Thursday, November 21, 2019

#ThankfulForVino with Argentinian Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

Be honest. When you think of wine from Argentina you think Malbec.  That's what I thought, that is, until this week during a  #ThankfulForVino tweet-up moderated by Master of Wine Christy Canterbury. The chat focused on new frontiers beyond Malbec particularly since that grape accounts for only 21.4% of plantings in Argentina. Chardonnay & Pinot Noir are two of these new frontiers and are particularly attractive during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Starting with two important facts -- Argentina is the world's 8th largest country and the 5th largest wine-producing country in the world. According to Canterbury, grapes were first planted in the 16th century when Spanish colonizers brought over vines to produce sacramental wine. More recently the wine industry has grown exponentially as the export value grew from $24 million to $821 million and production from 25 million liters to 275 million liters.

There are four main grape-growing regions: the North, Cuyo (Mendoza's home), Patagonia and the newest, Atlantic. In general, precipitation is low, even in El Niño years with Patagonia and the Atlantic regions receiving more annual rainfall than the North and Cuyo. Day-to-night temperature variations (diurnal) are some of the most dramatic on the planet. These temperature fluctuations vary as much as 20C/36F degrees with the swings due to altitude as in Mendoza or high latitude as in Patagonia. See Wines of Argentina.

During this tweet-up, we sampled five wines - three from Mendoza and two from Patagonia.

Catena Alta Mendoza Chardonnay 2017 ($18)
"Alta" means high in Spanish and refers to the two high altitude vineyards from where the grapes are sourced and this cool climate and porous soils are "the promised land of Chardonnay".  The Adrianna Vineyard (80%) is located at almost 5,000 feet in the Andean foothills and the vines are planted in calcareous soil.  The Domingo Vineyard, Lot 7 (20%) is situated at "only" 3,675 ft with alluvial and gravelly soil with limestone deposits in the topsoil.  The wine is simply delicious with soft citrus and green apples, textured, and refreshing acidity.

Mascota Vineyards Unanime Chardonnay ($15)
The grapes for this wine come from the alluvial calcareous soils in Gualtallary Uco Valley, Mendoza, another high altitude and cool climate site at 4,200ft.  Canterbury remarked that Uco Valley wines are very fragrance driven and that describes this wine with its strong floral aroma. On the palate, it is citrus-driven with a slightly buttery and creamy texture, and spices linger with lifting acids. Four hours of skin contact bolster the aromas whereas fermenting in concrete eggs and large French oak foudres create the creamy texture.

Bodega Tapiz Wapisa Pinot Noir 2017 ($19)
The Los Acantilados Estate (San Javier, Atlantic Patagonia, Río Negro) is located very close to the Atlantic Ocean and at only 328 feet above sea level receives plenty of maritime cooling. It is also noted for its lime clay soils that lack organic matter. The proximity to the ocean is reflected in the drawing of a whale's tail on the label.  The wine is initially fruit-forward with red-berries then texture mid-palate finishing with firm yet approachable acids.

Alfredo Rocas Finacas Pinot Noir 2018 ($12)
Sourced from the Finca Santa Herminia vineyard in San Rafael Mendoza, which is lower in altitude but because of the south-facing slopes, cooler than comparable vineyards. But still at 3,000 ft above sea level. The winemaking approach allows the grapes to speak which shows delicious red berries, sweeter spices, some chalk and dust, and a long finish of easy tannins.

Schroeder Family Saurus Select Pinot Noir 2017 ($18)
The vineyards of Familia Schroeder sit in the San Patricio del Chanar valley, a new region in Patagonia. Canterbury believes this will be the next important wine region to emerge from Argentina due to its attractive grape growing attributes: light stony soils, irrigation from pure melt-water, intense sunlight, and a substantial diurnal temperature difference. And lots of wind. The Saurus label is named for the 75 million years old fossilized dinosaur bones that were found near the winery site. The wine itself is complex with dusty cherries, chewy tannins, and fresh acids. A great finish to the evening.

No comments: