By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 26 September 2015
Pick ten Argentinian wines to recommend under £10. I thought this was going to be an easy task, given that our supermarket and wine merchant shelves are heaving with South American bargains.
I was really disappointed with the line-up of white wines at this price level. Far too many tasted confected, too sweet and just not very balanced. Admittedly Argentina has come a long way in improving its white wines in just a couple of decades and the best can be crisp fruity balanced refreshing whites – but too many tasted dilute, characterless and a bit industrial, to be honest. I struggled to find four good whites under £10.
What Argentina really does well is its reds. It has already made a name for itself with its succulent robust Malbecs, with the best from the heartland of Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo, currently at very keen prices in comparison to European equivalents. Interestingly we are also now seeing other varietals like Bonarda, Syrah and Tempranillo doing well. So the future is still red in my book for Argentina – whilst the whites lag behind:
DOMINIO DEL PLATA ‘TERROIR SERIES’ TORRONTES 2014 Susana Balbo (£9.50 Marks & Spencer)
Made by the energetic winemaker Susana Balbo at Dominio del Plata winery. Grapes come from high altitude Salta region, grown at 2000 metres. Balbo blends in 10% Fiano grape to provide more structure. Tasters liked the gentle aromas, jasmine & honeysuckle notes and vibrant freshness. Out of several single varietal Torrontes in our tasting line-up, this one scored highest. Try with a Thai curry. STAR BUY WHITE
SANTA ANA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014 (£5.99 until 28 September at Majestic Wine)
This is good value at £5.99 – but not so good at its normal price of £8.99. Very popular with our tasters who liked the grassy green fruit flavours, crispness and easy quaffability of this unoaked Mendoza Sauvignon. It certainly does not have the intensity of New Zealand Sauvignons, but it shows that Argentinians are very capable of making clean zippy fresh quaffing whites now.
AMALAYA TORRONTES/RIESLING 2014 (£9.75-£9.99 Aitken Wines; Cornelius Wine; Ellies Cellar; Exel Wines; Fountainhall Wines; Gloagburn Farm Shop; Henderson Wines; Lockett Bros; Luvians; Markinch Wine Gallery; St Andrews Wine; Peckham’s; Valhalla’s Goat; Valvona & Crolla; Vino Wine Shops) Alcohol 13.5%
Bananas and lychee notes with a distinct smell of air-freshner on the, nose zippy freshness, a touch of sweetness but with a crisp dry finish. An unusual unoaked blend of 85% Torrontes with 15% Riesling, grown in high altitude Calchaqui Valley in Salta. These two grapes work quite well together combining their pungent perfumes and natural acidity. A trophy winner at the Decanter Wine Awards. Try with spiced prawns or lightly spiced Asian dish – or just as an unusual summer aperitif.
KILLKA CHARDONNAY 2014 Bodegas Salentein (£7.99 at Majestic Wine)
Popular with tasters. This is a lightly oaked Chardonnay with bright citric fruits, hints of pearskin, with vanilla and cinnamon notes from the oak. Bodegas Salentein are based in high altitude Tupungato, a superbly sited winery with a dramatic backdrop of the Andean foothills at its back door. Cool nights here retain natural acidity so often lacking in Argentinian whites. I liked this as it tasted the least confected and most balanced of the whites in our tasting. STAR BUY WHITE
PARRILLA MALBEC 2013 (£7.99 until 26 October at Majestic Wine)
A very high scorer with tasters. Lush supple very bright fruit, not too sweet and jammy – just beautifully balanced with bags of fruit for your money. A fantastic buy at £7.99 to brighten up your autumn evenings. Parrilla means ‘barbecue’ – indicating that this might be a good match for those spicy sausages. This great value Malbec is made by Bodegas Fabre in Lujan de Cuyo in Malbec. It won gold at the Decanter Wine Awards and scooped the Red Single Varietal Trophy under £15 at the same ceremony – and you can see why. STAR BUY RED
VINALBA PATAGONIA MALBEC / SYRAH 2012 (£6 reduced from £8.98 Asda)
Now for something a bit cooler. Patagonia in southern Argentina has a slightly cooler climate than central Mendoza, similar to the Northern Rhone in France, so not surprisingly they have been growing Syrah here. Vinalba are one of my current favourite Argentine wineries, capable of producing an amazing range of great value reds from across the country – and have been making particularly interesting and remarkably well-priced blends in Patagonia. This is an edgier version of Malbec with a spicy undertone from the Syrah and a cool climate feel to the palate. Fleshy, rich with chocolate and vanilla notes.
PABLO Y WALTER MENDOZA MALBEC 2013 (£6.99 – £10 Vino Wines, Edinburgh www.vinowines.co.uk; www.slurp.co.uk; D Bryne & Co, Lancashire; Italian Continental Stores, Maidenhead)
Very approachable juicy upfront fruit style, with a bright cheerful graffiti-type label. Tastewise it is not as good as our star buys, but very acceptable for those who like easy quaffing youthful Malbec. Created by Walter Bressia (winemaker at Nieto Senetiner) and Eric Monnin – using 25 year old Malbec vines grown in Lujan de Cuyo – Bressia blends in 10% of his own highly rated Monteagrelo – then sends the blend off to France to be bottled.
NIETO SENETINER BONARDA 2014 (£9 Marks & Spencer)
A pure unoaked juicy red made from the Italian Bonarda grape, which normally grows in Piedmont in NW Italy. This example made by winemaker Roberto Gonzalez in Mendoza’s heartland of Lujan de Cuyo tastes like a Malbec crossed with a Chianti. It has a very baked fruit quality, with a heat to the palate, with coffee, cherry fruit and licquorice flavours and that characteristic Italianate hint of a bitter twist to the finish. Not a sipping red, it needs food – try mushroom risotto.
SUELO ARGENTINO MALBEC 2013 (£8.99 or £6.69 VIP price at www.rudewines.co.uk)
For those who like softer lighter easy-drinking Malbec, it does lack a bit of meat and structure which the higher scoring Malbecs had in the tasting – but this Suelo varietal is juicy soft and very moor-ish. There is also a Suelo Tempranillo/Malbec blend which was popular with some tasters for its lightness, but the single varietal Malbec got a higher overall score.
THE SOCIETY’S EXHIBITION MENDOZA MALBEC 2013 Catena (£9.95 www.thewinesociety.com)
Very popular with our tasters. This ticks the box for everything you want from a big boned Malbec at an affordable price. Damson aromas, voluptuous fleshy fruit flavours, licquorice hints with soft gentle vanilla undertones, smooth tannins and good long length. Superb example made by the well-known Mendoza-based Catena winery (pictured above) who select fruit from five different vineyards: Agrelo, Gualtallary, Vista Flores, Eugenio Bustos and Altamira to create a more complex blend – finished with 18 months in mainly French oak (85%) with 15% American oak. Bring out the steak… STAR BUY RED
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