I am an American, I should say, North American, Sommelier living in Buenos Aires. Perhaps it doesn’t have the same ring as “An American in Paris”, but at times, just like the George Gershwin classic, it has its adventures, and somewhat musical intonations, usually of the tango variety. In order to expand on my Spanish, I thought I would experience a sommelier course in this grand city? After all, it is something for which I hold a deep passion; I would learn the Spanish terminology of my industry and perhaps find a small social circle to share wine with. So that is what I did, and now about four months into the program, five of us from the class got together to kick off a monthly event, I will call this one; “Malbec of Argentina”. The assignment: to pick a bottle of Malbec from different corners of Argentina. Here is the line-up: Desierto Pampa, from just outside Buenos Aires in an area called “La Pampa”, Enrique Foster from Lujan de Cuyo of Mendoza, Saurus of Argentina’s cold region, Patagonia, and Salentein from Valle de Uco in Mendoza. Okay, so we were listening to the Brazilian Bossa Nova sounds of Budu Mayu, but it still set the tone perfectly for our tour de Argentina.
When tasting wines, especially those when you are aware of location or varietal, it is challenging not to have preconceived notions or opinions. We are professionals, however, we are human and that silly frontal lobe always gets in the way! None of us were expecting much from La Pampa in the 2006 Desierto Pampa. We were wrong, and not in the way that wrong can still present average results, these results were delicious. So delicious, that even before I begin describing it to you, I would recommend hunting down this wine. Bodega del Desierto was the first winery of this viticultural region. Paul Hobbs, the consultant of all of their activities, has created two lines, 25/5 and the Desierto Pampa, an Ultra Premium line. After doing some digging about the place, I found that the Malbec won a Gold Medal in the CMB-Catador competition in 2008. That stupid frontal lobe! At first pour and swirl, the wine was being a little shy, but on the nose, had notes of sweet tobacco, cherries, and a raspberry jam. With the first sip, other dark yet mature fruits of plum, more cherry, and full-fig aromatics finished with the perfect velvety aged tannins from the twenty months in a balanced blend of North American and French Oak. Lovely!
I will not go on to describe the Enrique Foster, sometimes there are casualties in a line-up, and this was one of them. It was corked, so I’ll have to try it at a later time and fill you in. Next! Leonard Puppato’s, 2009 Saurus from Patagonia. It is aged for eight months in 70% American Oak and 30% French Oak, all from coopers who fashioned the barrels especially for Bodega Saurus. The color of this alone will draw you in with intense tones of almost inky violet. You can sense the aromas of concentrated violets sitting on the table two feet from your nose. Give it a swirl and your sitting at the movies with a bag of cherry Twizzlers and Jollyranchers. There’s blackberry jam on toast with a seasonal berry salad. The Patagonia region and its cooler climate allow for all of these fruit notes to remain fresh with a natural, seasonal integrity. The palate is just as rich with hints of warm spices and full-bodied tannins, young yet a little developed. If you love fruit bombs, you’ve made the right choice. You could definitely drink this one now, or hold for about five years to see if the fruit might tone down a bit.
Before we moved on to the fourth wine, we revisited the first from Desierto Pampa, which by this point wasn’t so shy and had become a little more comfortable with its company. The spicy side was showing of nutmeg, clove, almost resembling a subtle gentleman’s spicy cologne. You might look across the room to find whoever is wearing this seductive scent. Sister Nancy’s classic Bam Bam somehow worked her way into the mix and is playing now.
Moving on. From another region tucked away in Mendoza, Valle de Uco, we sampled the 2010 Salentein Reserve. All of the wines of their premium line are aged in French Oak, this quality ingredient along with possessing some of the highest planted vines between 3,445 and 5,577 feet above sea level; make these wines of exceptionally unique quality. At first swirl there is a hit of vanilla, deep blueberry, violet, jollyranchers, a summer’s berry salad marinating in their own juices with hints of roasted red bell peppers. The mouth is just as full of fruit with spicy notes and young but balanced tannins. Definitely age this one for about four to six more years, if you couldn’t tell, it has got obvious potential to be even greater.
So that wraps it up. I need to get to snacking to balance out that very intense tasting. Argentina is not the only country in the world with many wines of different styles, and regional characteristics. It is amazing what you can learn of an area, just from tasting their wine. It just takes a little special attention and fine tuning, maybe the tune of your radio. So take your own little road trip.Where are you going on your next wine tasting?