We’re coming down the final straight of 2020, a year that won’t be forgotten in a hurry and certainly won’t be missed. Which is exactly why we should be celebrating its end with joy and relish.
Of course gatherings with family and friends for Christmas and New Year will be a little different from what we’re used to. They’ll be smaller, with masks and social distancing but don’t be discouraged: all the more reason to make a real effort. Besides, these more intimate celebrations offer the perfect excuse to really go for it with the wine list.
For those planning to take advantage of fewer place settings to find some unforgettable wines, Argentina offers an endless array of options whatever the festive meal, and also for the countdown to 2021. Below area few ideas.
When choosing wines for the Christmas menu, we need to take into account the fact that it generally features full plates with plenty of meat, sauces and side dishes. Similarly to Thanksgiving, everything often revolves around the turkey but while Father Christmas is wrapping our presents some might also be considering preparing duck or lamb, other fatty meats with wonderful flavour that require wines of character. And if there’s something that Argentine wineries are good at, it’s making wines to go with such meals.
Argentine Malbec, for instance, is a perfect choice although it’s best to choose the juiciest options with good body and freshness. To find them it’s best to start with regions such as the Uco Valley and the high altitude vineyards of Salta first. Gualtallary, Los Chacayes, Paraje Altamira and the Calchaquíes Valleys are the most likely destinations. Try bottles such as Achával Ferrer Finca Altamira Malbec, Terrazas de los Andes Single Parcel Licán Malbec from Los Chacayes or Lagarde Primeras Viñas Malbec Gualtallary, all of which boast impressive taut, contemporary profiles. Stand out wines from Salta include Laborum de Parcela Malbec from the Porvenir winery in Cafayate, Colomé Autentico which is unaged, and the more exotic Yacochuya Malbec from Michel Rolland and the Etchart family.
But they’re obviously not the only ones worth considering. Patagonia offers an equally rewarding style of Malbec, albeit slightly lighter as can be tasted in A Lisa from Bodega Noemia or Humberto Canale Gran Reserva, both from Río Negro. In Neuquén, another Patagonian terroir, we find more structure coupled with good freshness in wines like Schroeder Barrel Fermented Malbec and FIN Single Vineyard Malbec from Bodega del Fin del Mundo.
A new terroir to discover this Christmas is the Pedernal Valley with Pyros Limestone Hill, a juicy red with an original, dusty texture, along with Benmarco Sin Límites from Susana Balbo Wines and Sagrado from Finca Las Moras.
Bottles to put under the tree
What about gifts? We’re all thinking about what to give our loved ones, and these aren’t choices to be taken lightly, they need to suit the recipient. At the end of the day we want to give the kind of experience we get when we open our most treasured presents.
If you’re still undecided about what to give the wine lover of the family, here are some suggested Argentine wines that might well surprise them.
If they’re a lover of Burgundy, for instance, they probably never even stop to consider the Argentina section is their local wine shop. Try surprising them, then, with Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Mendoza and Patagonia. Among the reds an essential bottle is Chacra 1932 Pinot Noir made by Piero Incisa Della Rochetta from an old vineyard in Río Negro while in Mendoza Laura Catena offers a tempting selection of Pinot Noirs from her high altitude Domaine Nico in Gualtallary, a terroir also put to good use by Zorzal Wines with their Porfiado which is kind of a solera Pinot Noir given that different vintages are combined in the same barrel.
However, if their passion is for great whites, today Mendoza is producing world class Chardonnays such as White Bones and White Stone made by Catena Zapata following extremely precise parcel selection in their Gualtallary vineyard, a region where Susana Balbo also makes her Benmarco Sin Limites, which is ideal for fans of Chablis. Another essential Chard is Zuccardi Fósil made with grapes from San Pablo, the coldest part of the Uco Valley.
If, however, the palate you’re trying to dazzle prefers wines from Bordeaux, Argentina has been specializing for years in Bordeaux Blends such as those produced by Cheval des Andes, a red made jointly by Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de los Andes, while another heavily influenced by Bordeaux is Alto from Bodega Alta Vista, as is Gran Valle de Uco from Bodega Salentein.
But if they’re looking for something new, the vineyards of South America’s largest producer have plenty to offer in that line. Trendy options might include wines made from criolla grapes, autochtonous varieties that produce fresh, somewhat rustic but very pleasant wines such as El Esteco Old Vines, Cadus Signature Series and Vallisto Extremo.
Another highlight from Argentina is Cabernet Franc, a variety that in recent years has produced some of the top ranking wines in the country such as the El Gran Enemigo Single Vineyard collection for which Alejandro Vigil makes versions of Cabernet Franc from five different parts of the Uco Valley. Other winemakers excelling with the grape include Rutini Wines, Pulenta Estate, Bramare from Viña Cobos, Benegas Lynch and Matías Riccitelli.
Finally, a growing segment in Argentina that is winning admirers all across the world is that producing natural and biodynamic wines. For the organic-minded, excellent gift options include Super Uco Cabernet Franc, certified by Demeter, Escorihuela Gascón Organic Vineyard Malbec, Krontiras Malbec Natural, Alpamanta Breva Sauvignon Blanc, which is made as an orange wine in amphorae, and Siesta from Ernesto Catena, mainly the Malbec.
If 2020 was a year in which we were forced to change our habits and routines, why not take advantage of that fact to discover the new wines and flavours coming out of Argentine vineyards?