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Mendoza Report, part 5: Grapes

>> Monday, September 13, 2010

Argentina’s most famous grape variety is Malbec and it is also the most planted of the red varieties.

”We are totally addicted to Malbec”, says Luis Cabral de Almeida at Finca Flichman, ”even though Cabernet Sauvignon is getting stronger and stronger. Malbec is an easy variety to work with and it has nice, soft tannins.” Today, many producers wish to stress the fact that Malbec can produce so much more than just basic entry level wines. More high quality Malbec wines are being made and even Single Vineyard wines which adds prestige to the grape.

“Malbec is a marvellous grape”, says legendary chief wine maker at Bodega Norton Jorge Riccitelli, and pours an extraordinary Malbec 1974 to prove that the grape can age well. “They didn’t have oak at that time so what you feel is the quality of the grapes.”

An up and coming variety is Cabernet Franc. Jorge Riccitelli uses is a lot and he thinks it will become an important grape for Mendoza. ”It thrives in our climate, it has good tannins and it ages well.”

With all Italians in Mendoza you are not surprised to find Italian varieties. Bonarda, for instance, is a much used grape for volume wines but Diego Levada, wine maker at Trapiche, thinks it will soon be important also for higher quality wines. “It has personality”, he says.

Less known but as Argentinean as Malbec is the white grape Torrontes. At Trapiche it grows at 1400 meter above sea level where it enjoys cool nights. It has such a strong character that you, according to Jorge Riccitelli at Norton, either love it or hate it. It is planted all over Argentina and although it doesn’t always taste the same it is always aromatic and floral. It reminds me of a discreet Gewurztraminer. An actually is goes even better with Asian food than Gewurztraminer. “The thing is to avoid the bitterness you often get in Torrontes”, says Jorge Riccitelli.

Stay on the look out also for Syrah as it is a grape that is starting to do very well in Mendoza. Trivento proves this with Trivento Golden Reserve Syrah, one of their best wines with grapes from Los Ponchos in the Uko Valley.

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