Think of Patagonia and killer whales, vast snow-capped mountain ranges and an endless expanse of pampas spring to mind – invariably not wine. One of the last true wildernesses in the world and with a very good reason – it’s a pretty inhospitable place to live, mainly because of its extreme climate. In fact its so famous there’s even a dedicated outdoor/sportswear company named after it! The Schroeder family, who moved to the area in 1927, saw beyond this though and were attracted to the potential of growing vines in a climate that offered intense, dry sunlight, wide temperature ranges between day and night, the organic biodiversity of the terrain along with sufficient sources of water due to the numerous streams and rivers fed by snow-melt. Situated in the Valley of San Patricio del Chanar, the estate is about as far westwards of Buenos Aires as you can go before hitting the mighty Andes and the border with Chile. It is also directly south of Argentina’s more famous winemaking region – Mendoza.
A relatively new enterprise, the winery was established in 2002 and 110 hectares of varieties are grown – Malbec (so synonymous with Argentina), Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The winery was purpose-built on the side of a hill so that the entire vinification process is aided by gravity – there are no pumps at all – helping to preserve as much natural enological quality as possible.
This Pinot Noir is bright and deeply coloured, unlike most of those from Burgundy and in fact it doesn’t look like a pinot at all in the glass. With 14.5% alcohol it also looks a lot more full-bodied than most of its old-world counterparts. On the nose it is full of floral red fruit aromas with a touch of aniseed and hot spice from the abundance of alcohol. Full-bodied, complex and fat for the grape variety on the palate, the balance of fruit and alcohol is just right and there is the slightest hint of vanilla from the wine’s brief ageing in oak casks. It has a long, satisfying finish of aniseed and dried fruit. If you like Pinot Noir I dare you to try this wine and not like it as it is as far from being typical that you can get without tasting like a wine made from a different grape variety.
Food matches need to be a bit bolder than you would choose for most Pinot Noir’s because of the wine’s full-bodiedness – fish and light chicken dishes would be overpowered. Well seasoned lamb and pork dishes are a good match as is very tender fillet steak sliced thinly with a bit of salt and nothing else. It also complements pasta with thick, meaty, rich sauces (like a Chianti on steroids) and mild cheeses.
One of my favourite Pinot Noirs from the Southern Hemisphere and at a very good price I give it 85 out of 100.
Available at time of publication from The Sunday Times Wine Club for £ 119.88 per case of 12.