Argento Wines of Mendoza, Argentina
present a new Bonarda
October 16, 2012
Over an excellent and convivial dinner I caught up with winemaker Silvia Corti and members of the global marketing team of Argento Wines. I was particularly interested because I had heard a rumour that there might just be a new Bonarda to try, and I'm always up for the chance to taste varieties with which I'm less familiar.
Since its inception in 1999, Argento has established a reputation as a producer of very good and well-priced wines from Mendoza, which are distributed in England, parts of Europe, the US and Canada. Argento has essentially worked as a négociant, making and selling wine without having vineyards of its own. It has maintained long-term relationships with a small set of grape growers from the Uco Valley, the Central Region, and the Eastern Region of Mendoza (see map below). The winemaker, Silvia Corti, works closely with the growers to maintain quality and appropriate yields, and the philosophy has been one of blending single varieties from different vineyards to create wines of complexity and interest.
Two of the three wines I want to report on are generally available in Ontario through the LCBO, although the wine currently on the shelves is from the 2011 vintage rather than the 2012 vintage that I tasted. These are:
- Argento Chardonnay 2012, 13.5% alc/vol, $9.95. This is a mellow and pleasant Chardonnay from riper fruit, with a nose of peach, sweet melon and tropical flowers. It is nicely balanced with just enough acidity to be fresh, and the 15% of the cuvée that aged in French oak just gives it a little substance while staying completely in the background. An excellent value: (8.8/10)
- Argento Malbec 2012, 13.5% alc/vol, $9.95. This is a very young Malbec, just bottled, after having spent four months in French oak. It is dark ruby-purple, showing mostly dark cherry and plum fruit, with hints of the floral violet notes that you hope for with Malbec. It is dry, close to full-bodied, with soft tannins. The fruit is maintained on the palate, and the modest oak-spice notes take a back seat which I think is right for the wine. The finish is medium. This is another excellent value: (8.7/10)
The third wine I want to mention was really the hit of the evening for me, a 2011 Bonarda that is expected to be available in the LCBO by the end of November 2012. According to the Oxford Companion to Wine, Bonarda is the second most widely planted red grape in Argentina, but has traditionally been used for rustic local wines. While there are three distinct Italian grape varieties that use the same name, Argentinian Bonarda is distinct from all three, and (again according to the Oxford Companion) has been identified as the French grape Charbono of the Savoie.
The one other Bonarda I tried this year (link here) was full of dusty herbal notes, while the Argento Bonarda was all about fresh high-toned raspberry fruit.
- Argento Bonarda 2011, 13.5% alc/vol, $9.95. This is a dark opaque ruby colour, with a pronounced nose of bright red raspberries and cherries, along with a little fruit blossom. The palate is dry, and very round and full, with exuberant fruit and fresh acidity. I found some candied sweet fruit notes on the medium finish. (8.8/10)
This was such an enjoyable and well-priced wine that I think it could become very popular, and rightly so! While wine lovers will always take the opportunity to try something new and different, people who "just want a nice glass of red wine" will enjoy the great fruit at a compelling price.
It will be interesting to follow Argento over the next few years. While the current approach will be maintained for the existing product lines, in the future Argento will be venturing into the up-market world of single vineyard estate wines. Recently the company was purchased by a large Argentinian wine group Inversora Agroindustrial Sudamericana, which not only owns a number of other wineries but also some excellent vineyards in Mendoza. Silvia expects to work with the new owners to gather some of the high quality estate fruit for a new line of single-vineyard wines.
Oh, and if you want to see a little more, watch the short film Cerca del Cielo (Close to the Sky) that follows Silvia as she works and enjoys life in Mendoza.