Beyond Malbec: Argentina’s Unique Sauvignon Blanc Style

Think quick! If I say Sauvignon Blanc and South America, what comes to mind immediately? I would bet it’s probably not Argentina, though it is fairly easy to find in US stores. As a varietal, Sauvignon Blanc is associated with Chile more often than with Argentina. After all, Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted white grape in Chile, with more than 12,000 hectares, whereas it ranks fourth or fifth among Argentina’s white grapes, with less than 900 hectares.

Argentine Sauvignon Blanc is different from those produced in Chile and starkly different from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The three that I tasted for this post do not have characteristic green notes of grass and gooseberries, nor is there any of that infamous cat pee to be found. Each of these – and granted it is not a thorough sampling of the many on the market – have smokiness, melon, and citrus on the nose and/or palate. Admittedly, I don’t drink Argentine Sauvignon Blanc often, as I’m more likely to buy a bottle of Torrontés or even Chardonnay if I want an Argentine white or a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire or California’s Quivira if I am looking for Sauvignon Blanc. But after recently having been very impressed by the Alfredo Roca Dedicación Personal Bonarda, I picked up a bottle of the winery’s Sauvignon Blanc from the same line. This inspired me buy a couple of other producers for comparison.

2009 Mapema (Mendoza)

In the glass, the Mapema is pale yellow with a hint of green. The nose is quite herbaceous with loads of peach pit and notes of flint and smoke. Honeydew melon, dried herbs, and lemongrass dominated the palate. It has medium plus body and a very tactile mouthfeel, with lasting acidity, some heat and spiciness, and bitterness. Ninety percent of the grapes are vinified in stainless steel and 10% in new French oak for three months, which gives the wine some softness and a rounded feeling, as well as a very light vanilla flavor. I grew to like this wine, though my initial impression was so-so.

At Martignetti’s for $12.99.

2010 Bodega Norton (Mendoza)

Light lemon yellow. The nose is smoky, with ripe melon and pear. The palate is more typically Sauvignon Blanc with pink grapefruit and dried herbs. Whereas the Mapema had an added dimension from the oak, 100% of the Bodega Norton Sauvignon Blanc is made in stainless steel. It is all fruit, crisp, and racy. Medium acidity and medium finish. Pretty good, especially given the price.

At Bacco’s Wine + Cheese for $9.99.

2010 Alfredo Roca Dedicacíon Personal (San Rafael, Mendoza)

The Alfredo Roca is different from the Mapema and the Norton and unlike any Sauvignon Blanc that I can recall having. Fruit tea, quince paste, honey, and Meyer lemon on the nose. The palate is savory and almost salty in the way Vermentino is. Acidity up front, followed by light tannins, and finishing with a lasting acidity. I would have expected a young wine like this to have more fruit in the finish, but the fruit dissipates before the acidity does.

At Colonial Spirits for $17.99.

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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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