from Patagonia.

One of the more amazing parts of staying at The Vines is that every guest is assigned a gaucho. By definition, gauchos are cowboys who live in the countryside or pampas, but colloquially, a gaucho is just a straight-up good guy. In Argentina, when you do someone a gauchada, it means you&aposve done them a favor. My gaucho, Matias Soria, a slender, big-eyed and big-hearted Mendoza native, embodies everything a gaucho ought to. I was completely taken care of. He gave me a cell phone to call him whenever, kept my fridge stocked with sparkling water and set me up in front of the fireplace in the lodge with a glass of late-harvest Torrontés. He even arranged for me to plant a couple of Malbec vines with vineyard manager Francisco Evangelista.

Matias also rode along with me to the top of the mountain on our sunrise horseback trek, naming all of the surrounding peaks along the way. We tried to spot Tupungato though the clouds it&aposs the tallest mountain in the valley, and everyone spoke of it as if it were a loyal friend. They all promised I&aposd see it during my visit. That was not to be.

Later, Matias set up a tasting and blending session with The Vines&apos generous, knowledgeable wine director, Mariana Onofri. We sat outside and tasted through more than a dozen owners&apos barrels and bottles, while watching an intense thunderstorm roll in over the desert. She was checking on how the wines were coming along. The young Malbecs were still quite juicy and fruity, while those with age had taken on structure and depth. The Vines bottles its own wines, too, and exports them to the US, including a crisp, fragrant Torrontés and its signature Malbec, a ripe, black cherry–scented wine.

There seems to be a lot of talk in Mendoza about how not to go down the same path with Malbec as Australia did with Shiraz—where the wines had become homogenous and predictable, with the expectation of low prices to match. Based on the Malbecs I tasted in the Uco Valley, there&aposs little risk of that. The region is actually composed of many subregions, each of which has its own influence on the Malbec grape, depending on proximity to the Andes.

One producer, Familia Marguery, is making a Malbec unlike any I&aposve had before. I was joined at The Vines lodge one afternoon by Marguery&aposs owner, Guillermo Donnerstag, who spends his days as a philosophy professor at a university in Mendoza. He applies a philosophical approach to his wines, focusing on the subregions rather than the region as a whole. His Casa Malbec, a blend of Uco and Luján de Cuyo fruits, was structured and grassy, and tasted like tea leaves, different from the floral or fruity flavors I&aposd found in other Malbecs. His single-vineyard Familia Marguery Malbec, from Uco&aposs La Consulta subregion, went in another direction, with spice and dense, dark fruit. These two bottlings alone show the extreme diversity of the terroir.

The next phase of The Vines is a winemakers&apos village, where 12 up-and-coming winemakers have purchased land and are growing grapes. They&aposll each have their own winery and tasting room. I spent an afternoon spitting wine off a brick wall with Luis Reginato, one of the winemakers involved in the project. "There&aposs not another place in the world where, within walking distance, you can find 12 wineries with 12 different winemakers telling their own stories," Reginato said. "I like that." His plan is to plant varieties never grown in the region before, to see if there might be a future for them.

Blue-eyed, red-haired Reginato came off as quite soft-spoken when we first met, but after spending the better part of an afternoon in a truck with him, I realized he was just thinking a lot. He is the director of viticulture for Bodega Catena Zapata, one of Argentina&aposs best-known producers. The Adrianna vineyard, where our tasting took place, is the source for many Catena Zapata wines, the most interesting of which are two Chardonnays—White Bones and White Stones—named for the different types of soil from which they come. Reginato had dug big holes in each plot (just rows away from one another) so that I could see the surprising variations. "We don&apost think terroir is a picture," Reginato told me. "It&aposs a movie." I could taste the movie of this place in the wines, too. The White Bones is savory and ripe, the White Stones crisp and powerful.

One morning I went even farther afield and drove out to the Ruca Malen winery, located in Mendoza&aposs Luján de Cuyo region, though it sources about 60 percent of its grapes from the Uco Valley. "We discovered the quality potential in the Uco Valley," winemaker Pablo Cuneo told me as we tasted samples straight from the barrel. "The cold nights and warm days concentrate all of the colors, flavors and aromas in the grapes." This was certainly true of his intensely fragrant Reserva Malbec from Vista Flores. The wine was so vibrantly magenta that I could make out the spectacular color even in the poorly lit cellar.

Back at The Vines, Matias set up a cooking lesson for me with Francis Mallmann. Evans said he courted the idiosyncratic chef for months before he agreed to open Siete Fuegos ("Seven Fires") at The Vines. The cooking gear in his outdoor kitchen ranges from a plancha to an enormous wood-fired oven to a fire pit with medieval-looking metal structures for roasting whole animals. "When you&aposre cooking with fire," Mallmann said, "you have to have a strategy you have to be calm with a good plan. You don&apost have to rush. It&aposs like a day off."

Mallmann&aposs idea of a day off is different from mine. He moved quickly, paying not one bit of attention to the flies that also turned up for the lesson. Nearby were his sweet one-year-old daughter, Heloisa (it was her birthday), and his girlfriend, Vanina Chimeno, a chef at her own restaurant, Mar໚ Antonieta, in the city of Mendoza. Although Mallmann took frequent breaks to tickle the baby, somehow, within hours, he and his head chef Diego Irrera prepared charred gaucho steaks (p. 118) and trays of beef-and-onion empanadas (p. 130). He created a stunning zucchini salad with mint and toasted hazelnuts (p. 115) to serve right on a gorgeous butcher block. And he made the loveliest crêpes (p. 131), with ribbons of dulce de leche, in the wood-fired oven. "Dulce de leche really is just a cry of happiness," he said.

On a whim, he decided to make what he calls a mason&aposs steak. "If you go to any construction site in Argentina, you will find a grill," he said. "The workers bring thin cuts of meat with them because they cook fast." I had a hard time believing any construction worker would bring to a job site avocados, bacon, tomatoes, thinly sliced sweet potatoes and cilantro, but that&aposs what Mallmann deftly rolled up in the hugest sirloin I&aposd ever seen, resulting in a delicious monstrosity. "I love meat," Mallmann said. "I eat meat every day."

I&aposd also been eating meat every day—not my norm. So in my last hours at The Vines, rather than confronting yet another steak, I sat with my feet in the pool, with a bottle of Uco Sauvignon Blanc, and tried to spot Tupungato one last time. It wasn&apost there.


It's Not Just About the Malbec: Mendoza, a Wine Destination - Recipes

Coen Classic Malbec ($24.99) is a wine that expresses the best of both the Old and New World. Italian winemaker Attilio Pagli is the craftsman behind some of Italy’s best wines, including Caprai’s Sagrantino di Montefalco 25 Anni and Salvioni’s Brunello di Montalcino. He has taken his expertise to Mendoza, Argentina, to create wines made from that country’s flagship grape, Malbec, that reflect both his signature style and his expertise.

Coen Classic Malbec is a New World wine that is informed by winemaker Pagli’s Old World knowledge.

First of all, this wine is absolutely scrumptious. It is meant to go with food.

Argentine wines are meant to go with summer. In fact, the watchword for cuisine in Argentina is the word “Asado,” which basically means “BBQ Everything!”

Food in Argentina is barbecue in the extreme. In a country that has more cattle than people living in it, Asado is not only a way of cooking it is a way of life. It is not a stretch to say that barbecue is the national dish of Argentina.

Almost everything makes its way to fire and a grill beef, pork, chicken, sausages and the famous Churrasco (marinated beef sirloin).

That’s where Coen Classic Malbec comes in. The bright, fruity flavors are a burst of dark fruit berry jam in your mouth. It’s a virtual fruit bomb that explodes with dark cherries, ripe plums and a little bit of licorice. It’s hard not to keep filling your glass, especially when you pair it with a nicely charred skirt steak or some meaty Baby Back Ribs. Try a burger slathered with some melted Gouda or strong, earthy Blue Cheese. Sides of grilled Asparagus or Romaine slathered with garlic infused olive oil or some roasted multi-colored peppers make for colorful and flavorful sides that will make your garden party rock.

Made with 100% Malbec, this is an elegant medium-bodied wine with a beautiful ruby red color and violet undertones. Its intense aroma of fresh, ripe mixed red and black berries and hints of balsamic and fresh mint give it a long, velvety, smooth finish. It also pairs well with pizza, spaghetti, tapas and Mexican food.

The story of Coen Classic Malbec 2019 is one steeped in the land and its traditions. The story of the wine starts in a pristine area of Mendoza Province, Argentina, 3 thousand feet above sea level near the snow-covered Andes Mountains.

Underground water supplies feed the vineyards. This clean, secluded area is free from any environmental contamination, making it the ideal location to produce world-class grapes.

Two beautiful vineyards, Poloc and Finca la Victoria, which has been in the same family for generations, was chosen as the source for Coen wines. The name, a registered trademark in the US, was created from the initials of the grandchildren of the vineyards’ owners.

That’s where Attilo Pagli of Italy, one of the foremost winemakers in the world enters the picture. With assistant winemaker Ana Musso, who is from Argentina, the two dedicated themselves to creating the highest quality wine from world-class grapes grown in the best terroir, the wine’s sense of place. That ‘sense of place’ is what makes Coen Classic Malbec so special.

Pagli is considered a major force behind some of Italy’s best-known wines. He is known as that country’s biggest expert on the wines of Ciliegiolo. He is credited with resurrecting the Malbec grape in Argentina.

The story behind that discovery is now the stuff of legend. In 1992, Pagli was hired by Nicolas Catena to consult on a Sangiovese project in Mendoza. Once there, he realized the vines were not those of Sangiovese grapes, but old Malbec vines. “Back then, nobody had much faith in Malbec, but I was fascinated by its potential.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Coen Classic Malbec is perfect with Argentina’s most popular street food, the Empanada, a crispy bread pastry wrapped around spicy meat or vegetable mixtures (or a combination of both!). You can buy them pre-made or make them yourself. They’re quite easy.

My advice is to pick up a bottle of Coen Classic Malbec to have the summer party of your life. Make it two bottles. It’s just that good.


The Vines of Mendoza, Uco Valley

One of the Uco Valley pioneers, Vines of Mendoza started life as a vineyard ownership project allowing wannabe oenologists to purchase a small piece of terroir in a spectacular Andes-dominated setting. Eleven years on, a whopping 500 hectares is divvied up between more than 130 private estates, a 28-villa resort and spa, and a winery. There’s also Siete Fuegos restaurant led by one of Argentina’s most renowned chefs and grill specialists, Francis Mallmann. If staying at The Vines is beyond your budget, sample a classic tasting led by wine director Mariana Onofri. It’s quite an operation dealing with 300 different labels, but a tour starts in the winery under the painted sign “Nada es imposible” (Nothing is impossible). Back in the tasting room, try out varietals, blends or something ageing in a barrel. The pièce de résistance is Recuerdo, a signature malbec that draws on grapes pooled from collective estates and whose Gran Corte 2011 picked up 93 Wine Advocate points. Blending sessions and a winemaking camp (March and April only) also form part of The Vines’ elaborate offering.


Malbecs From Argentina Fight the Stereotypes

Many cuisines brought by immigrants to the United States have long been pigeonholed as cheap and plentiful, part of a high-volume, low-margin business.

Efforts to serve more intricate dishes using better ingredients in more elegant surroundings face steep obstacles. The increased expense requires higher menu prices. Consumers often balk, and ambitious Chinese chefs, for instance, prevented from showing the complexity and power of their cuisine, decide instead to work at more lucrative sushi bars.

It’s tempting to think of malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina as the cheap Chinese food of wine. People will happily accept it so long as malbec is inexpensive and cheerful. But they rebel if it aims higher.

In the United States, the wine is popular and ubiquitous. People ask for malbec as if it were a brand name. Corner bars reliably stock it. These wines, most people assume, will be inexpensive. Generally, they are right.

But what if the vines were situated on rocky hillsides at higher altitudes, where the yields stay low naturally, rather than in the fertile flatlands where the yields are generous? What if they were meticulously tended by hand rather than by machine? What if the grapes were fermented in small lots, so that each section of the vineyard could be treated individually rather than homogenized in huge vats?

The result would be very different wines. One would be a wine intended to express the characteristics of a place, provided, in the considered judgment of the grower, that the place had a character worth expressing.

The other would be a generous, fruity wine that might well be enjoyable but innocuous, with little depth, character or sense of place.

The high-altitude wine would most likely cost more. But the difference in price would go toward a more distinctive wine. Whether it is worth the higher price is the sort of decision wine consumers must make all the time.

Here at Wine School we regularly ponder the differences between wines and the reasons for their pricing. We know that higher prices do not always buy better wines.

Sometimes prices are derived from perceived status: Wines from Napa Valley can charge more because Napa adds value not attributed to wines from, say, Lake County. Or a celebrity lends a name, and the price rises as marketers seek to capitalize on the glitz. Occasionally the price is a direct result of a basic economic law, like supply and demand.

But pricing can sometimes be tied directly to the means of production. Mass-produced wines that take advantage of the economies of scale will often be cheaper than those that are the products of laborious farming and careful craft.

For the last month in Wine School we have been drinking Mendoza malbecs. As usual, I recommended three bottles. Readers seek out the wines or equivalent bottles, drink them and report their reactions.

The three were Zuccardi Mendoza Paraje Altamira Concreto Malbec 2017 ($28) Catena Alta Mendoza Malbec Historic Rows 2015 ($35) and Altos Las Hormigas Mendoza Appellation Gualtallary Malbec 2016 ($38).

The idea was to get wines a cut or two above the mass-market malbecs in an effort to examine wines intended to be more expressive of place.

“I could easily have chosen less expensive bottles,” I wrote, introducing the three bottles. “But I wanted to be certain that we would be trying wines produced from a more imaginative, labor-intensive point of view.”

Some readers voiced their displeasure.

Tracie Barnes of Denver took issue with my declaration that I could have found cheaper bottles. “Then, why not do so?” she asked.

Rather than try the bottles I recommended, F. Lehoucq of North Carolina instead praised a $12 Altos Las Hormigas. (I can attest that it’s a good value, but a different sort of wine.) And Mr. XYZ of New York said simply, “If that isn’t sophistry and silliness, I don’t know what is.”

What to Cook Right Now

Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the coming days. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • Do not miss Yotam Ottolenghi’s incredible soba noodles with ginger broth and crunchy ginger. for fungi is a treat, and it pairs beautifully with fried snapper with Creole sauce.
    • Try Ali Slagle’s salad pizza with white beans, arugula and pickled peppers, inspired by a California Pizza Kitchen classic.
    • Alexa Weibel’s modern take on macaroni salad, enlivened by lemon and herbs, pairs really nicely with oven-fried chicken.
    • A dollop of burrata does the heavy lifting in Sarah Copeland’s simple recipe for spaghetti with garlic-chile oil.

    I don’t take issue with anybody who sets limits on what they will spend on wine. That’s a personal decision. But the idea of Wine School is to learn about all sorts of wines, to discern differences, to develop confidence in our own preferences and to take all of that into account when making buying decisions.

    This sometimes means spending a little more money than might be comfortable because some wines legitimately cost more. If we refuse to do this, we are left to focus on only a small segment of wine’s possibilities.

    Consider the decisions that wine producers make all the time. Must Beaujolais be only a pleasant, refreshing knock-back wine? Don’t underestimate the pleasure in wines like that. We need vins de soif, or thirst quenchers.

    But what if Beaujolais could be more expressive than that? What if chenin blanc from California could be more than a cheap component for inexpensive blended wines? What if garnacha could do more in Spain than make alcoholic fruit bombs?

    We need winemakers to ask these questions, and to find answers. If they did not, we would have far fewer interesting wines in the world. So let’s not be so quick to doubt either the potential of Mendoza malbec or the sincerity of those who are seeking to demonstrate it in their wines.

    A relentless desire to test the limits of malbec drove producers in the 1990s from the flat, loamy clay vineyards of the Luján de Cuyo region near the city of Mendoza to higher elevations in the Uco Valley in search of stonier sites and cooler temperatures.

    The Zuccardi comes from the Paraje Altamira area in the southern part of the Uco Valley while the Altos Las Hormigas comes from Gualtallary, farther north in the Uco. The grapes for the Catena come partly from Luján de Cuyo and partly from the Uco, including its Adrianna Vineyard, a pioneering high-altitude site at almost 5,000 feet in Tupungato.

    I found each of these wines far more interesting than the typical inexpensive jammy malbec. The Zuccardi was dark and plummy, with an aromatic note of leafiness. On the palate, it was earthy and focused, with a touch of unsweetened licorice. I thought it was lovely.

    The Altos Las Hormigas had flavors more of red fruit. It was also earthy and dry, yet deep and rich. The Catena Alta was the most tannic of the three, and the most reticent despite being older. It, too, was plummy and earthy.

    One thing they all had in common: On the day after I originally opened the bottles, they each got better, deeper and more detailed. The Zuccardi developed mineral flavors, as did the Altos Las Hormigas. The Catena developed complexity and the tannins softened.

    What does that mean? None of these were simple wines. They each showed an ability to evolve, in the glass, in the bottle and, I’d wager, in the cellar if you left them to age a few more years. You would not see that in ordinary, inexpensive malbecs.

    I was not the only one to notice this improvement in the bottle.

    VSB of San Francisco drank a bottle of Zorzal 2016 Eggo (it’s aged in concrete eggs) from the Tupungato area, and said the contrast between the wine on the first day and the next was striking. Dan Barron of New York noticed a similar evolution in the Catena Alta.

    Acknowledging potential in the wines is not the same as liking them. Not everybody did. Martin Schappeit of Forest, Va., enjoyed both the Zuccardi and the Catena Alta, but Mr. Barron found both not entirely to his taste. Martina Mirandola Mullen of New York found the Catena Alta delicious but maybe not something she would choose to drink again.

    Ferguson of Princeton, N.J., acknowledged stereotypes of malbec.

    “My husband’s preconceived notion of malbecs is that it is the type of wine drunk by the fathers at the swim club with whom we avoid talking politics,” she said. They tried the Altos Las Hormigas nonetheless and enjoyed it, but she wondered whether it was worth the money.

    That’s a legitimate question to ask about any wine, especially after sampling it.

    My own feeling is that the potential of Mendoza malbec, as these wines demonstrated, goes far beyond cheap and cheerful. The prices of these wines, $28 to $38, are not all that much compared with those of equivalent bottles from California. They just need to be approached with an open mind.


    Best Argentina: Alamos Selección Malbec 2016

    • Region: Argentina, Mendoza
    • ABV: 13.5%
    • Tasting Notes: Cherry, Black Raspberry, Cedar, Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, Coffee, Tannins

    This bottle matches the profile for everything that promises a top-shelf malbec wine: Argentinian-grown, from the Mendoza region, produced by the Alamos winery. Head winemaker Lucía Vaieretti calls the shots at this family-run estate that’s been working the land for over a hundred years, producing some of the country’s most notable malbec wines. This is one of them.


    About Malbec

    Malbec is Argentina’s most widely known wine varietal. The country is the primary producer of Malbec in the world, with Mendoza, where I’ll visit next month, being the premier producer within the country.

    A few need-to-knows about the all-famous Malbec:

    Malbec’s Notable Regions: Argentina, France and Chile

    Typical Flavor Notes: Dark berry and earthy flavors (blackberry, plum, black cherry)

    Unique and Interesting Flavor Notes: Chocolate, mocha, pepper, vanilla, spice

    Body: Medium to full body with bold, full flavor


    What Makes for a Destination Winery?

    British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley—by far the province’s most important wine region—is getting an addition that will shake up wine tourism there: a new destination winery. It’s called Phantom Creek Estates.

    While many wineries tout themselves as such, true destination wineries are those that wine tourists, and sometimes wine nerds, put at the top of their must-visit lists. They might be there for any one of several reasons. The quality of the wine is an important draw, but others include reputation, architectural grandeur, tastings and tours, and attractions such as art exhibits and concerts.

    Although we can debate which wineries should be considered destinations, there’s no doubt about some. Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Argentina, features architecture that resembles a Mayan pyramid and draws tens of thousands of visitors for quality tastings each year. So does the Antinori winery in Tuscany, where a breathtaking facility with the awe-inspiring dimensions of a cathedral is tucked inside a hill. Château La Coste in Provence attracts visitors as much for its hectares of open-air art installations as for its wine. Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley stands out as a prime destination among others, such as Opus One and Beringer.

    Canada, too, holds its fair share of destination wineries. In Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, Jackson-Triggs and Stratus Vineyards—within sight of each other—count as destinations. The name alone fills the parking lot of Wayne Gretzky Estates, especially during summer. In the Okanagan Valley, where Phantom Creek Estates is located, the unrivalled destination winery for more than two decades has been Mission Hill Family Estate. On a hilltop at the northern end of the wine region, with a fine view of Okanagan Lake, Mission Hill offers memorable Italianate architecture that includes an archway, a bell tower, and a loggia, as well as an amphitheatre for summer concerts.

    The newcomer, Phantom Creek Estates, is destined to play an important role in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley, a region noted for its red wines made from syrah and the red Bordeaux varieties. The winery sits on the Black Sage Bench overlooking the valley, and although it appears imposing, that is just the visible part: the extensive winemaking and barrel-aging spaces are below ground, where they benefit from naturally cool conditions. The above-ground structure houses a restaurant, tasting rooms, and facilities for events, as well as an outdoor amphitheatre.

    Phantom Creek is the brainchild of Vancouver businessman Richter Bai. He conceived the idea of building a winery as a legacy project for his family. He began to look for land that could produce the kinds of wine he especially likes: Bordeaux red blends and Alsatian whites. In 2016, he purchased vineyards and an unfinished winery belonging to the late Harry McWatters, a pioneer of the Okanagan Valley’s modern wine industry. McWatters’ unfinished winery is the nucleus of Phantom Creek. Bai also bought the Phantom Creek Vineyard on the slopes below the winery, and another (Kobau Vineyard) on nearby Golden Mile Bench, the Okanagan’s first sub-appellation.

    These vineyards, now the core of Phantom Creek’s production, are planted almost exclusively with red grape varieties. The seven-acre Phantom Creek Vineyard, for example, is planted with cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec, petit verdot, and merlot varieties. This vineyard produces an impressive and elegant cabernet sauvignon that perfectly expresses the essence of the variety. In the 2016 vintage, the fruit is complex, has breadth and depth, and the acid is calibrated to the weight of the fruit. It’s a complete wine, and if you want a textbook example of cabernet sauvignon, this is it.

    Phantom Creek Estates is the brainchild of Richter Bai. He conceived the idea of building a winery as a legacy project for his family.

    The winery’s icon wine is Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuvée, a red blend that is mainly reserved for members of the Phantom Creek wine club. The 2016 vintage is cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, and malbec, with smaller contributions from cabernet franc, merlot, and syrah. This is a more robust red than the cabernet sauvignon, but they share a style that embodies excellent fruit definition, balance, and freshness. They are serious but drinkable wines, the sort you want more than one glass of. Another fine cuvée—this one made from merlot, cabernet franc, and cabernet sauvignon—comes from Phantom Creek’s Becker Vineyard.

    To make its white wines, Phantom Creek has sourced grapes from elsewhere in the valley. But despite his red-dominant vineyards, Bai has invested a great deal of capital in white wines. He has engaged as his white wine consultant Olivier Humbrecht, the respected winemaker and owner of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in France’s Alsace wine region and France’s first Master of Wine. At Phantom Creek, he consults in the vineyards, and in the winery, and is also fully engaged in the process of transitioning the vineyards to organic and biodynamic cultivation the winemaker, New Zealander Francis Hutt, has extensive experience making organic and biodynamic wines.

    The seven-acre Phantom Creek Vineyard, for example, is planted with cabernet sauvignon, syrah, malbec, petit verdot, and merlot varieties.

    Phantom Creek offers well-crafted and delicious white wines. The Pinot Gris 2017 is a harmonious, luscious, well-textured wine whose ripe fruit and juicy acidity are perfectly balanced, while the Riesling 2017 shows bright acidity with a little tartness that is a precise complement to the nicely layered fruit. Both were sourced from farther north in the Okanagan Valley (Okanagan Falls and East Kelowna, respectively), but later vintages will be made from Evernden Spring Vineyard fruit once it is in production.

    There’s no question that Phantom Creek has what it takes to be a destination winery. The public facilities—tasting rooms, restaurant, and amphitheatre—are spacious, stylish, and welcoming. Then there is the very high quality of the wines. There is plenty of hype surrounding Phantom Creek that no doubt will result in plenty of visitors once it officially opens. After that, it is unimaginable that it will not develop a reputation as one of the Okanagan Valley’s destination wineries and draw even more visitors to the southern end of the region.

    The winery’s icon wine is Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuvée—a robust red that embodies excellent fruit definition, balance, and freshness.

    Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the opening of Phantom Creek’s restaurant, tasting room, and public house have been delayed. They will be announcing the revised grand opening soon.

    ________
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    Try These: A Tale Of Many A Malbec

    My wife isn’t so fond of any of these international grape days, as it means a LOT of tasting for me… personally I quite enjoy the kitchen pungent with the scents of Malbec! My wife, less so…

    In celebration of World Malbec Day on Saturday the 17th (tomorrow!), I thought that I’d work my way through 10 Malbecs available through various channels right now, always a fun little exercise!

    2020 Abito “La Juventud” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (14.5% Alcohol) – Consignment via The Full Wine Glass / Argentum Imports $19.95

    My son was immediately drawn to the quirky label, and alongside all of the other rather old-fashioned and staid labels here, it certainly sticks out in a crowd. How’s the wine inside? Well, there’s a ton of juicy and jammy red fruit coupled with a pretty serious hit of smokey and spicy oak. Tannins are soft and not of much consequence, but the solid fruit core extends out with a great length. Most enjoyable.

    2018 Trapiche “Reserve” Malbec, Argentina (13.5% Alcohol) – LCBO $12.95

    I found the oak a little overbearing here, but often that’s what people are actually looking for with a Malbec at this pricepoint. Indeed, this shows quite remarkable value for those seeking a Malbec with a healthy big old dose of spicy oak and a simple dark fruit profile. Having tasted this many times over the years, this is an improvement over previous vintages. It’s simplistic, but rather well done.

    2019 Alamos Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (13.5% Alcohol) – LCBO $15.95

    A real crowd-pleasing and full-bodied style that exhibits admirable tannin management. It’s a very contemporary and surprisingly polished take on Malbec (if a tad simplistic), delivering exactly what most consumers look for in a mid-price Argentinian wine. Malbecs can really shine around this price point, and Alamos certainly do a pretty damn good job here.

    2019 Kaiken “Seleccion Especial” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (14% Alcohol) – Vintages Essentials $13.95

    A whole load of jammy black berry fruit and well balanced oak treatment. Very smooth and soft tannins with moderate freshness. Like the Alamos before, this exhibits very good value for this similar-ish price point.

    2019 Bodega Toro “Centenario” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina(13% Alcohol) – LCBO $9.60

    Hands down the best extreme value Malbec I have ever tasted. There’s a fair bit here for the oh-so-modest price point. Don’t expect a blockbuster wine, but understand it for what it is: a very well-made everyday Malbec that delivers exactly where it should. It’s hard to find fault in its sheer fruit-driven, juicy, smooth tannins, and good old honest drinkability. Serve slightly chilled beside a roaring, smokey barbecue.

    2018 BenMarco Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (14.5% Alcohol) – Consignment via Profile Wine Group $20.99

    It’s always said that the best wine is the one that is finished first, and that was certainly the case here. There’s a really freshness and lift to this Malbec that had me continually reaching for another glass. Probably the most mineral-focused Malbec from this selection, making it really stand out for me the subtle floral aspect also aroused. It has a really nice tension between fruit, acid, and tannin. Definitely more of a gastronomic example. Lovely stuff. More please?

    2018 Graffigna Malbec, Mendoza & San Juan, Argentina (13.5% Alcohol) – LCBO $13.95

    In a blind tasting I’d be struggling to identify this as Malbec, and that’s not usually a good thing. While I can certainly see the appeal of lighter Malbecs, I’m not sure that this is what the average consumer would expect when they buy the Malbec “brand”. In the context of this line-up, I’m not sure that it passes muster. Saying that, I’ll revisit this again in the coming months.

    (For now… but the jury is out!)

    2019 Don David “Reserve” Malbec, Salta, Argentina (14% Alcohol) – LCBO $16.95

    This bottle turned out to be a case of FTFO (Failure to freaking open). The screw cap enclosure failed, and I had to resort to a pair of pliers and a knife to get a taste out of the bottle. managed to cut my hand open to, so perhaps my judgement of this one is a little clouded? Again, this is made in a lighter style, but I feel it has an excellent red/black fruit profile to raise it up a little as well as an oxymoronic “lush garrigue” element to it! Very appealing aromatically, with soft, malleable tannins and a good finish. This is another one that I’d like to revisit.

    2018 Luigi Bosca Malbec, Argentina (14% Alcohol) – Vintages Essentials $18.95

    A stalwart on the mid-priced Malbec scene for some time, I’ve always been rather fond of Bosca’s approach with this bottling. There’s a solid fruit core of plummy black fruits, with nuances of cocoa nibs, mocha, and wood spice. The tannins are smooth and the palate is mouth-filling. Great balance on display here. Much like Catena, it’s always been a solid benchmark Malbec for me.

    2018 Kaiken “Ultra” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (14.5% Alcohol) – Vintages Front Line $19.95

    The “Ultra” certainly leans towards a bigger, plumper, rich style, but it’s not without some finesse. Loads of spicy dark berry fruit here, with oak treatment consistent with the intense fruit, but it’s all pleasantly in balance. A most impressive lengthy finish here. A well-put-together full-bodied Malbec.

    Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food RevolutionAnd that was most enjoyable. Now I’m craving charred, grilled meat!


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