Saturday, December 8, 2012

Argentina, Part 2: More Than Malbec

It's an exciting time for Argentine winemaking. Despite long shadows cast by Malbec, the country's signature red grape, wines made from other grapes drew nods of approval at a recent tasting. In Part 2, we take a look at Argentine wines from Salta's dizzying high-altitude vineyards to cool, windswept Patagonia. 

Considered Argentina's signature white variety, this Muscat relative is usually unblended and unoaked. Floral aromatics and a flavor profile of tropical to citrus fruits underscored by minerality make Torrontés irresistible. The grape may excel in Salta, but versions from other regions don't disappoint. Sparkling versions pop with pure delight.

Colomé 2011 Torrontés
Lovely perfume, unoaked. From Calcaquí Valley. $16*

Finca La Linda 2012 Torrontés
From Salta. Floral and delicious. $10

Maipe 2011 Torrontés
From high-elevation Cafayate in Salta. Guava goodness rings in at a slightly higher alcohol (14.5%) than other versions. $10

Just behind Torrontés in white-grape acreage, Chardonnay is finding its place among Argentine whites.

Catena Alta 2010 Chardonnay
This 100% Chardonnay spent 12 to 16 months in mostly new oak. Elegant, with bright pineapple and citrus flavors. $33

Postales del Fin del Mundo 2010 Chardonnay
An excellent value and only lightly oaked, this 100% varietal from Patagonia shows crisp citrus and pear flavors. $12

Urraca 2009 Chardonnay
Shows nice complexity in a more Burgundian style. Aged six months in oak. $18


Chakana Sparkling
From Agrelo in the higher Lujan de Cuyo district of Mendoza. All stainless, half Chardonnay, half Pinot Noir. $19

Deseado 2012
A 100% Torrontés sparkler from Patagonia. A festive wine from Familia Schroeder that sees no oak with 9.5% alcohol and a touch of sweetness. $15

Toso Brut
100% Chardonnay, a Pascual Toso sparkler from Barrancas, Maipù district of Mendoza. Price not available.


No longer confined to blends, Syrah from Argentina's cooler districts shows minerality and heft with warmer regions yielding more fruit-forward versions.

Pascual Toso Alta Reserve 2007 Syrah
Chewy, 100% Syrah from Barrancas Vineyards in Mendoza's Maipù district. $60

Find value and uncompromising flavor in Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon.

Catena 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Aged 12 to 14 months in oak, from Mendoza. Firm, with blackberry and cassis. $20

Pascual Toso 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Made from 100% Cabernet and oak-aged for 12 months. Savory notes with firm acidity. From Barrancas, in Mendoza's Maipù district. $20

Urraca 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
Oak aged for 12 months; organic. $20

Other Argentine wines worth your wine dollar include Bonarda, usually made in an easy-drinking and fruity style and Pinot Noir, especially from cooler regions such as Rio Negro in the Patagonian south. 

With world-class winemakers, vast and diverse terroirs, and a strong wine culture rooted in European tradition, Argentina stands poised to enlarge its mark on the global wine scene. These wines provide a snapshot of Argentina's wine diversity, as mighty Malbec leads the charge.

* All prices estimated retail; expect retail outlet and regional variations.

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