Posts Tagged Argentina

Wines from €8.50 to €22: Can you tell the difference?

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 20th May, 2017

Do expensive wines taste any better? It is a question I am often asked. My answer is: yes and no. Obviously, a pricier wine should offer more; more complexity, more elegance, more fruit and more intensity than a cheaper model. But quite often it doesn’t.  A wine producer is no different to any other business and will try to maximise profits. Simply by being based in a well-known region, some can charge a premium over their neighbours. Others dress their wines up in heavy bottles and fancy labels in an effort to persuade us to part with a little more money. Then there is the importer and retailer margin; some take more than others.

So price is certainly not a guarantee of quality. Against this, if a producer receives a better price, they can afford to make a much better wine. I find that generally, if you pay more, you get more – to a certain price ceiling, when the law of diminishing returns set in. Given our very high excise duties, most of the cost of any wine under €10 goes straight to the government, so cheap wine is never really good value.

Sweet spot

For me, the sweet spot in wine is between €12-25, where you should notice a big step up in quality. If you don’t then you should stick to the cheap stuff. For a treat, I am happy to pay up to €50 and sometimes more for a really great wine, having convinced myself that the same price would get me an average bottle in most restaurants.

Not everybody likes expensive wine however; studies have shown that many consumers prefer cheaper wines that tend to have more residual sugar, adding richness and texture, as well as lighter tannins or acidity (in white wines).

I sometimes find myself preferring the less expensive wines because they have not been given lavish oak treatment, and I don’t generally like the taste of oak. It is all a matter of personal taste, and as with anything else in life, you should never let anyone else tell you what you should or shouldn’t like.

This week, you can conduct your own experiment. I have chosen four Malbecs from Argentina, all widely available. The complete set will cost you about €55, but you could share the burden with a few friends and do a tasting together – blind if you feel like really testing yourself.

For me, the Barrel Select was the winner, clearly superior to the two less expensive wines and great value for money at €12.95. For a posh dinner with beef or lamb, I would certainly be happy to pay an extra €10 for the Clos de la Siete, made (and part owned) by renowned French wine consultant Michel Rolland.

Wines to try

Aldi Exquisite Collection Malbec, Uco Valley Argentina 2015, 13.5%, €8.49.

Decent, well-made wine with slightly astringent dark fruits. Stockists: Aldi.

Norton Colección Malbec 2016, Mendoza, Argentina, 13%, €11.95.

Easy ripe red fruits, with a rounded finish. Stockists: O’Briens.

Norton Barrel Select  Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina, 13%, €14.95 (€12.95 for May).

A perennial favourite with medium-bodied warm savoury dark fruits and a soft harmonious finish. Stockists: O’Briens.

Clos de los Siete 2013, Uco Valley, Argentina, 14.5%, €21.95.

Full-bodied and smooth with elegant sultry dark fruits, plenty of spice and a dry finish. Stockists: O’Briens.

Posted in: Irish Times

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Dominio del Plata Terroir Series Malbec Cabernet Franc 2015

<strong>Dominio del Plata Terroir Series Malbec Cabernet Franc 2015</strong>

Image 4Dominio del Plata Terroir Series Malbec Cabernet Franc 2015
€15.99 from Marks & Spencer

The addition of 14% Cabernet Franc gives this medium-bodied wine a lovely savoury, slightly tannic bite, a nice contrast to the ripe blackcurrant fruits.

Perfect with your steak, or any other grilled red meat.

Susana Balbo is one of the leading winemakers of Argentina. For this wine she used grapes grown in Tupungato, part of the cooler Uco Valley south of Mendoza. The wines tend to be a little more perfumed and elegant.

Posted in: Daily Drop

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Porteno Malbec 2015, Bodegas Norton, Mendoza

Porteno Malbec 2015, Bodegas Norton, Mendoza

IMG_1604Porteno Malbec 2015, Bodegas Norton, Mendoza

Available from O’Briens for €10.95 for the month of February

This is a really tasty wine, relatively powerful, and rippling with layers of dark fruit. No oak and no tannins; just a big mouthful of pure supple fruit. At less than €11 for the month of February, this is a real bargain.

Argentina is famous for it’s Malbec. Fragrant, rich and powerful, the wines provide a perfect match for all of these barbequed ribs, steaks and other pieces of smoky charred protein. Cheapskate that I am, I often prefer the less oaky, less extracted mid-priced versions. There is some good inexpensive Malbec around too. The Aldi Exquisite Collection Malbec is worth checking out. It isn’t as good as the Porteño though. This is made by Norton, one of my favourite producers in Argentina.

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Image 29Bodegas Fabre Montmayour Reservado Chardonnay 2014, Mendoza, Argentina
€14.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

I was bemoaning the lack of big rich buttery Chardonnays in my piece in the Irish Times last week, when this wine appeared. David Whelehan promised an old-style ‘Dolly Parton’ Chardonnay. He was half-right; it is a powerful full-bodied wine with lots of tropical fruits, some oak and a touch of butter too. But it is actually more than that; this is a well-made wine, with good acidity and balance. The oak is there but doesn’t overwhelm and the quality of the fruit is pretty good. I can see it going very nicely with chicken and richer fish dishes.

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Take two Malbecs: France v Argentina

From the Irish Times, Saturday 17th October, 2015

The two wineries are some 11,000km apart, and the wines could not be more different, but they have one thing in common; Malbec, currently one of the most fashionable grapes.

Cahors in France has just over 4,000 hectares of Malbec; Argentina has 31,000. By coincidence, winemakers from both places recently visited Ireland in the same week.

Cahors is a very pleasant city, an hour’s drive north of Toulouse, famous for the magnificent Valentré bridge. It is surrounded on three sides by the river Lot. The river meanders westwards to the wine region, where the steep serpentine slopes offer a myriad of soils and meso-climates. The lower sandier slopes are said to produce softer, fruitier wines, the limestone plateau at the top makes wine with a firmer more tannic structure.

Martine Jouffreau and Yves Hermann of Clos de Gamot have been together for 38 years and look the typical contented rural French couple with a keen interest in food and rugby. Their daughter, a nurse, lives in Dublin. The estate belonged to Martine’s grandfather who planted vines a 100 years ago that go into a special wine, Cuvée Centenaires, produced only in the best years.

I am very fond of the Clos de Gamot, a wine that represents everything that is great about Cahors. There are other wines too.

Hermann works with 100 per cent Malbec (although he did admit to growing a tiny amount of Sauvignon and Chardonnay). “Our wines are very different to Argentina,” says Hermann. “We don’t like marketing and we make Cahors, not Malbec. In fact, we call it Côt or Auxerrois. For a good wine you need acidity. Our terroir always gives a freshness. It stays with the wine, even at 50-years-old.”

People often talk of the black wine of Cahors; this actually refers to an old method of concentrating the wine before blending it with those of other regions, notably Bordeaux.

Basic Cahors can be a little thin and rustic, but there have been huge improvements in recent years. These days Cahors is more likely to be nicely aromatic, peppery and dry, with savoury plum fruits. It is not a big gutsy wine, but very satisfying. It needs to be drunk with food.

If Cahors has an aesthetic austerity, Argentinian Malbec is perfumed and vibrant, with rich succulent softly-textured dark fruits, backed up with plenty of power. It is hardly surprising this style of Malbec has become popular the world over, and in the US in particular. It is a great partner for another Argentine speciality, barbecued steak.

The Chakana estate was founded in 2002 by the Pelizzatti family, who originally came from Valtelina in Italy. I met up with the very affable Gabriel Bloise, head of operations at Chakana.

“Our style of wine is changing; we are using less new oak, and less oak overall. We trying to produce more elegant wines,” he says.

Chakana is based in Luján de Cuyo just south of Mendoza where it has 150 hectares of vines. A few years ago, it expanded into the Uco Valley further south. The Uco is one of the most talked-about regions of Argentina, partly as a tourist destination, but also for producing wines with intense colour and aroma, higher acidity and more succulent fruits.

Chakana is putting together an origin–based series of wines that will reflect the different regions where it owns vines. It has also made decisive moves towards organic viticulture. “There is no other way to produce wine,” says Bloise. “Within a year, we saw a huge change in the quality of our grapes. We were very scared at first – weeds and oidium were supposed to be a problem, but they weren’t. Now we don’t have a plan or solution for every disease; we have a super master plan!”

DSCF6128Clos des Gamots 2008, Cahors

Lifted aromas, soft maturing ripe plums with good acidity and a solid savoury tannic core. Lovely wine.

Stockists: The Wicklow Wine Company, Wicklow

Dona Paul EstateDoña Paula Estate Malbec 2014, Uco Valley, Mendoza

Very nicely balanced Malbec with perfumed floral aromas and plump ripe dark fruits.

Stockists: widely available including Tesco, SuperValu and O’Briens.

DSCF6135Chakana Estate Selection 2013, Mendoza

Rich meaty dark fruits with a nice fresh character and good length. With beef.

Stockists: Donnybrook Fair; Gibneys; Hole in the Wall; The Corkscrew; No 21, Cork; Thomas Woodberry.

Posted in: Irish Times

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