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

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



Malbec – The Dark Horse

courtesy of
courtesy of

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 ( 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.