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News - 19.07.13

"Argentina Needs to Exploit its Diversity"

Anthony Rose, writer for The Independent and contributor to Decanter, visited Argentina. He is also an educator at Leiths School of Food & Wine and has collaborated on several books such as World of Fine Wine and the Oxford Companion to Wine. On a trip to Argentina organized by Wines of Argentina, Anthony was guided on a tour of the Argentine wine region, each with their own style and variety.

During his stay, the acclaimed English wine critic referred to the quality of Argentine wines, after a tasting of terroir Malbecs that was specially organized on occasion of his visit.

The tasting was led by Sebastián Zuccardi, a young winemaker and terroir lover. A wide variety of 2010 Malbecs were tasted, from those produced up north in the Calchaquíes Valleys in Salta to those found down south in Mainque, Patagonia. All along a tasting tour from parallel 22° to parallel 42°, the different valleys in Argentina were presented, revealing the diversity of terroirs of the still young soils of the country.

Some critics claim that Argentine wines lack terroir expression due to the existence of grower-managed irrigation and young soils, which many experts label as "homogeneous." That is why Wines of Argentina is promoting the features of Argentina's terroirs, which lead to the production of unique, one-of-a-kind wines, through a number of seminars and the careful selection of the wines that best represent those terroirs.

Although Anthony Rose did not come to Argentina in the last two years, he did not miss any opportunity to taste Argentine wines in England, where the perception is that "the quality of Argentine wines –both reds and whites– has clearly been improving, and that the English market shows an increasing preference for Torrontés, recognizing it as a native, authentic Argentine varietal."

"Choosing between Malbec as a varietal and Malbec as part of a blend is like having to choose between a Bordeaux and a Burgundy wine."

As Anthony revealed during the tasting, he prefers balanced, easy-to-drink wines. He is not in favor of over-extraction or the excessive use of oak in wines. "Excessive use of new oak tends to wipe out the terroir characteristics."

We asked Anthony about the use of Malbec as a flagship variety, and he answered: "I think that Argentina should work on Malbec since it is a fantastic variety, but should not forget about the other varieties. We could mention New Zealand as an example of a wine producing country where Sauvignon Blanc was not enough. Argentina needs to develop other terroirs, other varieties, but above all, it has to work with an open mind and develop its diversity as much as possible."

"Argentina is continuously evolving, surprising consumers and experts."

This was clearly evidenced during the Malbec tasting, where the grapes grown at latitude 25° and 2200 masl in Valle de Colomé, Salta, resulted in a fresh and fruity wine, with an intense color and a unique aroma. This wine was described by Anthony as a La Garigue wine, evoking the typical aromas of Grenache from la Cote du Rhone: a unified blend of thyme, rosemary and sage aromas.

"Torrontés is recognized as a genuine, native Argentine variety."

A Malbec from Altamira, San Carlos, Mendoza also stood out for its fresh black fruits like cassis or wild blackberries, with hints of chalk and some freshness evoking lemon drops.

These examples of diversity as well as many others can be observed in the diverse Malbecs from different valleys, spanning east to west over 20 degrees in latitude, standing between 200 and 2200 masl, near or far from rivers, with the corresponding differences in soil composition.

These Malbecs grow in alluvial and glacial soils, from the Tertiary and Quaternary periods, with rolled pebbles or flint. They have different depths and unique characteristics; such is the case of the type of soil in Añelo, Neuquén known as "cemento indio" (aboriginal cement), which forces roots to grow horizontally and nurtures them with calcium, contributing to fresher and fruitier wines.

According to Rose, all these distinctive features will allow for a description of the different terroirs in the future; just as it was the case in New Zealand over the last 20 years.

To sum up, Anthony Rose highlighted the quality of Argentine wines, the permanent evolution of the wine industry, and the efforts made by winemakers and agronomists on terroir development.