Matt Monk of the Whalley Wine Shop has some fabulous Argentina wine recommendations
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If you think of the South Americas, first to mind is usually the soccer legends of Pele, Ossie Ardiles and Ricardo Villa (showing my own era here). Sometimes, we imagine the Gauchos riding the wide spaces of Patagonia, sleeping under the stars, eating huge steaks that have been shown a flame for a brief second and drinking Mate.
Although indigenous vines were growing in the region, there was little evidence that the Aztecs were using the grapes for wine making. It wasn’t until the Spanish arrived in the early 1500s that Vitis Vinifera (the vines used for making wine) were introduced. It was long believed that the production of wine for the region was used to help with the spread of Christianity as it was used in the Eucharist, but this only represented a small amount of the wine used.
Most wines were produced on smaller regional estates; with wines arriving from Spain and Portugal being more expensive than the new arrivals were used to, coupled with the transportation problems in the region, it was easier to create their own vineyards. So with the influx of European migrants came European grape varieties, Cot (better known as Malbec), Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. This became quite important when the European vineyards were decimated by the Phylloxera virus in the 18th century, Argentina managed to send authentic Malbec vines back to France.
But the South American regions are fast becoming an important factor in the global wine trade – they are currently second, after Europe, in wine production, with Chile and Argentina producing roughly equal amounts of wine, while wine production is increasing in regions such as Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay.
With this increase in popularity the region has started to show its more local varieties. It’s not just Malbec anymore, with varieties such as Tannat, Bonarda and Torrontes giving a broader range of styles available from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.
Something different from Argentina
Zuccardi Valles Torrontes 2019 £13.99 – Originally, Alberto Zuccardi moved to the Mendoza region in 1950. He created his first vineyard to showcase his new ideas for water irrigation management for the local farmers. This vineyard was the birth of three decades of Zuccardi family wine making traditions. They now have vineyards stretching from Tupungato in the North and Pareditas in the South, with smaller vineyard plots in Salta.
This Valles Torrontes is a brilliant example of the Argentinian white grape. From the Salta region in the North of Argentina, this wine has enticing aromas of white flowers, pears, oranges and passion fruit. Refreshing yet delicate, a really enjoyable style of wine.
Piattelli Vineyards Tannat 2018 £13.99 – One thing that these regions have are plenty of mountain ranges. This wine is from the Cafayate region, with the vineyards on the slopes of the Andes mountains, at a height of 1700m. This makes it some of the highest wine producing vineyards in the world.
The Tannat grape produces a dark berry, dark purple wine, perfect for the BBQ. Tannat is the most planted variety of Uruguay and also hugely popular in Argentina, where it was studied to determine that it contains some of the highest polyphenols (antioxidants) of all red wines.
A mouth filling, powerful wine with rich blackberry fruits and hints of spice. Concentrated fruit flavours are balanced by a fresh palate with a chalky texture, through to pleasing and moreish finish.
Bonarda 2017 £19.99 – This Bonarda grape from
Argentina is not the same as the Bonarda grape from Italy, just to make things easier to understand.
Matias Riccitelli is the son of renowned winemaker Jorge Riccitelli. Having worked at some of the most prestigious wineries in Argentina and several vintages around the world, Matias used his experience, knowledge and passion and set up his own winery in 2009. His vineyards cover 50 hectares located in three selected sites within the premium growing region of Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza.
This is a young and dynamic project in which Matias is seeking to express the full potential of Argentine terroir. He’s a firm believer in doing things by hand, hand harvested, hand sorted and a little bit of foot crushing to go with it.
This deep purple hued wine has a beautiful aroma of red dark fruit combined with a touch of mint, layered with chocolate notes. Complex and smooth on the palate with ripe tannins and a long finish.