It’s agreed: after this infinite winter, we’re all gagging for spring to make out with us on jacaranda-blooming corners at any and every opportunity. Spring spells park life, skiving off work, and lingering lazy afternoons – best matched with fun and zesty wines. That’s right, another roundup of sacred grapes to get you in the mood for the latest seasonal change.
Laborum Single Vineyard Torrontés Oak Fermented 2015
Let’s start up north in beautiful Cafayate in Salta. We all know Cafayate means ‘water box’ in Quechua, don’t we (?), given that its underground sources is one reason this deceptively-looking dry valley can nourish Torrontés grapes that produce great quality wine. Argentina’s emblematic northern white is usually designed to be sipped young and fresh – personally I drink it within the year to get the most out of its fragrant aromas – but this guy from El Porvenir de Cafayate has more muscle and can age a little longer. Thanks to six months in new French oak, its nose adds vanilla notes to the usual floral aromas, while its texture is more voluptuous for the same reason, giving it that staying power. Impress a date by throwing out its Decanter ‘gold medal’ status. Just 7,200 bottles were made by winemaker Mariano Quiroga Adamo; given that he recently left El Porvenir for pastures new at Casarena in Mendoza, this is his penultimate Cafayate vintage. Marvellous apéretif, knock back with ceviche or southeast Asian fish dishes.
AR $276 from Lo de Musu.
Bienconvino Aperitivos & Postres 2016
Torrontés fans will appreciate the similarities that Aperitivos & Postres, the latest release from Bienconvino, proffers. Sporting a bright orange label filled with fragrant promise, this floral Gewürztraminer is bottled spring, a nose blossom and peaches make you want to strip down to your undies and frolic about rolling pastures, swigging from the bottle like a carefree Bacchus. Little wonder. Out of 10,000 wine grape varieties in the world, this is one of the most aromatic and should spur you on to flamboyant behavior.
This particular Gewürztraminer is not sweet (which it can be) but off-dry. Originating in Germany, Gewü has made its home in Alsace, France, it holds the accolade of ‘noble grape’ (there are 18 in the world) and is also an Alsace Grand Cru grape (there are four).
A punchy example from Los Arbolitos in Uco Valley, this grape is very acidic and sugary hint thanks to 11 grams of sugar gets your mouth drooling, priming you for food. With a slightly oily texture, peaches, herbs and mineral spring alive. Mouth-watering, lip-licking. Besides fatty paté, this Gewürztraminer will also sweep you down the aisle with spicy dishes; think ceviche or Thai red curry with chicken or fish. And I’m fully aware I’m always waxing lyrical about Bienconvino on these pages, but I just love what they do, alright.
AR $235 from Aldo’s Vinoteca & Restorán.
Bodega Lagarde Semillon 2015
I’ve been on a Semillon kick all year and this is a splendid example with a legendary CV. It’s historical! The vines were planted in 1906. It’s epic! The 1942 vintage is STILL alive and kicking, if you’ve got the greenbacks to spend on it. Argentines are loving whites again! The 1970s saw a vino blanco boom, but mediocre quantity combined with Chardonnay’s grip on the world led to it becoming a white elephant. Now it’s cool to like white wine again, and more importantly Semillon. When agronomist Juan Roby started working at Lagarde in 2003, the first thing he did was make one, given the grape’s history at the winery. They couldn’t give the bottles away. Timing is much improved now: his 2015 made use of botrytis cinerea, the noble rot that affects grapes in a positive way by concentrating sugars, which Semillon in particular loves. The outcome is a golden starbright wine, with a honeysuckle, acacia and bee’s wax nose, as well as medium-high, refreshing acidity combined with lemon pith, pineapple, honied tones and blossom. Elegant, fresh and unusual, a real gem. The 2016 didn’t use any botrytis-affected grapes – buy both vintages to sample the differences. Bonus track: This is low-alcohol – for Argentina – at 11.5%, and I know you clever lot can read between the lines…
AR $230 from Winery.
Cadus Valle de Uco Appellation Chardonnay 2014
When winemaker Santiago Mayorga moved to Nieto Senetiner with 10 years of Mendel Wines’ experience under his belt in 2013, he brought a lot of Semillon knowhow with him. This Cadus Valle de Uco Appellation Chardonnay, however, is his first outing with the grape – and he’s done it plenty of justice.
Sourced from Vista Flores in Uco Valley, Mendoza, the emphasis on this new line from Cadus is exactly that – the region. Alluvial stones and limestone-covered rock form the terroir, altitude is around 1,100 meters above sea level while thermal amplitude is around 20ºC (wine tech talk for day and night temperature differences) – all factors that affect those growing Chardonnay grapes. The result is a fresh wine featuring pears and apples, blossom, peach and a hint of butter thanks to eight months in new and second use oak, and a refreshing mouth that adds grapefruit and good acidity into the mix. Did you say “my first Chardonnay” Santi? Smashing job. Just 4,800 bottles were made so snap it up while you can.
AR $300 pesos from Tonel Privado.
Estancia Los Cardones Tigerstone Garnacha 2015
With Mediterranean DNA, Garnacha or Grenache Noir is usually at home in France’s southern Rhône – specifically in Châteauneuf-du-Pape – and also in Spain’s Rioja and Navarra (among other) regions. It’s also the key element in the world’s favourite rosé from Provence. In Argentina, however, there are tiny pockets of this grape that comes in Noir, Gris and Blanc hues although the taste for red means Noir rules here. The bad news is there’s so little of it, it doesn’t even rank in Wines of Argentina’s vineyard areas list: it can only but fall into the 8.91 percent of ‘Red Wine Others’ category along with other uvae non grata such as Ancellotta, Carménère and Caladoc.
For Tigerstone Garnacha, Alejandro ‘El Colo’ Sejanovich of Manos Negras fame sourced grapes to Argentina’s northwest to Tolombón in Calchaquí Valley, very close to Torrontés hub Cafayate. This is where wines come with natural altitude attitude, given that Cafayate is at 1,683 meters above sea level. Any vineyards planted up the slopes naturally have a higher dose of altitude (more sun, more sugar, more alcohol – basically).
This is a Spanish style, young and fresh (El Colo’s words, not mine), with cranberry, lavender and hint of tobacco in the nose. Exciting. Offbeat, no hint of classic red plum that dominates so many Argentine reds. Cherry pops up in the mouth, but it’s akin to a lollipop, fresh, young, a little plastic but a positive plastic. This synthetic lolly flavor is honest, crisp and original, a wonderful juice, which means you want to drink a lot of it. I also picked up some minerals and stone (it is called Tigerstone AKA quartz so that’s a clue) and orange skin. Its mid to low tannins and mid acidity also encourage gauche consumption. Elegant rusticity, honest and refreshing. The other bad news? It’s not quite out on the market yet and when it is, it will set you back 380 pesos, from El Garage de Aldo.
Bonus track: Looking for a #NotMalbec rosado? Look no further than A Rosé is a Rosé is a Rosé from Luigi Bosca, a Syrah-Pinot Gris blend that’s the prettiest of pink hues. Fruity, dry and mineral, the key here is sophistication. 260 pesos from good wine stores.
*Edit – the list price of the Cadus Valle de Uco Appellation Chardonnay has been updated to reflect current price point.