Argentina : The Other Land Down Under
The magnificent land of M’s. So what it is about this country that puts the letter “M” in my head? Let’s see…the Andes Mountains, the infused beverage known as Mate, the birthplace of Lionel Messi (sudden twinkle in my eye), and what else….Ah, of course …Malbec. But contrary to common belief that the Argentine wine industry is only praiseworthy because of Malbec, there is undoubtedly far more to this country than the narrow eye can see.
What many might not be aware of is that Argentina is a nearly textbook example of what ideal conditions for viticulture are. The oh-so majestic wonder known as the Andes Mountains benefits Argentina’s wine production in more ways than one. Acting as a shield from harsh coastal rainfall, the Andes influence a favorable lack of humidity that eliminates the risk of fungal diseases and mildew on the vines, therefore saving producers from the high costs of chemical spraying. If you think the amazing Andes stop there, you’re wrong. While the mountains present Argentina with the remarkable benefits of dry unpolluted air, the glaciers that cap the mountain peaks melt causing water to trickle down to the lower lands. POOF… And now we have irrigation. We’re still not done. The area’s high altitudes and clear skies call for both warm days that ripen the grapes and cool nights that revitalize the grapes’ acidity. If that’s not just darn near perfect, well, let’s just agree that it is.
Keeping quite a close eye on the market down there is British-born wine professional Nigel Tollerman. Now residing in Buenos Aires, Nigel graces the Argentinian wine industry as an internationally recognized sommelier, wine consultant, and founder of the prestigious wine retail delivery company 0800-VINO.
Curious about the outcome of Argentina’s 2012 harvest season, I thought to myself, who better to ask than Mr. Argentine Wine himself? According to Nigel, this year presented a rather interesting situation for vineyards throughout the country and resulted in noticeably lower yields, particularly in Mendoza. Salta and San Juan were further singled out by additional complications due to rains and the Zonda, or foehn, winds. But as us California locals are learning from our past two vintages, vineyard struggle presents quality over quantity and enacts the survival of the fittest approach. Nevertheless, I am definitely excited to taste the outcome of Argentina’s fascinating 2012 vintage.
If you find yourself in Buenos Aires and want the absolute “must-have” wine experience that this amazing country has to offer, Nigel is the man to speak to.
Here are my thoughts on some lovable Argentines…
Resurrecting childhood memories of drinking freshly squeezed lemonade on hot summer days in Southern California, this vivacious and intriguingly aromatic wine is a real treat with its notes of honeyed lemon, tangerine, lavender, white pepper, and a bitter green bell pepper finish. Basking in La Salta’s arid climate and high altitudes, this light bodied wine was naturally inoculated with booster shots of crisp acidity and dryness to keep your mouth watering for more.
Like a nourishing granola based breakfast, this Chardonnay contains all of the bits to my puzzle. With a rich body that offers a muesli of grapefruit, pineapple, cinnamon, vanilla, and walnuts, this whole-hearted wine comforts the palate but then ends with an intense kick of white pepper to leave you something to remember it by. Sort of like Sour Patch Kids….but backwards.
Strikingly lascivious by nature, this Malbec would have Chris de Burgh singing “The Lady in Red” like it was 1986 again. This coincidentally Argentinian born singer would be hypnotized by this wine’s deep color and pleasing aromas of blackberry, boysenberry, and dark chocolate. But just as you think this lady’s going to give it all away, she teases back with a powerful jolt of tobacco, cloves, and black tea bitterness on the finish. And what do you know…now you’re in love.