No dozing in Mendoza


Did you know that Argentina is the world’s fourth largest wine-producing country? I must confess that I didn’t, until I read about it in “Wine Lover’s Companion” by Ron and Sharon Herbst. The country evidently has 1,500 wineries. So why then, we ask ourselves, do we see so little Argentinean wine in the supermarkets here? The answer turns out to be quite simple; they drink most of it themselves.

For many years, Argentina turned out simple plonk for the masses, but more recently, winemakers have started to produce high quality wines, perhaps with an eye on profitable export markets. Mendoza is considered the heart of the vigorous winemaking industry, with the vast majority of wineries located there. They’ve been very busy too. This year, it’s expected that Argentine wine exports will probably hit a new all-time record.

Fuzion Chenin-Chardonnay 2010 (white), Argentina. (Tops and Central, Bt. 459)

The Fuzion range is produced by Familia Zuccardi of Maipú, in one of the country’s most famous wineries. They take a contemporary approach to wine making and in their state-of-the-art facilities, hand-picked grapes are pressed and fermented at low temperatures in order to extract the best fruit character.  Gustavo Martinez, the winemaking Team Leader has a winemaking degree from Universidad Don Bosco in Mendoza. He says, “I love making wines which can capture people with an easy-going appeal.”

Gustavo Martinez, of Familia Zuccardi Winery. Gustavo Martinez, of Familia Zuccardi Winery.

The wine is a straw-yellow colour with hints of green and there’s a lovely rich aroma of tropical fruit, with notes of pears and apples. It has a smooth taste with loads of fruit and there’s a pleasing cut of acidity to balance the fruit. Although the wine is dry and crisp, there are attractive sweetish overtones on the taste. There’s an attractive dry finish too. Chenin Blanc (SHEN-ihn BLAHNGK) usually has a high acid content and it works well blended with the milder Chardonnay by giving the wine a lively zesty quality. This blend has had 30% Chardonnay added to the Chenin and comes at almost 13% alcohol.

It is a very pleasant and interesting wine, which would go well with chicken, seafood and some light Thai dishes. It would work well with cheeses like Brie and Camembert, if there’s still some left by the time you get to the end of the meal.

Trivento “Mixtus” Merlot-Malbec 2010 (red), Argentina. (Wine Connection Bt. 399)

Here’s another catchy name that Argentine wine growers seem to be going for these days. Although the Merlot grape will be familiar to most wine-lovers, the Malbec may be less so. It’s a dark purple grape that makes wine with robust tannins. Although it first found fame in France, these days it’s associated with Argentina. The wine growers there have virtually made it their own.

This wine has a very dark high-density appearance; crimson right to the edges of the glass. There’s a typical aroma of spicy dark cherries and a kind of woody fragrance with sweetish ginger overtones in the background. But the aroma is a bit shy at first, so you’ll need to open the bottle a good forty-five minutes before you taste the wine. This really needs plenty of air contact to soften it up a bit and I’d suggest that you tip the whole lot into a decanter. If you haven’t got a real one, a big glass jug will do, although it probably won’t look quite as elegant.

Anyway, this is a very dry and assertive wine with firm tannins and a rather velvety mouth-feel. There’s dark fruit on the taste, a touch of mint and a fair bit of sharpness too. The fruit is restrained and there’s a long, dry zesty finish with hints of lemon. This seems to me very much a “food wine” and could stand up to quite spicy dishes. Surprisingly, the makers suggest that it would go with roast pork and apple sauce. As they say in these parts, “Up to you”.