Saturday 2nd February 2019: "Flavours of Chile & Argentina" with Jill & Bryan in Worthing.
Our first 2019 Tasting was well attended and much enjoyed. We welcomed guests Jan & Andrew Alexander to their first SWAS Tasting.
1. 120 Reserva Especial Santa Rita 2018; Chile, Central Valley; 100% Viognier; abv 13.5%; bought from Majestic for £8
Sourced from a number of vineyard sites across Chile's Central Valley. Free-run juice and light pressings have been used to maintain a light and crisp feel to the wine, with a long 3-week fermentation period followed by 2 weeks on lees for softness of texture. Lively and crisp, avoiding the big, oily texture of many a Viognier, and focusing instead on the flavours of apricot and pineapple, and delicate floral aromas. Soft in mouth feel, with a refreshing finish.
2. Maycas del Limarí Quebrada Seca Chardonnay 2014; Chile; 100% Chardonnay; abv 14.0%; bought from The Wine Society for £22
Quebrada Seca, about 25km from the coast on the northern bank of the Limarí River, is a cool spot with a high limestone content in the soil and is producing the best chardonnay in the area. Barrel fermented with mainly used barrels, this is very fine and mineral, and improves with bottle age.
Between the Whites and the Reds Jill served snacks of Mackerel Paté on Biscuity/Toasty things...
3. Maycas del Limari, San Julián 2014; Valle del Limari, Chile; 100% Pinot Noir; abv 13.5%; bought from The Wine Society for £25
"18% of the wine matured for 14 months in French oak barrels. Organoleptic analysis: intense ruby red with some depth. In the nose is very pleasant with the fruit jumping in front with suggestions of strawberry and cherry on discreet vanilla with good support in the cup. On the palate, the good structure, the delicacy of the tannins and the pulsating acidity stand out. Informs the importer that this label was among the 18 best Pinot Noir Chileans by the Descorchados Guide and that received 93/100 pts. of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. In fact, this delicious Pinot Noir has in its typical taste and balance its greatest qualities." - translated from 'Blog do Jerial' (The only notes that I could find as The WS no longer stock this wine - ed.)
4. Zuccardi Poligonos, San Pablo 2017; Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina; 100% Cabernet Franc; abv 13%; bought from The Wine Society for £17
One sniff of this wonderful cedary Argentine cabernet franc takes one back to school with its freshly shaved lead-pencil scent! On the palate, it offers lovely bright red fruit with a wonderful intensity of flavour, thanks to a cool vineyard at 1,400m.
The heart of the Argentine wine industry is Mendoza, in the far west of the country, where more than 80% of Argentina's wine is made. Altitude is a great marker of quality, and above 900m the climate is cool enough to produce fine wines. Within Mendoza, sub-regions to look out for include Luján de Cuyo in the Upper Mendoza Valley, and the Uco Valley, to the south-west of the city of Mendoza.
One of the strengths of the region is the quantity of old vineyards, planted to a relatively high density. The climate here is semi-desert and vines could not survive on the low levels of rainfall alone. The Huarpe Indians, who were in the area before the arrival of the Spanish, long ago built a sophisticated system of irrigation channels, many of which form the basis for the modern structures. What rain there is has the unhappy habit of falling in February and March and the harvest takes place in late March, so many vineyards are planted on free draining soils to mitigate against the effects. Flood irrigation is used where the land is flat enough and drip irrigation is increasingly used to give large but infrequent doses of water to the vines. Hail is a significant risk too, with 30% of vines damaged every year.
5. Undurraga Vigno 2013; 100% Old Vines Carignan; Maule Valley, Chile; abv 14.5%; bought from The Wine Society for £16.50
Violet red of great intensity and brightness. Black and red fruit well marked, blackcurrant appears, murta, blueberries, black plum, licorice, violets, tobacco and leather. High acidity, good concentration of ripe black fruit, powerful and abundant tannins. It is resistant, spicy and with a long finish. Serve with Pork or Lamb.
6. Viña Koyle Cerro Basalto 2015; Los Lingues, Alto Colchagua, Chile; Monastrell (Mourvèdre), Garnacha, Syrah & Carignan blend; abv 14.5%; bought from The Wine Society for £17
Koyle is the new project of the Undurraga family (Max, accounts, Alfonso, sales and Cristobal, viticulture and winemaking), who have sold the company that bears their name and bought a lovely estate near Los Lingues, called Viña Koyle, in Alto Colchagua to make, principally, fine red wines.
They planted 50 ha in 2006/7 (cabernet sauvignon, carmenère, syrah, malbec, petit verdot, mourvèdre, tempranillo) and a further 30 ha in 2010 (cabernet franc, merlot, carignan, grenache, sangiovese and petit syrah) totalling thirteen varieties. The vineyards are at the base of some hills at 400-550m altitude in quite a windy situation, particularly in summer, where the maximum average temperature in the hottest month is about 26ºC. Annual rainfall is between 500-700mm and may allow some vineyard blocks to be “dry farmed” once the young vines have established deep roots. The soil is red clay over friable granite soils.
The vineyard faces north-west and is divided into three terraces. The bottom terrace has more clay and alluvial soils, while the middle and upper ones have decreasing proportions of clay and increasing amounts of stones and friable granite. The altitude gives a 2ºC difference in temperature.
The vineyard is currently undergoing a transformation to biodynamic viticulture. There is huge potential to make lovely wines here; Cristobal, who lives in a house built on the property, has a real feeling for vineyards and viticulture and is also a very experienced winemaker, having worked in Australia at Rosemount with Phillip Shaw, in Bordeaux at Château Margaux with Paul Pontallier and in Mendoza for Kaiken with Aurelio Montes. The early stars have been carmenère and mourvèdre. One can sense great quality potential here.
7. Weinert Cavas de Weinert Mendoza 2007; Mendoza, Argentina; 40% Malbec, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot; abv 14.7%; bought from The Wine Society for £20 - voted the best wine of the evening...!
2007 is a fine year for this much-loved Argentine red, which is made in a lovely traditional style - aged in large oak vats for three to four years until soft and mellow.
Founded in 1975 by Bernardo Weinert, a Brazilian businessman of German origin, Cavas de Weinert has gone on to become one of highest-acclaimed wineries in Argentina. Bernardo invested heavily from the start, determined to make a top-quality wine in the best way possible, and this ethos persists to this day.
His red wines are noticeable for being aged 2-5 years, and sometimes longer, in old foudres in a deep, cool, granite cellar. Over time the brash fruit softens, mellows and develops the tertiary aromas of leather, tobacco and cedar. These wines have a certain similarity to other long-aged wines like traditional Riojas and Lebanon’s Château Musar.
After exhaustive research and study, Bernardo chose to establish his estate at at Lujan de Cuyo, one of the areas best known for top-quality wines in Argentina’s famous Mendoza province. The climate here is ideal for viticulture, with low levels of frost, hail and wind, plenty of sunshine, and a good water supply both from the surrounding rivers and from melting snow high up in the nearby Andes mountains. There are 40 hectares of vines in total, which lie at over 850 metres above sea level. The mineral-rich soils here – a mixture of alluvial rock and sand – are particularly suited to the French varieties Bernardo chose to plant between 1986 and 1992. These consist of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, gamay, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, and of course there is plenty of malbec, the grape most associated with Argentine wines. When necessary, Weinert also sources some of its fruit from other small producers with which it has long-term relationships.
Weinert are famous for their 1977 vintage, made by the famous winemaker Raoul de la Mota. It was their first vintage and the reason why it was so good was because, as the cellar was not finished, Bernardo had to delay the harvest and the extra ripening made a great wine. Today much of the success of the wines is due to winemaker Hubert Weber. He is Swiss, with a Germanic sense of order and an Italian passion for wine. After the grapes have been harvested by hand, fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled cement tanks, and the wines are then aged in French oak foudres (large oak barrels) in Weinert’s underground cellars, which benefit from ideal levels of humidity and temperature.
Part of the style of Weinert’s red wines is a mature, sometimes slightly more or less animally character. Part of this comes from a yeast called brettanomyces. In small concentrations it adds an interesting and appealing ‘farmyard’ character, but in excess it can spoil a wine. This yeast character is carefully controlled by Hubert to be present but not dominant.
The best-known wine is Cavas de Weinert, a blend made only in the best years from 40% malbec, 40% cabernet and 20% merlot aged about 3-4 years in foudres. Its younger sibling is Carrascal, made from a similar blend but aged for less time. There are other single-varietal wines released: merlot, cabernet sauvignon and malbec. The top wines are called Estrella, meaning ‘star’, which explains the star on the label. These are wines from the very best vintages, kept 3-10 years in foudres, and released when ready for drinking.
8. Susana Balbo Brioso 2016; Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Argentina; 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc, 16% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot; abv 14%; bought from The Wine Society for £23
Hand picked, destemmed, lightly crushed and selected yeast. Pumping over and delestage three times a day. Max. temp. 31°C. Extended maceration 35 days. Aged for 15 months in 100% new French oak barrels.
Grapes selected from Finca Dominio in Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, grown at an elevation of 990 m
Awarded 95 points by James Suckling in March 2018
9. Mendel Unus 2015; Mayor Drummond, Perdriel (Lujan de Cuyo) and Altamira (Uco Valley), Argentina; 65% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot; abv 14.5%; bought from The Wine Society for £25
A very elegant vintage for this Argentine red, which is based on the fruit of a malbec vineyard in Perdriel planted in 1928. Its exceptional freshness and backbone come from the addition of 10% high-quality petit verdot, and its structure and cedary top note from 25% cabernet sauvignon. The combination, aged for 16 months in barrel, is wonderfully refined.
Mendel is an old bodega situated at Drummond, Mendoza, built in 1928 and which was bought by the Sielecki family in 2002. They employed the highly respected Roberto de la Mota to make the wines. The wines are quite European in style, firm and structured as opposed to the more usual soft and fruity style, and are designed to develop in bottle. These wines are best enjoyed with food and benefit from decanting 30 minutes before drinking.
Mendel have a number of excellent vineyards. Finca Mendel surrounds the bodega at about 900m of altitude in Mayor Drummond was planted in 1928 to malbec at the old density of about 5,000 vines per hectare, quite high by modern standards, and excellent for quality. They are interspersed with olive trees. The fruit of this vineyard goes into their Malbec bottling. Recently a massale selection of petit verdot from Château Margaux has been planted here.
At Perdriel, Finca de los Andes is situated at about 1,100m and planted to malbec in 1928, with some cabernet planted about 20 years ago. The malbec and cabernet go into the Unus bottling.
In the cool Altamira district to the south of Mendoza they are buying semillon and malbec thought to be about 70 years old. The semillon goes into the varietal bottling while the lovely floral, mid-weight, exquisite malbec is bottled as Finca Remota, a play on words mingling its remote location with Roberto de la Mota's surname.
For Supper, Jill served an excellent Chicken & Chorizo Casserole with Peas and Jacket Potatoes. Our Sweet was Apple Strudel with Ice Cream followed by Cheese & Biscuits.
With Supper Bryan served two bottles from the SWAS Cellar as we continue to run down the stocks:
Paul Jaboulet, Domaine de Thalabert, Crozes Hermitage 2009 - bought from The Wine Society in 2014 for £28 per bottle
1. Santa Julia Torrontes 2017: Mendoza, Argentina - won by Sue
2. Koyle Cerro Basalto Cuartel G2 Carmenère 2016; Chile - won by John (p.s. I am envious - ed.)