Mendoza

Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina

Drunk in São Paulo November 2015

The winery

In 1992, Chandon Argentina, founded by Moët &Chandon in 1960, started the Terrazas de los Andes project and in 1999, Terrazas de los Andes was founded right at Mendoza’s heart in an old and restored Spanish-style winery that had belonged from 1898 to Sotero Arizu, one of the forefathers of wine making in Argentina. 

Terrazas de los Andes is considered as one of the best producers of Argentina, and thus received the honour of being chosen by Château Cheval Blanc (Premier Grand Cru Classè A based in Saint-Emilion) for its first joint-venture in order to create the iconic Cheval des Andes.

The property has very deep soil, down to nearly 1.8 metres in places, though part of the property is close to a hilly area where the soil is shallower and somewhat rocky. Ungrafted Malbec vines planted in 1929 have an abundant source of clean, run-off water from the river and a longer ripening season thanks to the region’s cooler temperatures. 

The wine is produced from Malbec grapes from Finca Las Compuertas (Las Compuertas, Luján de Cuyo) and Finca El Pedregal (Altamira, La Consulta, Uco Valley); Mendoza - Argentina. Average altitude: 1080 metres above sea level (3545 ft). 

EL PEDREGAL

This property is located in Altamira, an area with highly stony soil which gives the vineyard its name (piedra means stone in Spanish). Some of the boulders were so large when the property was acquired, they had to be buried because they couldn’t be moved.

The soil is highly permeable which is ideal to nourish the Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec varieties grown here. Making use of high trellises and a cordon training system, the land is ideal, especially for Malbec, which expresses an intense, fruity colour with noticeable tannin.

LAS COMPUERTAS

The La Compuertas vineyard is located very close to the northern end of the Mendoza river. The property has very deep soil, down to nearly 1.8 metres in places, though part of the property is close to a hilly area where the soil is shallower and somewhat rocky.

Ungrafted Malbec vines planted in 1929 have plenty of clean, run-off water from the river and a longer ripening season thanks to the region’s cooler temperatures. Over the years, this vineyard has used a Guyot system with narrow rows and low trellises, irrigation provided by furrows running down the slope, a method used by the immigrants who started the industry in the province. This irrigation method brings silt and clay that retain moisture so less irrigation is used.

The wine

100% Malbec. Alcohol: 14.00 % Sugar: 1.8 g/l Total acidity: 5.15 g/l pH: 3.78

1. Hand-harvesting during the month of April. 2. Cluster destemming and slight berry splitting. 3. Fermentation and maceration for an average of 21 days, alternating pumping over and delestage. Devatting. 4. Aging for 12 – 14 months in 1/3 new - and the remaining in second and third use - French oak barrels. 5. Clarification. Filtration Bottling. 6. Bottle Aging: 6 months minimum.

2012 Vintage

The 2012 vintage had a very cold winter followed by extremely high temperatures from late spring to early summer; this lead to an accelerated increase of sugar rate and a decrease of grape weight. Then, temperatures dramatically decreased therefore slowing down the ripening cycle on the vine; as a result 2012 wines are very fruity and aromatic, with an acidity found typically when the end of the summer growing season is cooler.

Fermented Grape tasting notes

This was deep purple/red in the glass. Strong aromas and palate of cherry and chocolate. Fine tannins and smooth in the mouth and on the finish. Nice acidity. Very enjoyable for the price.

Susana Balbo, Brioso 2010, Mendoza, Argentina

Drunk July 2015, Fogo De Chao, Santo Amaro 6824 | Santo Amaro, Sao Paulo, Brazil

balbobrioso

The winery

balbo map

After an already long and successful career in winemaking, Susana Balbo described her own winery – Dominio del Plata – as ‘like my third child, a dream come true.’

Susana Balbo was born in Mendoza, Argentina to a traditional Italian family. Wine was always a big part of her life as she was growing up “My first memory is not actually mine, it’s told to me by my parents. In my childhood, the beverage for kids was water with a drop of wine to taint the color. So my parents gave me a full glass of water with a few drops of wine, and it seems I liked it as a 3-year old. They say they looked to the side, and I was taking the bottle to pour a full glass of wine!" She opted to become a wine maker and graduated from Don Bosco University in 1981 with a degree in enology. Upon graduating, Susana became the first female enologist in the history of Argentine winemaking.

Susana’s first job as a winemaker was at Michel Torino winery in the Salta province. At Michel Torino, Susana was put in charge of further developing the Torrontes varietal, which is native to Argentina. She stylized the wine so that it showed a very floral nose, with a refreshing citrus taste. To this day, she is credited with being the creator of this distinctive and popular style earning her the nickname “Queen of Torrontes.”

After working in Salta, Susana returned to Mendoza to work in wineries including Bodega Martins and Bodega Catena Zapata. 

Having worked extensively both in Argentina and throughout the winemaking world (Spain, Chile, Italy, Australia, and California among others) since the early eighties, it wasn't until 1999 that she finally realised her ambition of making her own wine at Dominio del Plata in the  Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza Argentina. Susana established her winery in Agrelo, assisted by the renowned Argentine viticulturist Pedro Marchevsky who helped plant the vineyards.  

balbo winery

Initially the production was quite small. The first batches of the Susana Balbo and BenMarco lines were released in August 2000. From 2010 through the present, the winery has undergone significant internal organisational changes. During this time both of Susana’s children decided to join the family business. Her son Jose received his enology degree from UC Davis and works as both the winemaker and the export manager and Ana, her daughter, has a degree in Business Administration from Universidad de San Andres and is the manager of the marketing department.

balbo family

The winery has an approximate area of 7,000 sq metres with a yearly output of around 2,000,000 litres.

The wine

 The 2010 is a blend of 45% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 15% malbec, 10% cabernet franc and 10% petit verdot aged in new French oak for 15 months.

Tasting notes

This is Susanna Balbo's signature wine and the quality shows. Unlike a couple of recent Argentinian wines, it was very well balanced and not over powered.

It is unusual to see an Argentine blend where Malbec doesn't dominate and this is elegant and structured. Nice blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with an exceptional smoothness with hints of spice and an ultra long finish. Lovely with the barbecue meat with the finesse of the best. £20-30 in the UK.

 

Terrazas de los Andes, Single vineyard 2010, Las Compuertas, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

Drunk July 2015, Fogo De Chao, Santo Amaro 6824 | Santo Amaro, São Paulo, Brazil

The winery

In 1992, Chandon Argentina, founded by Moët &Chandon in 1960, started the Terrazas de los Andes project and in 1999, Terrazas de los Andes was founded right at Mendoza’s heart in an old and restored Spanish-style winery that had belonged from 1898 to Sotero Arizu, one of the forefathers of wine making in Argentina. 

Terrazas de los Andes is considered as one of the best producers of Argentina, and thus received the honor of being chosen by Château Cheval Blanc (Premier Grand Cru Classè A based in Saint-Emilion) for its first joint-venture in order to create the iconic Cheval des Andes.

terrazas map

The La Compuertas vineyard, from which this wine is produced, is located close to the northern end of the Mendoza river. The property has very deep soil, down to nearly 1.8 metres in places, though part of the property is close to a hilly area where the soil is shallower and somewhat rocky.

computeras

Ungrafted Malbec vines planted in 1929 enjoy an abundant source of clean, run-off water from the river and a longer ripening season thanks to the region’s cooler temperatures. Over the years, this vineyard has used a Guyot system with narrow rows and low trellises, irrigation provided by furrows running down the slope, a method used by the immigrants who started the industry in the province. This irrigation method brings silt and clay that retain moisture so less irrigation is used.

adrianmeyer

The wine

The 2010 vintage was classic and satisfactory. Weather conditions determined significantly pronounced seasons, considering that spring frosts reduced yield and helped increase grape quality. Summer was mild, whilst autumn was cool, dry and long. This led to a slow ripeness, resulting in distinct varietal, naturally acid and fruity wines.

Tasting notes

Deep ruby red in the glass, plenty of cherry and blackberry on the nose. Heavily concentrated and silky on the palate with fine tannins and powerful blackcurrant and blackcurrant with a little spice and long finish. Maybe a little too intense on the fruit which reminded me a little of a Barossa Shiraz but this was mitigated somewhat by combining with food. An enjoyable Malbec though from a winery with an excellent pedigree.

 

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina

Drunk July 2015 Restaurante Praça São Lourenço, Sao Paolo, Brazil

achaval

The winery

ahcevalmap

Achaval-Ferrer is a renowned wine producer based in the Mendoza province of Argentina, which is east of the Chilean city of Santiago.

In 1998, a group of Italian and Argentinian friends joined forces to create Achaval-Ferrer with the aim to produce exceptional quality wines and to remain faithful to the wines’ origins. 

The winery's vineyards are Located at between 730 metres and 1,100 metres above sea level, warm, sunny days and cool nights prolong the ripening season. This, allied to poor alluvial soils and low rainfall, sets the scene for the production of concentrated, mature grapes with the potential to make wines of great structure and complexity.

robertocipresso

Iconic Italian winemaker Roberto Cipresso is part-owner and winemaker and is a commited terroiriste – convinced that the land is fundamentally of much greater importance than just winemaking.

Acheval-Ferrer produces five wines:

ACHAVAL-FERRER MALBEC

Here the aim is to present a very authentic, pure and intense expression of Malbec. Achaval-Ferrer buys from contracted growers, on three sites, who work under their direction. There are some five hectares of 66-year-old vines, grown at 960m above sea-level, on gravel soil and planted at 5,500 vines per ha. Then there are twelve hectares of younger 13-year-old vines at 1,060m, planted at a density of 4,000 vines per hectare on sandy gravel. Finally eleven hectares of vines at 670m, planted at 4,000 vines per hectare on heavier soil, with some clay, are an impressive 86 years old and low-yielding. With production restricted to a low 18hl/ha, this makes for a Malbec which combines innate power with a lightness of touch and a bright vivacity.

ACHAVAL-FERRER QUIMERA

Quimera is a blend, the name of which evokes the idea behind the wine – the search for ultimate perfection – in a wine where the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. The Quimera vineyards are situated between 750 and 1,100m above sea level, producing Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Unusually, blending takes place early on in the winemaking process. Most producers keep ingredients separate for as long as possible to see how they develop, however at Achaval-Ferrer Roberto Cipresso and the rest of the team are adamant about early blending. The fermented old vine fruit of Quimera is immediately racked into barrels, 95% French oak and 5% American. This early assimilation aims to produce a really well-integrated, marriage of fruit which may well account for the sleek, layered complexity which habitually characterises Quimera. The wine is then aged for twelve months in oak, 40% of which is new, with the balance one year old. The vineyard blend here is 38% Malbec, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. Yields are restricted at around 18hl/ha and the wine is neither fined nor filtered. The combination of old vine fruit and tempered production contribute a wonderful intensity and concentration in the finished wine, though the high altitude ensures a vitality and freshness.

Finally three estates – fincas – bear the Achaval individual terroir flag with style and flair.

ACHAVAL-FERRER FINCA ALTAMIRA

Achaval-Ferrer Finca Altamira is a jewel of a vineyard, situated at 1,035 metres above sea level. Here four hectares of ancient, ungrafted Malbec vines were planted over eighty years ago. The age factor, allied to high density planting, make for extremely low yields so that three vines are required to make just one bottle of this highly-prized find. After fermentation in small tanks, the wine is racked into new oak barrels, 90% of which are French, the remainder American. In a further effort to retain inherent subtleties and flavours, Altamira is neither fined nor filtered.

ACHAVAL-FERRER FINCA MIRADOR

The 6ha Achaval-Ferrer Mirador vineyard is 700 metres above sea level in the Medrano region, on the west bank of the Tunuyán River. It is planted on relatively heavy soils but with reasonable drainage, at a density of 6,500 vines per hectare. These old ungrafted vines were planted in 1921, and yield is low, resulting in an intense purity and richness. As with the other single vineyard wines, after fermenting in small tanks, Finca Mirador is racked into French oak barrels, 100% new, where it is then aged for fifteen months. It is bottled unfined and unfiltered to preserve its individuality and freshness.

ACHAVAL-FERRER FINCA BELLA VISTA

As with all of the fincas , the Achaval-Ferrer aim for Bella Vista is to be faithful to a very special piece of land. Finca Bella Vista is 5ha in size, situated in Perdriel, on the south bank of the Mendoza river, at 980 metres above sea level where it enjoys cooler nights. It is planted on relatively heavy soils with some clay and reasonable drainage, with a density of 6,500 vines per hectare. Yields are just 14 hl/ha from old vines planted in 1910 – about one third of a bottle per vine. After fermenting in small tanks, the wine is racked into 100% new French oak barrels where it is then aged for fifteen months. It too is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Wine Spectator Nathan Wesley Recommended Argentinian wines

nathan

The wine

achevalmalbec1
achevalmalbec2

The 2013 Archaval Ferrer Malbec is at £15.95 a bottle (UK) is considerably cheaper than the single vineyard wines the bodega sells which are priced at over £80 a bottle. But it is still a great expression of the red wine grape synonymous with Argentina, Malbec.

Unlike some lower quality Malbec's this 2013 was not overpowered by alcohol or fruit and produced a sophisticated, silky smooth, balanced taste on the palate. The wine was deep ruby red with plenty of oakey and intense fruit aromas such as cherry and cassis. It was great with some good quality Brazilian beef with the moderate tannins and plummy, blackcurrant fruit with some citrus notes pairing beautifully with the barbecued meat.

For the price, really good.

Catena Alta Historic Rows Malbec 2011, Bodega Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina

Drunk July 2015, Churrascaria Vento Haragano, Sao Paolo, Brazil

catenaalta

The winery

catenawinery

Nicola Catena, cam to Argentina from Italy to Argentina in 1898, and he planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902. Domingo, his son, inherited the property and took the family winery to the next level, becoming one of the largest vineyard holders in Mendoza. 

By the 1960's, however, Familia Catena was struggling. The Argentine economy was in trouble and inflation rates was soaring. One year, Domingo realized that it would cost him more to harvest than to leave the fruit on the vines. He asked his twenty-two year old son Nicolás, a recent PhD graduate in economics, what to do about such a dilemma. Nicolás advised him not to harvest. Domingo could not follow his son’s advice with a clear conscience and picked anyway. 

catenafaily2

Taking the reigns of the family vineyards and wineries in the mid 1960s, he concentrated on expanding distribution throughout Argentina during years of turmoil in the 1970s. But in the early 1980s, Nicolás left Argentina to become a visiting professor of economics at the University of California. The state and especially Napa Valley were an inspiration to Nicolás and his wife Elena, who spent weekends visiting the area.

Nicolás Catena returned to Mendoza with a vision in mind. From one day to the other, he sold his table wine producing company, keeping only Bodegas Esmeralda, the fine wine branch of the family business. At that time Argentina was perceived as a bulk wine producer and Nicolás was told by many of his colleagues in Argentina that he was “completamente loco” (completely crazy).

But Nicolás Catena is not someone to be easily discouraged. During the 1980s, he set out to discover the best places to plant vineyards in Mendoza. When recently asked why he decided to plant Chardonnay and Malbec in Gualtallary, at almost 5,000 feet elevation, Nicolás answered, “I felt that the only way we would make a leap in quality would be by pushing the limits of vine cultivation, by taking risks”. His own vineyard manager had told him that Malbec would never ripen there, but it did, and very well. Nicolás found that Mendoza was exceptional for vine growing, with each high altitude valley providing a unique flavour and aroma profile of the same varietal. He found that the poor soils near the Andes, discarded by the original European immigrants due to their low fertility, were actually ideal for quality viticulture. And that the desert climate was an asset because it allowed him to control quality and hang time through strict irrigation control. 

Then came the challenge of what to do with Malbec. Nicolás did not have his father’s confidence in Malbec. Domingo Catena fiercely believed that Argentine Malbec could make a wine as worthy as any first growth Bordeaux. Nicolás was not sure that Malbec would be able to age. In 1989, after his father Domingo died, Nicolás put all his sorrow into trying to see if his father’s intuition was right. It took 5 years of working on the 60 year old Angélica vineyard before Nicolás was satisfied enough to make a Catena Malbec in 1994. Then came the question of which clones to plant in the new vineyards. Since there was no existing Argentine Malbec clonal selection, Nicolás decided to bring clones from Cahors, France. The French Chardonnay clones had given him his best white. But results for French Malbec clones were disappointing. They grew large berries and bunches with rustic aromas and flavors. 

Nicolás set out to develop his own selection of Argentine Malbec clones planting 145 clones in the La Pirámide vineyard. Of these, he selected the best five and began to plant them in different terroirs and altitudes. By 1994, Nicolás and his team felt that they had identified their best vineyard lots for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. First with Cabernet Sauvignon in 1994, Nicolás bottled a small cuvée from the oldest and most uniform lots in the La Pirámide vineyard. Three hundred cases of Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon were made. In 1995, Nicolás bottled his first Chardonnay from cool climate Tupungato region, sourcing the fruit from Lot 4 of the Domingo vineyard for the Catena Alta Chardonnay. The next year, in 1996, two acres of lot 18 of the Angélica vineyard produced the best Malbec, and Nicolás made his first Catena Alta Malbec.

1997 was a phenomenal Cabernet Sauvignon vintage, and Nicolás Catena started plans to make another top cuvée, a wine that would fulfill those dreams that had started in the early 1980s. The wine, named Nicolás Catena Zapata (Zapata is Nicolás' mother's maiden name), was a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec .It was released in 2001 through a series of blind tastings held in the USA and Europe where it was compared blind to Château Latour, Haut Brion, Solaia, Caymus and Opus One. The Nicolás Catena Zapata 1997 came in either first or second in every tasting.

In 2001 Nicolas' daughter Laura took over the Research & Development program at Bodega Catena Zapata. She immediately set about working with the high altitude Malbec that her father had planted. Laura was sure that this Argentine varietal, planted in these extreme microclimates, would yield somehting truly special. Laura's determination to produce a world class Malbec led her and the viticultural team to conduct an actual plant by plant selection of the top Malbec lots in their high altitude vineyards. These Zapata plants were managed and harvested separately to isolate their incredible potential.

In 2004 this program produced such extraordinary fruit that the winemakeing team decided to ferment the fruit directly in new oak barrels. The result were three spectacular new Malbecs which showed the incredible quality of the family's high altitude Malbec vineyards:

In 1994, Nicolás Catena made the first premium varietal Malbec to be exported world-wide from Argentina. It took fifteen years of vineyard research and three years of experimentation at the winery before Nicolas and daughter Laura could decide to bottle the first Catena Malbec. Over the next two years, they identified their best vineyard rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Malbec and made the first vintages of the Catena Alta wines in very small quantities. Catena Alta continues to be a limited production of single varietal wines made from a selected few rows in the Catena family's vineyards. 

catenafamily

The wine

Catena Alta Malbec is sourced from Lot 18 of the Angélica vineyard, located in Lunlunta (3018 ft elevation), Lot 4 from the La Pirámide vineyard, located in Agrelo (3117 ft elevation), Lot 2 from the La Consulta vineyard, located in La Consulta (3593 ft elevation), and Lots 3 & 9 from the Adrianna vineyard, located in Gualtallary (4757 ft elevations).

catenavineyard

2011 Vintage report:

After a small but very good quality harvest in 2010 (there was low set related to cold spring temperatures and Zonda winds) the 2010 winter was quite dry and cold. On November 9th, a fierce frost hit Mendoza, cold air travelling fast along the low valleys of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. The lack of humidity made things even worse: frost-cans were lit all night and the La Piramide vineyard in Agrelo (Agrelo and nearby Ugarteche were the worse affected) had been mostly spared. The Angelica Sur Vineyard, a newer vineyard in El Cepillo, in the Southernmost part of the Uco Valley, was not as lucky – out of 150 Hectares only 30 were harvested.

The winter of 2010 was very dry, with little snowfall from the Andes. The scarcity of snowmelt resulted in little available water for irrigation. Some vineyards had drought problems during the Spring and the beginning of Summer. In February rains further delayed the harvest, especially the harvest of white grapes. However, March and April saw practically no rain.

In February, the water situation became critical since harvest was approaching and towards the end of the month the rains arrived and the mountains became so white from the snow that it looked like winter. The initial elation at the arrival of water turned into fear towards beginning of March.  Pockets of botrytis in the whites began to be seen but then the weather calmed down, the rain virtually stopped and then there were  2 more months of cooler-than-usual temperatures with a perfect mix of scattered clouds and sunny skies.

These colder temperatures delayed the maturation cycle. In fact, ripeness was achieved 15 days later than last year, which was already a late year. So overall, there was a 3 week delay in harvest compared to the usual harvest dates.

Scarce precipitation meant little hail. In fact, there were only two hailstorms, which were not very strong and only affected a small area.

The later ripening reds, such as Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon were harvested 2-3 weeks later than usual in perfect condition with good concentration and perhaps due to the cooler climate, heightened aromas. Natural acidity was optimal, even in some of the lower altitude areas. In conclusion, the grapes have ripened with a higher level of acidity than usual, providing fresh, balanced wines. Sugar concentration was also obtained later than usual, but without causing any serious problems. Aromatics are notably high and the concentration of polyphenols is excellent due to photosynthetic efficiency.

Catena Alta is an assemblage of historic rows within the Catena family Estate vineyards and vineyard lots are harvested at different times to ensure optimal natural acidity and moderate alcohol levels. Whole berries are hand loaded into small format fermentation bins and 225-500 L barrels; lots from each vineyard are treated individually; fermentation and maceration last for 10 – 35 days; 30% cold maceration.  Wild yeasts. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel; wine undergoes active battonage to protect it and drastically reduce the amount of SO2 needed. Aged for 18 months in French oak.

This wine has been on my bucket list for some time as the winery has the reputation of being one of the best in Argentina and on a recent trip to Sao Paolo I was lucky enough to try it with some great meat at the renowned Churrascaria Vento Haragano (which I would heartily recommend for anyone passing thorough the city if you are BBQ lover). 

So what about the wine?

The nose was very appealing with Mocha aromas and really powerful, blackberry, black cherry and plum flavours on the palate. Great balance of fruit and acidity with a lovely smoothness which finishes with an enduring spicy, fruit finish which was perfect with plenty of red meat.