Triple celebratory trouble lies ahead in Argentina, with Christmas, New Year’s Eve and summer on the verge of sliding down our chimneys like a svelte Papa Noel. And there couldn’t be a more perfect moment in the calendar to ramp up your festive season with perfectly chilled bubbles.
From top-quality espumosos aged on lees in bottle (just like in Champagne) to last-minute emergency bottles from your local Taiwanese supermarket (the chino), this guide to Argentina sparkling wine will cover all eventualities. Remember that Brut Nature has the lowest sugar levels, Extra Brut then Brut take the sweetness up a notch, while Demi Sec has the highest sugar levels you’ll find in Argentina. Serve bubbles at between 6ºC and 8ºC – or drink cider.
Let’s saber open this story with not-your-average fizz. Champagne – and only the stuff that’s produced in that French region can be so named – is made with three, and only three, grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. That’s not to say you can’t make sparkling wine with others; you just can’t call it Champagne. These are not my rules.
Sauvage Blanc Brut Nature (250 pesos) by Doña Paula winery is a whole lot of sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and its sharp, zingy, grapefruit attitude smoothly crosses over from still wine to bubbles. Dynamic and refreshing, give it a go with oysters.
Another fizz made from whites grapes is Amalaya Brut Nature (AR $325) produced in Cafayate, Salta. Here, Riesling dominates with a mineral and pineapple nose backed by typical floral notes from Argentina’s emblematic white Torrontés. Solid purchase, if overpriced.
Moving onto sparkling reds and Sebastián Zuccardi and his winemaking buddies behind Alma 4 Bonarda (AR $315) break down some boundaries by using the red grape for a upscale, rounded fizz that works wonders with a beef carpaccio. Celia López, the lady winemaker at Navarro Correas, meanwhile, has chosen Malbec for her Brut Rosé (AR $152): whip out these pink bubbles out at pan dulce time on December 24.
While cracking open Bolly is the reality at a miniscule smattering of top Buenos Aires restaurants like Tegui and La Locanda, you, too, can get your hands on legally imported bubbles. One beauty is Cava, that’s to say Spanish fizz, specifically made in Cataluña. Anna de Codorníu Blanc de Blancs is, for the most part, Chardonnay while also paying tribute to Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel lo – those Spanish grapes are the reason we can call it cava. Again, not my rules. Elegant, charming with delicate bubbles but plenty of body, Anna would make an excellent gift given her AR $380 price tag. Anna de Codorníu Brut Rose, a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay love match, comes in a stunning baby pink bottle that will have the ladies who don’t usually drink (think tías and abuelas), swooning.
Veuve Clicquot Yellow is also on the market, albeit at a ‘consult price’ err, price, while Moét Hennessy Argentina now stocks Dom Pérignon P2-1998 for, deep breath, AR $9,480. Good Champagne intel if platinum plastic is your thing.
For sparklers you can depend on time and again, go classic with French-style wines that are bottle aged. You can never, ever, go wrong with pink bubbles from Cruzat Cuvée Reserve Rosé (AR $300) — cuvée means ‘blend’. It’s as pretty as a salmon-hued picture and made champenoise (also known as traditional method) style, just like in Champagne, aged on lees for 24 months. The winemaker behind it — Pedro Rosell — has been brewing bubbles for close to 50 years. Now that’s the kind of experience I want from my bottle.
A new release that’s set to become a modern classic is Finca Ferrer’s P. Ferrer Bosch Grand Cuvée Chardonnay-Pinot Noir (AR $492). Sourced from its own vineyard in Gualtallary and Tupungato in Uco Valley and made in the champenoise style, this Blanc de Noir is aged on lees for 15 months, coming up with toasty aromas and a stone and berry fruit mouth.
House of Chandon, meanwhile, obviously has bubbles oozing out of every orifice but Baron B is one of the headline acts. French style is behind this classic Pinot Noir Chardonnay (Blanc de Noir, that’s to say red and white grapes blended together to create a ‘white’ sparkling wine) marriage, which is sourced from three vineyards in Uco Valley: I have a particular crush on the Cuvée Millesime Brut Nature (AR $360). Brioche, fruity, elegant – it’s class in a flute-shaped glass.
For last-minute purchases that only come at room temperature (and, wine wanker alert — are halfway to becoming Madeira wine), trust your friendly (cough) Asian supermarket to come up with an array of goods. One bargain that beggars belief is Suter Extra Brut Champaña (AR $85). Three years ago, it only cost 26 pesos! Back in the day, when Pedro Rosell was tinkering around creating his first fizzes, many Argentine still whites and sparklers were based on two key grapes: Sémillon and Chenin Blanc, both of French origin. While few vineyards growing either white exist today (they are, however, witnessing a tiny comeback but that’s a story for another year), this Extra Brut from San Rafael, Mendoza, is 100 percent Chenin (pronounced Shenin) Blanc. Snap it up for a fruity, big bubble experience with a slice of history, or whack in similar parts of OJ to concoct a Mimosa.
Booming, bargain bubbles
I’ve saved this section for last, cheapskates, because my plan was to have already got you purring with kitten-like excitement by this part of my epic Argentina sparkling wine selection. The following puppies aren’t just for Christmas, they should be permanent fridge fodder –and they are all under AR $240 or US $16.
You will love Lui Pinot Noir 2015 by Mendoza winemaker Mauricio Vegetti. At AR $240 a bottle, this Pinot Noir thoroughbred is one of the best priced bubbles on the market, berry fruity, fun and refreshing thanks to great acidity, and has a gorgeous salmon hue. Ticks so many boxes. It was also the people’s choice at the latest Come Wine With Us: Lui sold out in about 10 minutes. My favorite rosé fizz and a 2016 discovery.
This Patagonian dark horse ranked second in the Vinos Con Sentido 2016 blind tasting in October. Made by enologist Sergio Pomar, who ranked top in the Winemakers Sub 40 contest in November, Malma Cuvée Reserve Extra Brut – a Blanc de Noir – from San Patricio del Chañar in Neuquén shows Pinot Noir a lot of love, given that the red originating from Burgundy does extremely well in Patagonia. Toasty with red fruit, 30 percent Chardonnay make up the ranks. Another great bargain, at AR $210.
Over at Bodega Santa Julia in Maipú, Mendoza, Gustavo Martínez makes the incredible Alambrado Extra Brut using the champenoise method. Almost the reverse of the aforementioned Malma, this is 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir from Tupungato, Uco Valley. Toasty and lemony in one hit, snap it up for AR $215.
Last but not least, one of the original founders of legendary Finca Anita, Antonio Mas has branched out with a solo project. Antonio Mas Extra Brut is a Blanc de Blanc, that’s to say 100 percent Chardonnay. Fresh on the market last month, it’s peachy and tropical in one, with vibrant acidity. AR $240