To prepare for celebrating World Malbec Day next week (on April 17), LCBO Vintages showcases wines from Argentina - many made with Malbec grapes. Argentina continues to grow as one of the world’s largest producers, ranking 5th behind France, Italy, Spain and the U.S. and producing wines of quality and value. History tells us that as early as the 16th century, missionaries from Europe brought vines with them, Mendoza being one of the first areas where vineyards were planted, with the wines improving in quality to the point that they were recognized across the region.
In the late 1800s, immigrants from Italy and Spain brought several European varietals, planting them in fertile valleys where the indigenous peoples had created, hundreds of years earlier, an extensive system of irrigation canals to support their food crops. The control of water to the vines through flood irrigation (which also controls the pest phylloxera), along with ideal hot days and cool nights, create almost ideal conditions for grape growing. Malbec, a relatively minor grape in Bordeaux blends, thrives in the hot dry climate, and has become Argentina’s signature grape, while red varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda are developing a reputation. Torrontès is the most widely planted white varietal.
As Argentina’s attention shifted from domestic demand to interntional export, well-established descendents of the original European immigrants, such as Nicolas Catena, played a key role in shifting the focus to premium varieties planted on specifically selected terroir, quality over quantity, focused vineyard management, and the introduction of new technology in the cellar. Substantial European investment has also brought large international producers such as Lurton to the country.
For those who seek out organic wines, the second feature of this Vintages release is for you. Organic grape growing follows certain principles including the use of only natural fertilizers, no pesticide or herbicide use, and more intensive vineyard management, often including hand harvesting and lower crop yields. Organic winemaking requires the winemaker to follows a set of specified regulations, such as the absence of any synthetic additives in fining, restricted use of sulfites, etc.
Biodynamic wines are produced using organic methods, but also treat the farm environment in a wholistic manner and follow a specific regimen laid out by the Demeter calendar. Many winemakers using these methods do so because of their conviction that biodynamic practices produce better wines while ensuring a healthy environment. Among the organic wines, Argentina is again represented with a Zuccardi Rosé, the country’s hot dry climate providing ideal conditions for organic production. Our selection for this release includes 6 wines, including 2 from the Argentine feature and one from the Eco-friendly feature.
Cheers and Enjoy! - Susan
Babich ‘Fernhill Individual Vineyard’ Viognier 2010
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
$16.95 (Vintages #269282) 14.0% alcohol
A lovely Viognier offering subtle aromas of stone and tropical fruit with a whiff of sweet spice and floral. Rich, generous fruit flavours provide substantial texture, a mineral character presents, appropriate citrusy acidity assuring lovely balance. Finishing long and fruity, this is a gutsy wine that would be a match for lamb curry.
Pierre Sparr ‘Réserve’ Pinot Gris 2009
AOC Alsace, France
$14.95 (Vintages #983395) 13.5% alcohol
Yet another great value from Alsace, this wine is golden! Lovely floral notes mingle with aromas of stone and orchard fruit and a scent of lemon curd. A clean tangy texture offers a frame for almost honeyed fruit and notes of candied citrus. There’s depth, good balance, and long tasty finish. The perfect match for mildly spiced Thai food or for duck à l’orange.
Chakana ‘Yaguareté Collection’ Bonarda 2010
$12.95 (Vintages #3525)) 13.5% alcohol
What a great value, and an opportunity to try this lesser known yet very flavourful varietal that has found its home in Argentina after migrating from Europe. The aromas express sweet ripe dark berries, notes of vanilla and spice reflecting the well-managed oak aging. Dry, medium-full bodied, it’s well balanced, the ripe tannins and nice tangy texture matching the concentrated dark fruit and fine spices. Enjoy it with burgers or barbequed sausages.
Fabre Montmayou ‘Reserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
$14.95 (Vintages #261891) 14.5% alcohol
Recipient of an international award, this inky wine is dry, medium-full bodied, and flows across the palate like satin. It’s concentrated and fruity, displaying subtle hints of herbs and cedar. The balance of supple tannins, fresh acidity and ripe dark berry fruit makes for an appealing taste experience, the lasting finish pleasantly dry and warm. Enjoy with full-flavoured meats or cellar medium term.
Bonterra Zinfandel 2009
Mendocino/Amador/Lake Counties, California
$19.95 (Vintages #530139) 14.5% alcohol
Bonterra has been using sustainable organic and biodynamic grape growing and winemaking methods for over 20 years. This award-winning organic wine is ripe and fruity on the nose, redolent with spice, vanilla and a slight floral note. Dry, medium-full bodied and focused, the core of dark juicy fruit is framed by fresh acidity and somewhat chalky tannins. Notes of char, pepper and spice garnish a lasting dry finish. Enjoy it with robust barbequed meats.
Torre Quarto ‘Bottaccia’ Uva di Troia 2008
IGT Puglia, Italy
$15.95 (Vintages #161737) 13.5% alcohol
There’s a spicy floral hint here, along with delicious berry fruit, earth and sweet herbs. Dry mid-weight, this is a very nicely balanced wine with a fine smooth texture, almost floral flavours and a bushel of dark berry fruit garnished with spice and vanilla. It finishes fresh and fruity. Step out of your comfort zone and try this lesser-known varietal!
Grand Total: $95.70