Beyond Malbec: An Evening Exploring Argentine Wine with Master of Wine Sandy Block

Along with fellow Master of Wine Bill Nesto, Sandy Block developed the curriculum for the wine studies program at Boston University’s Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center. Though we saw him in the classroom less over time, there was a clear sense that he had left an indelible mark in shaping the program. It was a pleasure to see him in the classroom again on February 9 in front an enthusiastic sold-out crowd, eager to hear about his experiences in Argentina and his thoughts on where the country’s wine industry is heading.

Sandy picked an outstanding selection of Argentine wines, and there is not a single wine here that I did not enjoy. Alright, you may have already determined my bias, but I think that everyone at the tasting would agree that each wine could be called very good or better. I also really appreciated the fact that only two out of the 14 that we tasted were Malbec.  The wines at this tasting demonstrate the continuing potential for Argentina to produce great, world-class quality wines. I am convinced that this is the direction in which the wine industry will continue to move in the coming years and am looking forward to enjoying more wines like these.

2009 Bodega Colomé Torrontés
Salta
$17
Very good
Beautiful nose with floral notes, minerality, and citrus. The palate had mouthwatering acidity and lots of lime, along with some bitterness. I found it a bit hot and spicy.

2008 Catena Alta Chardonnay
Mendoza
$38
Delicious
What an incredible wine! Pineapple and golden apple on the nose and palate, with the characteristics of barrel-fermentation, including hazelnut and some butterscotch. Full bodied, refined, and delicious.

2009 Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir
Rio Negro
$34
Delicious
A blend of wines produced from gnarly 55 year old vines and 15 year old vines. Possibly the best Argentine Pinot Noir that I have tasted to date. Mushroom, spice, minerality. Medium acidity and delicate tannins. Sandy suggested that this wine could be aged for another 5-7 years and recommends serving it with salmon.

2005 Familia Zuccardi Q Tempranillo
Mendoza
$25
Very good
Made in the Navarra style from organic grapes, this Tempranillo was aged in French oak for 12 months. Herbal, smoky, and a bit spicy, it has very good structure and a velvety finish. Sandy recommended that this wine would go well with slow-cooked dishes.

2009 Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda
Mendoza
$10
Good
This Bonarda is produced in eastern Mendoza by international winemaker Alberto Antonini. Lots of bright, juicy, red berry here with medium plus acidity. I noted it as “good” above, because the other Bonardas were very good plus.  But at $10 (and sometimes less depending on where you shop) this is a very good value.

2008 La Posta Estela Armando Vineyard Bonarda
Mendoza
$18
Very good
Made from grapes harvested from 45 year old vines, the La Posta had black cherry, plum, and a slightly rustic character. Moderate acidity and tannins here.

2008 Nieto Senetiner Limited Edition Bonarda
Argrelo, Mendoza
$34
Very good to excellent
This wine surprised me. While I enjoy Bonarda as a casual accompaniment to pasta and pizza, the Nieto Senetiner shows the grape’s potential. This is a dark, saturated wine with lots of dark fruits and chocolate. Great structure and texture – super velvety. A food wine.

2007 Finca Decero Petit Verdot
Remolinas, Mendoza
$38
Fantastic
Dark, opaque, with hints of black, the Decero Petit Verdot is an intriguing and brooding wine – one to pour a full glass of and ponder…preferably by a fireplace. Black cherry, violet, rustic, and complex. The mouthfeel is big and intense with acidity that spreads and solid tannins.

2007 Catena Malbec
Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
$24
Ripe, easy drinking, and approachable. Sandy described this as the benchmark for classic, mid-level Malbecs.

2008 Viña Cobos Bramare Malbec
Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
$38
Very good to excellent
Ripe figs, spice, and chocolate. Having spent 18 months in new oak, the Bramaire is oaky, mellow, and rounded. Viña Cobos is owned by California winemaker Paul Hobbs.

2008 Ben Marco Cabernet Sauvignon
Mendoza
$23
Good to very good
Cassis and vinyl on the nose. On the palate, there is initial ripeness followed by lots of acidity and grippy tannins. 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot.

2008 Viña Cobos Felino Cabernet Sauvignon “Cocodrilo”
Mendoza
$25
Excellent
Crushed red currant and blackberry, mocha, and spice. But there’s also meatiness here. Mouthfeel is perfectly balanced. Sandy noted that this wine is a good example of the direction in which Argentina’s wine industry should head.

2008 Clos de los Siete Red Blend (50% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Syrah)
Mendoza
$25
Very good
Plum, black currant, and minerality. High acidity and tannins keep this wine fresh and solid.

2007 Achaval-Ferrer Quimera Red Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc)
Mendoza
$55
Excellent
Achaval-Ferrer is one of the finest wineries in Argentina, producing wines that are not only high quality, but also defining terroir. Boysenberry, plum, vinyl, and minerality. “Edgy and more European” according to Sandy.

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All of these wines are available in Massachusetts. The BU wine program ordered them through Winestone in Chestnut Hill.

Check out the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center at Boston University and their upcoming programs.

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Author:katrin

Katrin is one of the co-founders of Wine Dine With Us. She enjoys sharing her love of wine on the blog, and is particularly fond of wines from Argentine, Alto Adige, and Germany. A lifelong environmentalist, Katrin has become increasingly interested in issues of sustainability in wine and food, local food production, biodynamics, and organic agriculture. When not drinking wine and writing about it, she is a nonprofit professional, specializing in fundraising and special events.

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  1. Beyond Malbec: Bonarda, Argentina’s Other Red Grape - June 29, 2011

    […] pizza-loving wine.  A wine that’s a good value and in vast supply, but not necessarily complex. Sandy Block’s Argentine wine tasting this winter seriously challenged that notion with a concentrated, oaked Bonarda from Nieto […]

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