It’s red wine season! That’s right, time to put away the rosé, give up the whites (well, maybe not all whites: there’s nothing like a lovely white Burgundy at this time of year) and bring out the big boys.
By that, I mean rich and flavourful red wines, and what better country, therefore, to choose your red wines from than Argentina? Argentina is often overshadowed by its skinny neighbour to the West – Chile, but it’s now producing some lip-smacking, crowd-pleasing red wines that would do any dinner table proud.
Around the holiday season (even just after), it’s time to push the boat out a bit and buy wines that you might not normally buy. I had the good fortune to visit Terrazas de los Andes located in one of the wine producing provinces of Argentina, Mendoza. Mendoza and Argentina have nailed their flag to the varietal malbec and it does outstandingly well in the high altitudes of Lujan de Cujo, which is a region within Mendoza province. The vineyards of Terrazas are located at between 980 to 1067 meters which impacts the ripening process of the grapes greatly and the disparate temperature variation between day and night allows for the accumulation of various aromatic and flavour components, as well as allowing the ripening of polyphenols which come together to produce wines of great body, structure and complexity.
After a tour of the cellars and the winery, I sat down with the wine maker of Terrazas, Adrian Meyer and we tasted through their latest releases. The winery was originally built in the 1880’s and was discovered by Moet & Chandon in 1959 when their then chief winemaker, Renaud Poirier, chose Mendoza as the company’s first overseas venture. The building is a fantastic brick structure with cement tanks still in use to store the unbottled wines. They do however, also have a state of the art winery and use stainless steel tanks for fermentation as well as Argentine developed and constructed steel tanks which resembled flying saucers to me.
My picks of the range include the Reserva Malbec 2008 and the Afincado Malbec 2007. The Reserva ’08 had a fantastic red fruit nose combined with a zesty spiciness which gave it a very fresh note. Adrian commented that it was a cooler summer then normal in 2008 and thus the wine that was produced had a much fruiter character to it. It was not heavy or jammy but an excellent balance between fruit and oak. The Reserva is not produced in every year. Adrian and his team do ongoing selection throughout the summer to ensure that only the best fruit goes into the bottle. I imagined this wine being an excellent companion to charcuterie and cheese or perhaps as an aperitif, something to shake of the chill of a snowy winter’s night.
The question of what to have with Christmas dinner was solved for me with the Afincado Malbec 2008. A single vineyard wine, all the grapes come from the Las Compuertas block which was planted back in 1929. These are old vines and the fruit produced is very concentrated and of very fine quality. The vineyard is the highest in Lujan de Cujo and sits right at the foot of the Andes Mtns. As a matter of fact, it’s the last vineyard before you head up into the Andes.
Hand picked, sorted by hand, small tanks, new French oak barrels; no expense is spared in producing the Afincado and it comes through in the bottle. A complex nose, full bodied with plenty of red and black fruits but very fresh with sweet spices dominating on the nose, ripe, round tannins combined with a pleasing acidity make this a very well balanced, interesting wine to drink. Having it with a meal will only highlight the complex qualities of the wine. I really enjoyed it and wanted to take it with me to lunch but I had other wines to try and so I bade farewell to Terrazas to visit their premium winery, Cheval des Andes. If Terrazas wines were this enjoyable, I couldn’t wait to see what Cheval des Andes was producing.
Terrazas de los Andes wines are available at many of the finer Argentine restaurants in London as well as online and from independent wine merchants.