Thursday, May 22, 2008

Argentine Wines: Why Cabernet?


As Tom (via his wife's blog) reported, our group of expat beer drinkers got together at friends house to try something different: A wine tasting. Instead of arguing about the nuances of blonds, blacks and tans, we spent the evening learning about Banardas and Malbecs.

Daniel Karlin hosted the event at his apartment. He has started a new venture called Anuva Vinos. Anuva hosts small intimate wine tastings here in Buenos Aires and features unique, hand crafted wines form some of the best small, hard-to-find bodegas in Argentina. They also make the wines available to order in the United States and Europe from their store on their web site.

I love wine almost as much as I love beer. My family was lucky enough to spend a month in Mendoza touring vineyards and sampling many different wines. So spending the evening with my beer drinking buddies sipping wine was a no brainer.

Of the five wines featured, one was a Cabernet. Not surprisingly, it was the least favorite of the four reds we tasted. Why are Cabernets in Argentina consistently bad when compared to the Cabernets made just across the Andes in Chile?

When I was a poor college student in Austin, I learned early that a good bottle of wine could greatly increase my chances of getting lucky later that night. I would impress dates by ordering a Santa Rita Cabernet or Casillero del Diablo Cabernet from Chile. They were very good and more important at the time—very cheap.

I just don't think you're going to impress many women by pouring an Argentine Cabernet. Why is that when they Cabernets from Chile come from the same mountain range and the Malbecs from here are so good?

As Daniel pointed out, The pacific side of the Andes provides more rain and humidity allowing the Chilean Cabernets to flourish. The Argentine side is much drier and favors the Malbec.

If I were back in college now and trying to impress my dates, I would pour a good Argentine Malbec like the Ikella Malbec that Anuva features. The Argentina Malbec is the best grape being grown anywhere. And you can't beat its price.

Anyone out there know of an Argentina Cab that is good and can give the Chileans some real competition?


danielkarlin said...

Well, Dave, I had to respond to this because yes, Camello Patti Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 and 2004 are excellent, concentrated bursts of flavor at reasonable prices. But as we discussed on Tuesday, Argentina is for Malbec, and Chile is for Cabernet. Our Ikella is topped only by our Naiara Reserve, Sin Fin, and Cavagnaro (regular and Cavagnaro Reserve). So if Cabernet is a must go with Carmello.

Longhorn Dave said...

Just curious Daniel... in California most wine growing areas like Sonoma and Napa appear to be on the inland side and not the seaward side of the California mt. ranges.

They produce some mighty fine Cabs. Is that because the Mountain Ranges there are a lot smaller and allow more moisture to reach the vinyards?

I wonder if there is any place in California where Malbec would flourish like here in Argentina?

danielkarlin said...

Good question, Dave. The taste/composition of a wine as determined by the starting material, the grapes, is affected by all components of a given microclimate/terroir. Temperature differential, soil composition, moisture content in the air and soil, salt content in the ground water, etc. are all factors.

The coastal range in California is small hills in comparison to the Andes. This is certainly one obvious difference. As to exact differences in soil compositions and other climactic factors I would say that it is near impossible to make a good California Malbec. I don't know, though, if it has ever been tried.

...I do know that some central and eastern Washington vineyards are planting Mablec, however. Time will tell how that goes.

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