Argentina

Aguma Premium Tannat 2010, San Juan, Argentina

Drunk December 2013

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Winery

Produced by Argentian winemaker Oscar Biondolillo his wines are available from nakedwines.co.uk and very good they are too. Oscar is based in San Juan, Argentina. 

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The wine

The Tannat grape is best known in wines from Uruguay and from the Madiran region in South West France. It is renowned as the healthiest of all grape varaties having the highest levels of procyanidins (resveratrol), which appears to be linked with superior cardiovascular health. See article "what the healthiest wines?" http://fermented-grape.squarespace.com/wine-and-health/2013/9/28/what-are-the-healthiest-wines.html

This is a very robust and tasty red wine. It reminds of neat Sloe Gin but without the same alcoholic hit and has a distinct red cherry, plummy aroma and taste. It is silky smooth and has a long and delicious finish. Relatively young, this will be amazing in a few years when the tannins begin to express themselves. 

If you like your wines to be full bodied but are bored of the same old shiraz, malbec and cabernet sauvignon's give this excellent Tannat a go from Argentina. Nice job Oscar!

Susana Balbo Malbec Mandala collection, 2011, Argentina

Drunk September 2013, Goucho Chancery Lane, London

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The winery

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In 1999, after working more than 20 years as a consultant winemaker for national and international wine companies, Susana Balbo decided to have her dream come true and started to build Dominio del Plata in the Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza.

Born into a traditional family, Susana reneged of her fate since she was young by applying to study nuclear physics in Bariloche. Being this a very unconventional choice for the time, her parents refused to let her leave Mendoza. From that point, Susana decided to follow the family business (viticulture) professionally, thus challenging the contemporary social beliefs, because at that time no women had graduated as winemaker.

She was the first Argentinean woman hired as a consultant to wineries worldwide: Spain, Chile, Italy, Brazil, Australia, and California. This experience allowed her to always be ahead of market trends and wine styles.

The creation of my wines at Dominio del Plata is to me the maximum achievement as a winemaker, product of all my efforts and many years of hard work. I could say that the winery is like my third child, a dream come true.”

Susana.

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Her children, José, winemaker graduated from UC Davis (California) and Ana, Bachelor of Business Administration from University San Andrés (Buenos Aires) decided to go on with the family tradition and join Dominio del Plata team.

The winery is situated at the foothills of The Andes Range and during the winter, the mountains accumulate the ice of the purest water which will slowly melt during the spring and summer months to provide a unique source for the vineyard.

Each grape variety is hand- picked and carefully handled so as to maintain the fruit expression and achieve wines with a unique style.

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The wine

Susana sounds a remarkable woman and this is a remarkably good malbec. With its deep purple colour out of the bottle, the nose is powerfully fruity with hints of blackberry, roses. On the palate the Susana Balbo Mandala was velvety smooth, balancing tannins with acidity making it perfect with the marinated sirloin from the Goucho Argentinian restaurant which this was paired with. I have never been to Argentina, but this has inspired me to visit one day to see the vines for myself.

Santa Faustina d'Autor Malbec Syrah 2007, Mendoza, Argentina

 

Drunk September 2013, Goucho Chancery Lane, London

 

About Mendoza

Mendoza is the famous, high altitude plateau at the edge of the Andes Mountains, which produces 70 percent of the Argentina's annual wine production. Malbec is the main grape of the Mendoza, producing red wines of great concentration and intensity.

The province lies on the western edge of Argentina, across the Andes Mountains from Chile with the vineyards mainly in the northern part, just south of Mendoza City. Here, the regions of Lujan de Cuyo, Maipu and the Uco Valley are home to some of the biggest names in Argentinean wine.

 

Altitude is one of the most important characteristics of the terroir in Mendoza. The strip of vineyard land that runs along the base of the Andes lies between 2600ft and 3900ft (800m-1200m) above sea level, and it is this altitude that moderates the hot, dry climate of the region. Warm, sunny days are followed by nights made much colder by westerly winds from the Andes. This cooling-off period slows ripening, extending the growing season and contributing rich, ripe flavors to the grapes that do not come at the expense of acidity.

Irrigation is facilitated by the rivers that cross the region, including the Mendoza itself, which runs down from the mountains. Warm, dry harvest periods mean that winemakers are able to pick their grapes according to ripeness, rather than being ruled by the vagaries of the weather. As with other New World countries, this leads to a reduction in vintage variation, as well as consistent quality from year to year. Predictable harvests also afford Mendoza's winemakers the luxury of increased control over the styles of wine they produce – a factor which has contributed to the region's international reputation.

The soils in Mendoza are Andean in origin and have been deposited over thousands of years by the region's rivers. These rocky, sandy soils have little organic matter and are free-draining, making them dry and low in fertility. This kind of soil is perfect for viticulture – vines are forced to work hard for hydration and nutrients, and will produce small, concentrated berries in lieu of leafy foliage. The wines produced from grapes grown on these soils are often highly structured, with firm tannins, and have a distinct minerality that is often attributed to the soil.

Malbec is the main grape of Mendoza, bt there are also extensive plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Torrontes and Sauvignon Blanc.

About Cuyo

Cuyo is a large administrative and economic region in the central-west of Argentina. While it is not a wine region itself, it encompasses Mendoza and San Juan, together responsible for more than 90% of Argentina's wine production. The La Rioja region is often included as part of Cuyo for viticultural reasons.

Cuyo's landscape ranges from the peaks of the Andes Mountains in the west – including the 22,841ft (6926m) Mt. Aconcagua – to the fertile plains of the Pampas and Cordoba in the south and east. Vineyard land in Cuyo is concentrated in the foothills of the Andes, from the highly regarded Uco Valley in Mendoza to the remote region of Famatina in La Rioja.

High altitude is one of Cuyo's most important viticultural distinctions, and vineyards sit at heights ranging from 1600ft to 3600ft (500-1100m) above sea level. Intense sunlight during the day at this altitude is followed by nights that are cooled by winds from the Andes. This diurnal temperature variation is felt across Cuyo and lengthens the growing season, which contributes a balance of ripeness and acidity to the grapes grown here. The 'La Zonda', a hot, dry wind that blows off the eastern slopes of the Andes during winter, also affects the vineyards of Cuyo, both positively and negatively: the wind brings warmth to the sites and staves off vine disease, but is sometimes sufficiently fierce to cause damage to young vines.

The winery

Peter Weinert and Graciela Reta

Santa Faustina is a boutique winery nestled away in the village of Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza, run by the husband and wife team of Peter Weinert and Graciela Reta. The d’ Autor is the signature blend of the property, blended from 74% Malbec and 26% Syrah from 80-year old vines. Aged in French oak, some of it new, for 17 months prior to being bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The wine

A deliciously sumptious and somewhat unusual blend from Argentina courtesy of Peter Weinert and Graciela Reta. The powerful combination of fruit in the nose and palate from these grapes is tempered by the beatiful vanilla from 17 months of ageing in French oak. Wonderfully dark in the glass with an incredibly long, smooth finish.  A great example of an Argentinian fine wine and the Malbec/Syrah combination really works.