Argentina: Where the Grapes Touch the Sky

For those readers in the US, imagine if grapevines would thrive at the altitude of Denver.  The wines of Argentina are made closer to the sky than anywhere else on Earth.  Since the wine regions are closer to the equator than Denver, snow isn’t much of a concern.  The altitude serves as a cooling influence on the vines.  There are even grapes growing as high as 9,800 feet with limited to no frost damage.

The star of the show in Argentina is Malbec.  This highly drinkable grape variety makes up almost 25% of the country’s production.  The altitude, the wide open skies, and the near constant sunshine help Malbec to ripen slowly over the whole growing season which brings out the right amount of acidity and flavor. 

Like the origin of so many New World (as in non-European) wines, Malbec was brought to Argentina by immigrants in search of a better life and something good to drink.  Malbec originated in France in the southwest Cahors region.  The successive waves of new residents brought their own winemaking skills to create the powerhouse that Argentina is today.

Great Wines

Bodega Carmelo Patti is located in the Lujan de Cuyo section of Argentina. The winery was started by Carmelo Patti and he runs every aspect of the winery to this day.

Arriving from Sicily at the age of one, Carmelo is a traditional and respected winemaker in Argentina. Carmelo will not release a wine until he is certain that it is ready. He uses no chemicals in the wine and relies on wild yeast for fermentation. He prefers to age wine in concrete and older oak vessels which further help to preserve the story being told by the grapes and the land.

A bottle of his wine is a true expression of the place and his style.

While still dark, this wine poured a lighter ruby color than I expected from Malbec. Right away the wine smelled of strawberry and cranberry as well as blackberries and blueberries, but there was more to this one. The nose opened up and the smells of walking through a forest started to pop. This included wet leaves, bramble, fresh earth, mushrooms, and mint.

The palate was very pleasant with medium acidity and nice gentle tannins that enveloped the whole palate. The taste was similar to the aromas. This was like no other Malbec I have had. In fact, if I tasted this blind, I would have thought that this was a cabernet franc. A very complex wine that will provide a great backbone for whatever meal is being served.

Spanish cheese like manchego, and Jamon Serrano

“People before product” is at the heart of Zuccardi’s philosophy. Rather than employing a seasonal workforce, they keep workers on year-round. Zuccardi also provides healthcare and free education.

The winery was established in 1963 and is family owned to this day. They go to great lengths to produce wines that are unique expressions of their terroir. Zuccardi has even established a research and development group to focus on how to bring out the terroir even more.

The Malbec for this wine was grown on very stony soils on an estate vineyard called Piedra Infinita. Fermented in concrete vessels as the name would hint. Zuccardi also used whole cluster fermentation with part of the batch.

This wine poured deep purple color in the glass with wafting aromas of blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, blackberries, mint, violets, fennel, wet stone, leather, tobacco, and graphite. The tannins are higher but gentle with lower acidity and a medium body. The palate consists of wet stone, and more red fruit and black fruit.  No oak on this one for sure.

Bean burritos,  Grilled tri-tip

When studying abroad in Spain, I picked up the habit of the siesta. To a college student, a built-in nap was an excellent addition to the daily schedule. What I found, though, was the time to rest in the afternoon made me more attentive and awake throughout the day and evening.

Ernesto Catena, founder of Siesta, buries a few bottles of each vintage on his estate, in a sort of permanent siesta. Coming from a small 25 acre vineyard in the Valle de Uco area of Argentina, named Vistaflores, this wine is very special. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 14 months and then ages for a year in the bottle before release. The siesta is certainly working for this biodynamic wine. The sense of place expressed by this wine is extraordinary and it helps to show a side of Malbec beyond the generic profile of the grape.

As strange as it sounds, if a wine could give you a bear hug, this is the one.

This deep purple wine is full of dried fruit, cooked plums, bread, nuttiness, and black fruits like blackberries, black cherries, and blueberries.

The palate was bursting with cooked fruits, cloves, jamminess, leather, and dried redcurrants. This is a complex wine with so many different elements going on. Very drinkable.

Roast duck, Pasta Bolognese

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