Friday, August 6, 2010

Notes from New World (part 2): Waiting for Weinert, or what's wrong with Argentine wine

I taste Malbec every week. EVERY WEEK. While some people may view this to be cool or fun, are maybe even a bit envious, let me assure you that this is not my idea of a good time. It is not one of my favorite responsibilities of the J-O.

Argentina boasts abundant sunshine and cheap land - even planted acreage is comparably cheap. As a result, foreigners spend lots of time here. They may hail from Napa, Bordeaux, Tuscany or elsewhere, but ultimately what these wine industry and entrepreneurial types are invariably looking for is a piece of the growing Argentine wine export market. To do this, they all suggest similar means to reach the same result: overly fruity, extracted wine that tastes more like a room of new French barriques. While one may argue that these types of wines have infiltrated all over, from their epicenter in Napa and Bordeaux, to Tuscany, Piedmont, Rioja, even Greece, Argentina remains so disappointingly steadfast in its dependence on a single varietal, cultivated, harvested and vinified in similar ways. Please feel free to correct me if you believe I'm wrong here. However, tasting Argentine wine every week, this is my opinion. To prove me wrong, you will need to point me towards individual wines that are more than merely well made, fruit forward, intensely flavored wine from old vine fruit aged in Allier barrels.

One notable exception to my difficulty with Argentine wine would be Bodegas Weinert. These are unique wines. They are not aged in new barrique. Their wood foudres range in size from 600 to 2500 liters. Not a single new barrel is used; in fact, barrels are conditioned for 4 years with tannat prior to being used for their wines. Prior to their elevage in wood, these wines are fermented in concrete. There is acidity in these wines. Sometimes, a tiny portion of this acidity is volatile. Some brettanomyces makes the occasional appearance. All of this is fine by me, as these characteristics make Weinert wines some of the most unique and characterful in Argentina. You might call Weinert the Lopez de Heredia of Mendoza.

The same week which I tasted the Luigi Bosca wines (see my earlier pt. 1 post) I had the opportunity to taste through some Weinert wines.

2008 Bodega Weinert Carrascal Blanco

Composed of 70% sauvignon blanc and 30% chenin blanc. Sweet citrus and starfruit aromas lead to a fresh, zippy palate, with good texture as well. An original wine.

2005 Bodega Weinert Carrascal Red

A blend of malbec, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, aged two years in cask and another year in bottle. Savory dark cherry fruit shows a sunny, warmer climate generosity and richness, but does not veer towards sweetness or oaky wine flavored beverage status.

2004 Bodega Weinert Malbec

This is like a more intensely flavored, richer version of the wine above. A darker fruit profile and a shade oakier, but still nothing approaching Bordelaise consultant levels of oak here. Enjoyable enough, but as often is my experience with a producer's range of reds, I enjoy the cheaper one.