What does a white need to have to be a good companion to the cold? A few delicate things: good body, measured freshness and a profile between fruit and ageing that defines a tempered palate. So that the wine can be drunk at about 12ºC and wrap itself around the mouth without being too cold.
Beyond ageing, which depends on the expertise of producers, there are some terroirs in the world that produce them well. They are well known, the Viognier de Condrieu, in the Rhône, and some Chardonnays of Napa. And among those corners of the globe that offer autumn and winter whites, Argentina has some pins to add to the map.
Whites made with a base of Chardonnay or Semillon in mountain areas, mainly in Mendoza offer this type of profile with a little more, a maturity of aromas. Because, while a summer white must have the citrus freshness of lime or the icy spark of freshness, those of autumn and winter should go by the profile of a ripe pear or the exotic lychee, with a palate more enveloping than refreshing.
This kind of wine is achieved in high altitude areas, where the sun and daytime temperatures push the ripeness of the grapes towards these profiles, although cold nights and mornings retain acidity with phenolic structure. Then, with batonnage and ageing on lees, with a soft oak you can get the kind of complexity in Chardonnay that you can fall in love with in front of the fireplace.
Both Mendoza and Patagonia offer a few of ideal places.The ones that really stand out are:
Gualtallary. Located in the Uco Valley at 1,100 metres above sea level and covering an area of 10km, up to 1,600m. There are three climatic terraces, with a diversity of soils, which offer various styles of Chardonnay. In the highest and coldest areas they are very refreshing, such as Cadus Appellation, Andeluna 1.300, Catena Zapata White Stones & White Bones, Zuccardi Q, and other, more mature, rich and full-bodied wines in the more temperate zone, such as Rutini Apartado Gran Chardonnay, Escorihuela Gascón Pequeñas Producciones, Domaine Bousquet Reserve, Terrazas Reserva and Trivento Golden Reserve.
Right next to Gualtallary, there is the district Los Árboles, whose Chardonnays are legendary, such as Salentein Primus and Trapiche Gran Medalla. As it is a high altitude region, the insolation is high, as much as 15% higher than at sea level. This translates into greater structure for the wines, just what it takes to gently wrap the palate.
Los Chacayes & Vista Flores. Also located in the Valle de Uco, they form a plateau with less of a slope, in these regions two climatic terraces cross paths, although the bulk of the vineyards are planted in one of them, the most moderate in terms of temperature, between 1,000 and the 1,300 metres above sea level. Equally sunny, they offer a more uniform profile than their neighbour Gualtallary. Good examples are Bramare Appellation Los Chacayes and Linda Flor.
Paraje Altamira is a case similar to Los Chacayes, only in this geographical indication the soil is more important as a selector of plots. As it is a unique climatic terrace between 1,000 and 1,200 metres, the main differences in maturity are obtained by choosing plots by soil type, given that calcareous deposits are in abundance due to repeated alluviums in the past, which add up to more texture: in general, they are a little tighter on the palate, although the aromas are ripe, such as Finca Suárez Chardonnay, Puramun, Chakana Estate Selection or Alto Cedro.
The Semillón is particularly good for ageing. An upward trend in Argentina, the Semillón of the zone has a richness of body and contributes a more mature profile, like Mendel. Zaha Semillon is a good example and comes from the geographical indication of La Consulta, a neighbour of Paraje Altamira.
Las Compuertas & Drummond are two indications within Luján de Cuyo, in the old guard of Argentine regions. Here you can find old Semillón and Chardonnay vineyards that, because they are located at around 900 and 1,000m, on a terrace between mild and warm, offer a richer alcoholic profile, a more cushioned palate and, above all, are really enveloping. From here, in that style, Los Nobles Chardonnay and Lagarde Semillon are delicious.
Patagonia is another of the bastions of autumn and winter whites. In particular, for their Semillon. At the end of the world, on the 39th parallel, the summers are full of long, warm days. The wine grower finds, however, a balance when cultivating in fresh valleys because of their north-south orientation and an abundance of water. From there come some outstanding examples, made from old vines, such as Humberto Canale Old Vine Semillón and Riccitelli Old Vine Semillón. Also a more modern profile, like A Lisa and Miras Jovem. For Chardonnay, on the other hand, the Fin del Mundo Reserva really is good.
In the face of the autumn and winter, Argentina has a series of perfect whites to warm the palate with softness and good flavour. Why not give them a try….