New World Wine | Argentinian Varietals- Not Just Malbec

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Bodega Kaiken, Mendoza

On the spectrum of New World wine country (i.e., Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa & the United States), it is not necessarily a time punch card as it is so much a style of wine. Argentina has the classic fruit driven, higher alcohol wines with mild outlining characteristics of New World wine. As the fifth LARGEST producer of wine in the world, what defines Argentinian wine varietal history? Layers of migration and the cultures that brought varietals to Argentina, as well as the investment in South American wines over the last thirty years.

A story of wine is not without cultures immigrating with vines. Truly, no different than that of Grenache vs Garnatxa from France to Spain and then back and forth again as the Moors battled. Yet Argentina is overseas, continents and mountains, and it is a saga in which varietals that lasted tell a story for each New World wine region. Argentina… the immediate thought is Malbec.

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Familia Barberis, Malbec vineyards

That resurrected varietal from the famous six used for Bordeaux red blends made a 1990’s debut and killed it. Bordeaux, France, may produce wines with a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère. Malbec is otherwise known in Cahors, France; however it is unctuous, inky, tannic… like a 1800’s sailor fresh from the sea but not ‘refreshed’ yet. (Still amazing in my opinion…) Malbec in Argentina is anything but that- it is plush with ripe plums, macerated cherries, black raspberries then layered with cocoa nibs, herbs, sometimes a hint of crushed green peppercorn. Not a surprise that the masses would devour that?! But that is not the only varietal that Argentina is successful with. These other varietals are perhaps not internationally renowned out of Argentina but definitely worth seeking out.

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Val de La Puerta, Torrontés vineyards, La Rioja

Argentina’s immigrants thrived with varietals from Old World varietals including the unique Torrontés (pictured above). Originally claimed to be Torrontés from Spain, Argentinian Torrontés is DNA proven to be a cross between native Crillo and Muscat Alexandria (hence the amazing aromatics). Torrontés is grown throughout Argentina with three different variations- Riojano, Sanjuanino and Mendocino. It is intensely aromatic with notes of lily of the valley, rose petals, honeysuckle as well as citronelle and lemon grass. Fruits of key lime, pear, kiwi (and its seeds) yet is is surprisingly refreshing with brightness and a clean acidity. Definitely worth the adventure to find and enjoy– especially with summer seafood and fresh cuisine.

Wine Folly_Argentina

Back on track to other killer varietals, the history shows that the Spanish missionaries in the late 1500’s first brought vines (Tempranillo and once thought Torrontés) to the region. Then, in the 1900’s, a new wave of varietals from Europe arrived. From Italy came Bonarda (actually Doux Noir), Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Lambrusco & more. From France, the following influx arrived: from Burgundy, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, from the Rhône, Syrah and Viognier as well as from the Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc. Escaping the phylloxera epidemic that decimated their homeland vineyards, immigrants brought not only their vines but their background in winemaking. The 1900’s were not easy times. It was not until well after the Great Depression, political conflicts, inflation (1960-70), and finally the 1990’s resurgence with investment from foreign countries in the wine regions of Argentina did the small pockets of Argentinian winemaking expand into such large production.

Val de La Puerta vineyards, La Rioja

The rise of Malbec as the glory child may be on the forefront of what people imagine Argentina to represent; however, there are many more varietals produce there that deserve your attention — classic Old World varietals and the beautiful Torrontés. Adventure to try:

  • La Puerta 2012 Alta Malbec La Rioja — Reg $16.99
  • La Puerta 2013 Malbec La Rioja — Reg $14.99
  • La Yunta Torrontés La Rioja — Reg $10.99
  • Antigal 2013 Malbec Mendoza — Reg $24.99
  • Durigutti 2013 Cabernet Franc Mendoza — Reg $16.99
  • Durigutti 2015 Malbec Mendoza — Reg $16.99
  • Martino 2014 Malbec Mendoza — Reg $21.99
  • Salentein 2016 Portillo Malbec — Reg $16.99
  • Salentein 2014 Reserve Malbec — $25.99
  • Salentein 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon — $25.99

SPECIAL GUEST TASTING
Thursday, July 13th, 2017 5pm to 7pm | Carlos Bosso

  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza– Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Chardonnay Mendoza — Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Pinot Noir Mendoza — Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Cab/Malbec Blend Mendoza — Reg $12.99
  • Carlos Basso Dos Fincas Malbec Mendoza — Reg $12.99

Cheers!  Jaci

 

New Tasting Series: Grape Varietals A-Z

A-Z_logo_Jan 2014
Kicking off a new year, we thought it would be fun to do a comprehensive tasting series featuring as many single grape varietals as we carry in the shop. We counted them up. (There are 60+!) We put them in alphabetical order. And we’re ready to go! Here’s the schedule.  If you make a good chunk of these tastings, you will have tasted the vast majority of single grape varietals grown around the world today. We’ll offer a little educational overview on each grape including tasting notes & where it’s grown. The rest is up to you. Ready, set, go:

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Tastings run every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday from bar open (4pm) to 8pm:
Tue, 14-Jan – Albariño ~ pictured above in the Outon vineyards in Rias Baixas, Spain
Wed, 15-Jan – Aligoté
Thu, 16-Jan – Arneis
Tue, 21-Jan – Barbera
Wed, 22-Jan – Blaufraenkisch
Thu, 23-Jan – Brachetto
Tue, 28-Jan – Cabernet Franc
Wed, 29-Jan – Cabernet Sauvignon
Thu, 30-Jan – Cannonau
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Tue, 4-Feb – Carmenère
Wed, 5-Feb – Chardonnay (France) ~ pictured above in Claude Nouveau’s vineyards
Thu, 6-Feb – Chardonnay (California)
Tue, 11-Feb – Chenin Blanc
Wed, 12-Feb – Cortese
Thu, 13-Feb – Dolcetto
Tue, 18-Feb – Garganega
Wed, 19-Feb – Garnacha Grenache
Thu, 20-Feb – Grauvernatsch (Schiava Grigio)
Tue, 25-Feb – Grüner Veltliner
Wed, 26-Feb – Inzolia
Thu, 27-Feb – Kerner
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Tue, 4-Mar – Lagrein
Wed, 5-Mar – Malbec
Thu, 6-Mar – Melon de Bourgogne
Tue, 11-Mar – Merlot
Wed, 12-Mar – Montepulciano
Thu, 13-Mar – Moscato
Tue, 18-Mar – Muscat
Wed, 19-Mar – Nebbiolo ~ pictured above in the Pelassa vineyards of Piedmont, Italy
Thu, 20-Mar – Nerelo Mascalese
Tue, 25-Mar – Nero d’Avola
Wed, 26-Mar – Pedro Ximenez
Thu, 27-Mar – Petit Verdot
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Tue, 1-Apr – Petite Syrah
Wed, 2-Apr – Pineau d’Aunis
Thu, 3-Apr – Pinot Bianco
Tue, 8-Apr – Pinot Blanc
Wed, 9-Apr – Pinot Grigio
Thu, 10-Apr – Pinot Grigio
Tue, 15-Apr – Pinot Noir (France)
Wed, 16-Apr – Pinot Noir (Oregon)
Thu, 17-Apr – Pinotage
Tue, 22-Apr – Primitivo
Wed, 23-Apr – Prosecco
Thu, 24-Apr – Riesling
Tue, 29-Apr – Sangiovese
Wed, 30-Apr – Sauvignon Blanc (France)
BLOG_Jens in Australia_Shiraz grapes from Beachworth_Victoria_v4
Thu, 1-May – Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
Tue, 6-May – Semillon
Wed, 7-May – Shiraz ~ pictured above from Jens’ trip to Victoria, Australia
Thu, 8-May – Syrah (Old World)
Tue, 13-May – Syrah (New World)
Wed, 14-May – Tempranillo
Thu, 15-May – Torrontes
Tue, 20-May – Verdejo
Wed, 21-May – Vernaccia
Thu, 22-May – Viognier
Tue, 27-May – Welschriesling
Wed, 28-May – Zinfandel
Thu, 29-May – Zweigelt

This should be a lot of fun! Look forward to seeing you there!
Julie, Jens & the Portalis team

Jens’ Holiday Dream Case

 Jens Strecker (Owner, Portalis Wines) picks his 12 favorite holiday wines

These are some of my current favorite picks from around the world.  If Santa got my wish list, these wines would be at the top! 

Domaine De La Meuliere 2008 Chablis 
Burgundy, France  ~ $25.99 | Sale $22.99 | Mixed Case $18.39
Fine, flowery nose. Vibrant fruit with lots of weight & a long, stony, delicious finish.

Abeja 2009 Chardonnay
Washington State ~ $39.99 | Sale $35.99 | Mixed Case $28.79
Elegant, rich & full. Smoky, toasty aromas give way to fantastic apple & pear fruit with some peach notes. Butterscotch & hazelnut on the finish that lingers.

Evening Land 2009 Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon ~ $29.99 | Sale $26.99 | Mixed Case $21.59
Spicy baked cherry pie, plum & wild berry aromas turn elegant & refined. Full-bodied, but not too heavy to allow the rich flavors to dance on the palate. Long finish.

Gary Ferrell 2007 Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley, California ~ $44.99 | Sale $40.99 | Mixed Case $32.79
Elegant & powerful, with lots of raspberry & cherry fruit, with notes of clove & anise. The aromas & the long finish leave you wanting more.

Château Pichecan 2003 Margaux
Left Bank, Bordeaux, France ~ $43.99 | Sale $39.99 | Mixed Case $31.99
Concentrated blackcurrants & blackberries on the nose. Super-elegant, with soft, velvety mouth feel, but firm structure. Wonderful concentrated cassis fruit with cocoa & herbal notes all the way through the finish.

Domaine Faury 2007 Saint Joseph
Northern Rhône, France ~ $41.99 | Sale $37.99 | Mixed Case $30.39
Dark but racy, with fantastic aromas of raspberries, olives & lavender. Flavors of cassis, ripe, dark plums, olive tapenade, with a dash of roasted sage on the finish. This wine is so interesting; it will keep you busy for a while.

Dessilani 2005 Caramino
Piedmont, Italy ~ $39.99 | Sale $35.99 | Mixed Case $28.79
This wine is a symphony! Super-complex & elegant with a violet bouquet. The vibrantly pure fruit quality of this fine red, with its flavors of black cherry & smooth, dark chocolate is irresistibly seductive & beautifully balanced. Out of this world.

Arzuaga 2005 Ribera Del Duero
Ribera Del Duero, Spain ~ $33.99 | Sale $30.99 | Mixed Case $24.79
Elegant, focused & well-balanced, with wonderful dark fruit, herbal & leather notes. Lovely depth & a smooth, long finish.

Mollydooker 2009 The Boxer Shiraz
McLaren Vale Valley, Australia ~ $28.99 | Sale $25.99 | Mixed Case $20.79
Ripe, fleshy & full-bodied, with gorgeous flavors of black cherries, blackberries & blueberries, with notes of bay leave & black olives, swirling all the way through the long finish.

Achaval Ferrer 2007 Quimera
Mendoza, Argentina ~ $40.99 | Sale $37.99 | Mixed Case $30.39
Powerful & complex, dark & brooding, with intense aromas of blackberries, black cherries & licorice. Full-bodied, with a velvety texture & polished tannins. Beautiful down the road.

Mark Ryan 2008 Dead Horse
Red Mountain, Washington ~ $49.99 | Sale $44.99 | Mixed Case $35.99
Full, dark & dense, but smooth, velvety texture with lots of blackberry, black cherry & raspberry flavors, combined with dark chocolate & coffee notes. Mark keeps his foot on the gas pedal all the way through the finish. Very impressive!

Sparkman 2008 Ruckus Syrah
Columbia Valley, Washington ~ $45.99 | Sale $41.99 | Mixed Case $33.59
Big, plush & dark, with layers of dark fruit, black cherries, blackberries & black olives. Supple, harmonious & expressive as the finish goes on & on. Amazing!

Happy holidays & cheers!
Jens

Malbec – The Dark Horse

courtesy of www.appelationamerica.com
courtesy of http://www.appelationamerica.com

Due to recent press of this grape from the celebrated wine region of Mendoza, Argentina, Malbec has become one of the most popular red wines among both connoisseurs and novices. It wasn’t always available on the shelf, never mind in different styles ranging from juicy and silky or bold and spicy. Malbec is indeed making a comeback. Comeback you say? What if I told you that the dark, mouth-filling, robust and hip wine, known for its power and uniqueness has a sordid past? That its beginnings were in old world soil, and that it struggled to have an identity of its own?

Malbec had its start in Bordeaux, France where it is known as “Cot or Pressac” and is one of six original grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Carménère permitted in red Bordeaux wines. Malbec’s thin skin and dark fruit wasn’t able to produce rich wines in Bordeaux, so its traditional use was to provide color and tannins. After a bad frost in the mid 1950’s destroyed 75% of the Malbec vines in Bordeaux, usage has continued to dwindle. Its main home in France is now the warmer southwest region of Cahors, where it thrives as Auxerrois (not to be confused with Auxerrois Blanc) as well as a small presence in the Loire Valley. If you haven’t had a chance to try Malbec from either of these regions, I highly recommend you do so. The Cahors version is so dark and tannic that it’s known simply as, “black wine,” and has great character and potential for aging. In the Loire Valley, Malbec takes a lesser role to Gamay and Cabernet Franc, producing elegant and food friendly reds.

Despite its early plantings in Argentina in 1868, Malbec lay virtually unknown for over a century to the rest of the world. In Argentina, the combination of warm sunshine, the long growing season and irrigation from the Andes was a natural climate for Malbec. Combined with the high altitude of Mendoza, (Argentina’s flagship region) Malbec was able to flourish and finally become harmonious with a region it could call home, with its new incarnation being an inky, velvety and rich wine.

Oh what a difference a century makes. Malbec has become one of the most buzzed about grapes in the modern wine age. Not only is it the benchmark of quality wines from Argentina, Malbec is currently produced all over North America, including 60 appellations spread throughout 12 states & Canada, along with plantings in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Chile. It’s still rare to see 100% Malbec wines outside its native France or it’s adopted home of Argentina, but there is no doubt its influence on our wines today. Take a look at the next red blend you drink. Don’t be surprised if there is a little Malbec in it, bringing character and firmness to wines as it has for so long. Malbec has had a long journey, mostly in obscurity. Who doesn’t like a good comeback? I’m putting my money on the “dark horse” to become a world-class competitor!

Come taste Malbec at one of our upcoming tastings:  Argentina Tasting Wednesday, March 18th  or Loire Valley Tasting Friday, March 20th (line-up includes one Malbec from the Loire)

Click here for available Malbec wines from our website.

Contributor:  Gina Gregory

A visitor from Bodega Benegas (Argentina)

This tasting was great tasting for several reasons:  1) the wines were phenomenal wines, especially for the money and 2) Berenice Maulhardt, who was visiting Seattle from the winery in Mendoza, was a power-frau to say the least.  A beautiful woman in her high-heeled boots and her long blond hair, excellent English and a lot of information to impart on the subject of Benegas (pronounced BeNEgas she told us) and Argentine wine in general, she dazzled the crowd which was a lot of fun.  Bodegas Benegas (www.bodegabenegas.com) has a long and interesting history, beginning in the 1880’s with Tiburcio Benegas planting the first French grapevines in the Americas and ending with Federico Benegas Lynch buying back the family winery in the late 1990’s.

Here are the tasting notes:

2006 Luna Benegas Cabernet Sauvignon $11.50 – medium-bodied, good dark fruit, easy to drink, soft tannins on the finish

2005 Don Tiburcio $17.50 – more complx, medium- to full-bodied with dark fruit, a little more tannic on the finish

2005 Benegas Malbec $23 – bigger, dark fruit, more tannic still.  Needs to age a little, but beuatiful dark fruit and lots of it.  Good with steak in year.

2006 Benegas Syrah $23 – a favorite at the tasting.  Need to drink now.  Has good dark fruit, easy, good sipper.

2005 Benegas Sangiovese $23 – a very big sangiovese. Not acidic & not light as you would normally expect from this varietal.  Big, full-bodied.  Needs a steak, too.

2004 Finca Libertad $28.50 – very complex, medium- to full-bodied Bordeaux blend. Fine tannins on the finish, delicate.  Drink now.  Serve with steak, roast, lamb.

2002 Benegas-Lynch Meritage $56 – biggest wine in the line-up.  Decanter gave this vintage 5 starts and named it the Best New World Wine that year.  It almost sold out at the tasting, with only 1 bottle left when we closed.  It’s so delicious, we recommend just sipping this wine.  It’s smooth, medium- to full-bodied; tannins have smoothed out. You have a really delicate wine.  Drink now.

In fact that’s just want some people at the tasting did.  When the tasting was technically over, but people were still hanging around as a film crew was interviewing Ms. Maulhardt for a documentary on Argentine wine, two gentlemen (who each bought a 6-pack of the Meritage amoung other things), just pulled a bottle from their case, popped it and starting sharing it with the people who were still there.  A little unorthodox, but it was generous and festive and was a nice end to the evening.