Gaucho’s Director of Wines talks us through some of his latest selections.
I have introduced a new section, called Esotérica. This section deals with wines that break the mould of peoples’ expectations of what Argentine wines are. Since the meteoric growth of Malbec began around 5 years ago, the name of this grape has now become firmly entrenched into the language of wine.There is a certain expectation around wines from Argentina. In my experience, the reds are expected to be rich, soft and opulent, whilst the whites are ripe and soft in the mouth, with low to medium acidity. However, in recent years, many winemakers are picking their grapes earlier, where less alcohol and more acidity give rise to wines of tension, elegance and finesse. I love these wines, but they don’t fall into this usual expectation.I decided to separate them into their own section so that they don’t get lost amongst all the other wines and also to provide a little warning as to what is to come. I am very excited about how these wines will bring a new dawn to the brilliant diversity of Argentina. Please try them, they are all made in small batches and only available in very limited numbers.
Gen del Alma ‘Ji Ji Ji’. Chenin Blanc. 2016
I fought hard to get this wine. Chenin Blanc is not a grape variety normally associated with Argentina, but there is plenty of old vine Chenin in Mendoza.
Gerardo Michelini, with his wife Andrea Mufatto, produced this wine from a small plot in Villa Seca, at the ‘low’ end of Tupungato in the Uco Valley. Made in one concrete egg, these grapes were picked early to avoid over-ripeness, and then aged on the lees without any oak treatment.
Gerardo and Andrea, like the rest of the Michelinis, concentrate on the Tupungato district of the Uco Valley for the majority of their wines. They were born and bred in the city of Tupungato and know all of the growers there. They see it as a socially responsible thing to buy from small, independent families who grow old vines with grapes that have, for one reason or another, become unfashionable.
Lean, mean, with extremely high acidity, this is a very cool climate. Pear, peach and quince, with green plum, a touch of honey and a chalky, mineral finish.
Chenin Blanc originates from the Loire valley in France, with Vouvray AOC being the main reference point. Chenin can also make sparkling wines and some very good sweet wines.
In the Esotérica section, priced at £47.00.
Costa Y Pampa. Sauvignon Blanc. 2016
A while ago I updated the map on the wine menu to include a small area in Buenos Aires province as a wine making region. It is called Chapadmalal, and is a popular holiday destination for many Argentines, being a few hours’ drive south of the city.
So now we have it, a wine that is the only one on our list that is cooled by ocean breezes, rather than the altitude of the Andes. The altitude is just 3m above sea level.
This gives the wine a slightly saline (salty) quality with earthy tones, rather like a good Chablis. Of course, there is no need to irrigate since there will be plenty of rain here, so the wine is ‘dry farmed’.
Grassy, with gooseberry, lemon and lime, a touch of yellow grapefruit and a dash of sour passion fruit on the finish with a very evident minerality. The closest thing to New Zealand in style.
In the Esotérica section priced at £47.50 and made by the brilliant Daniel Pi.
Trapiche ‘Iscay’. Syrah/Viognier. 2013
From grapes sourced in Los Arboles, right between Gualtallary and Chacayes, this is a cool climate red wine. The addition of 3% Viognier is in keeping with the famous Cote Rotie wines of the Rhone valley in France. The Viognier adds aroma and a delicate quality to the Syrah, being co-fermented. Strangely, a small number of white grapes in a fermentation of red also helps to ‘fix’ the colour of the wines, and is commonly used throughout the world, but rarely used as a means to make a point of difference.
‘Iscay’ means ‘two’ in the Quechua language, and these wines have always followed the rules of using two varietals. It is also a winemaking partnership born of a great friendship between Joey Tensley, a famous Californian winemaker, and Daniel Pi, winemaker at Trapiche.
Very aromatic, with white and red flowers on the nose. Lean and tight on the palate, with black fruits and kirsch and a taught and focused finish. A brilliant wine any Rhone winemaker would be proud of, but it’s from Argentina!