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  • Tom Firth

Making the Case: Much More Than Malbec

The problem of having a flagship grape and doing it really well, is that often wine drinkers manage to forget about all the other things a country or region might do well. Take Australia, they have shiraz, Germany has riesling, Napa Valley has cabernet sauvignon, Champagne, has well…champagne. But all these places make other wines too, and in a full range of styles and varieties (yes, Champagne makes other wines beyond their bubbles). This is a problem too with Argentina, who’s relationship with malbec means that everything else plays a distant, second fiddle.


It’s such a shame, too. Some of the best pinot noir, chardonnay and cabernet franc I’ve tried have been from Argentina, and here in Alberta, it’s still the brands with successful malbec bottlings that tend to have good luck with their non-malbec offerings. I’m saving the torrentes for another edition.


So, in the spirit of broadening our wine horizons, and with Malbec World Day on April 17, I’d invite you to try some of the “other” wines of Argentina. You won’t be disappointed.


Note: All these wines were sent to me by Wines of Argentina, though my selections below represent my choices and comments from the pool (literally) of wines forwarded to me.

El Enemigo 2017 Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina

There is something magical about the rich, heady aromas of a big, creamy chardonnay. While this is a bit of a bigger, more oak driven style of chardonnay, it still maintains its balance between the fruit and the barrel, with plenty of creamy vanilla, biscuit, and autolytic breadiness. Drinks like a meal, but will do very well with roasted bird, or red meats.


CSPC +810660 $29-32

Pascual Toso 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina

A heck of a buy for good cabernet sauvignon, with none of that excessive “green” or herbaceous character that mars some cooler climate examples. Cherry and cedar aromas show up on the palate with rather smooth tannins and a good level of acid to match up with those home made burgers or steaks you might be considering grilling.


CSPC +395640 $16-19

Graffinga 2019 Pinot Grigio, Argentina

A touch reductive on the nose initially, but it soon opens up and brings out the fresher, sweeter fruits of pineapple and apples, nectarines and peaches, and just a little coconut to round it out. Quite easy going, you’d be hard pressed to find such a quaffable pinot gris at this price from anywhere else.


CSPC +739400 About $14-16


La Riojana 2016 Believer Organic Red, Argentina

A blend of malbec and syrah, that is organic and fair trade certified, this is a wine that is very dark and plummy in the glass. Managing to show plenty of malbec characters of plum and spice, the syrah seems to add a little smokiness and added floral tones. A little more on the fruity side on the palate, the fruit evokes mild jamminess and seems to be going more for the casual, “fill your glass” sort of enjoyment. Nothing wrong there.


CSPC +818171 About $18-20

Catena 2018 San Carlos 2018 Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina

Cabernet franc is another one of those grapes that loves the ripening conditions of those high altitude vineyards of Mendoza. Not too much heat, but plenty of sun makes for happy franc. Loads of intense floral aromas with gentle spices and dominant black cherry fruits on the nose and palate. I’d go on, but I could drink this all day.


CSPC +779635 About $24-27

Dona Paula 2020 Rosé, Mendoza, Argentina

Ok, yes, this is a malbec, but it is rosé, so forgive my transgression- but this is lovely stuff. Aromas of slightly waxy, strawberry fruits that evoke those strawberry flavoured marshmallows of my youth. On the palate though, this sings with a very dry palate, crisp acids, and a load of summer-style berry fruits. A delightful, smashable bottle of rosé.


CSPC +803823 $14-16

Dona Paula 2019 Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc, Mendoza, Argentina

As mentioned, yes, there are sauvignon blancs made in Argentina where conditions favour a riper, less grassy style of wine than say, New Zealand. Bright lemon and lime fruits with less dominant melon fruits on the palate, but still all that crisp acid we move in the grape. Would be a fine pairing with grilled seafood or anything that could be garnished with a lemon.


CSPC +639120 $14-16

Zorzal 2018 Terroir Unico Pinot Noir, Tupungato Valley, Argentina

A treat for those that like pinot noir as this shows a number of classic expressions of the grape but with a bit of clove spice, liquorice, and smoke in addition to cherry fruits and clean herbal, leafy aromas. On the palate, it’s a bit of a spicy pinot, but with a rich, silky texture and a strong, complex finish. Very tasty, and very interesting.


CSPC +740428 About $16-19

El Esteco 2019 Don David Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Calchaqui Valley, Argentina

A cabernet that is literally checking off all the boxes for things I love about this grape. Big aromas with cedar and cherry character, loads of violets and lavender, and buckets of spice. Without too many indications of green bell pepper or herbs. Fresh and clean on the palate with a lot of flavour and expertly placed tannins. Bring on the asado!


CSPC +407007 About $18-20

Vina Cobos 2018 Felino Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina

A lovely, less oak-driven style of chardonnay, the nose keeps the purer fruits and supplements it with matchstick and mild vanilla bean aromas. On the palate, well balanced between oak and fruit with a good overall weight and flavour profile. Quite the treat on its own, it would still work with grilled poultry or even richer, creamier seafood dishes.


CSPC +40758 $23-26

Luigi Bosca 2018 De Sangre, Argentina

A not-quite-Bordeaux-style blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah, the De Sangre has been in our market for quite a while and easy to see why it’s so popular. Rather big and generous on the nose with the sort of pleasing aroma that fills a space but doesn’t need too much explanation. All those berry fruits show up nicely on the palate with good support from spice and earthy notes, leading into a generous finish. Really tasting fine these days, and would be a fine addition to the backyard barbecue.


CSPC +745106 $32-35

Escorihuela Gascon 2018 1884 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina

Showcasing abundant peppery spices, cocoa and cola and a slight tarriness on the nose while on the palate its all about dense fruits, with dark cocoa and more spices from the start right though the long finish. It’s the tannins and acids though that really want to enjoy this with some bigger dishes, and I’d lean towards meats from the smoker, or great cuts of beef with your favourite marinades.


CSPC +740170 $21-24