Category Archives: Argentina

Bodegas Caro, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec “Aruma” 2018

($15, Taub Family Selections):  This Malbec is an unusual wine for Bodegas Caro, a collaboration between Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and Nicolas Catena, two stars in the wine world.  It is unusual because they pride themselves on combining two winemaking cultures, Bordeaux and Argentina, and their two respective grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, but there’s no Cab in this.  Ideas evolve and it’s perhaps not surprising that they would produce a 100 percent Malbec since that grape is emblematic of Argentina.  (As an aside, Lafite had Malbec planted in their vineyards in the 19th century.)  The 2018 Aruma focuses on ripe, dark fruit with soft tannins balanced by good acidity.  It may lack the wonderful complexity of Bodegas Caro’s Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec blend, but it’s hard to find stylish, ready-to-drink Malbec at this price.
88 Michael Apstein Oct 27, 2020

Finca Mangato, Tupungato (Mendoza, Argentina) “Estela Perinetti” 2016

($55, Seaview Imports):  The name of the wine, Estela Perinetti, is also the name of the owner and winemaker at Finca Mangato.  She is one of Argentina’s first female winemakers and viticulturists, according to the Finca Mangato website.  She should know a thing or two about making wine in Argentina since, according to her biographical sketch, she worked with the Catena family, one of, if not the country’s leading wine family, for two decades.  This, their flagship wine, is a big, bold blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Malbec wrapped with silky supple tannins.  Powerful and concentrated, it thankfully avoids going over the top.  Suave structure and bright acidity make it perfect to accompany hearty meat from the grill this summer.
90 Michael Apstein Jun 16, 2020

Bodegas Caro, Mendoza (Argentina) “CARO” 2016

($60, Taub Family Selections):  It should come as no surprise that a collaboration, now about two decades old, between two of the greatest names in wine should produce a fabulous wine. Bodegas Caro is a joint effort of Domaines Barons de (Lafite) Rothschild and Nicolas Catena, one of Argentina’s leading wine producers.  Comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (83%) and Malbec, CARO is the winery’s flagship.  As a curiosity, Malbec, Argentina’s signature red grape, had been planted at Lafite in the past, but did not thrive and was replaced with Merlot, according to Cyril Ray’s, Lafite: The Story of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild  [Christie’s Wine Publications].   It’s a stunning wine, powerful yet graceful.  The initial impact is plummy fruit-driven flavors, perhaps the Malbec speaking.  Fortunately, within 30 minutes, the palate is flooded as all the notes pitch in making a glorious fruity/savory mix, which continues to change and evolve as it sits in the glass.  A delightfully bitter finish reminds you this is not a fruit-bomb, but serious stuff.  Its modest 13.5 percent stated alcohol is also a powerful argument that you don’t need super ripe grapes to produced grand wine.  Beautifully textured — after all, Lafite is involved — making it easy to enjoy now.  However, the way it blossomed in the glass suggests to me that you will be amply rewarded by cellaring for a few years.
95 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2020

Dominio del Plata, Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina) “Ben Marco Expresivo” 2016

($35, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  Though the producer according to the label is Dominio del Plata, the important name is that of Susana Balbo, one of Argentina’s top producers.  In this wine, she has fashioned an attractive blend of Malbec (75%) and Cabernet Franc. A big and bold wine, to be sure — Malbec speaking — it is not over the top.   The Cabernet France adds alluring savory and herbal elements to the deep ripe fruit character than Malbec is known for.  Polished tannins allow for current consumption and make it an especially good choice for hefty beef dishes this winter.  Since the wine is impressive on its own, the unnecessary heavy bottle contradicts the winery’s commitment, as stated on its website, “…in our packaging by reducing the weight of our bottles to decrease our contribution to carbon footprint.”  
91 Michael ApsteinJan 29, 2019

Susana Balbo, Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina) “Brioso” Single Vineyard Red Wine 2016

 ($45, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  A plummy and polished Bordeaux-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (53%), Cabernet Franc (24%), Malbec (16%), and Petit Verdot, Balbo’s Brioso is fruit-focused, yet balanced by enough acidity to keep it fresh and lively.  A suave texture adds to its appeal.  Despite a modest 13.5 percent stated-alcohol, it still has a hint of sweetness in the finish.  As with her Ben Marco Expresivo, the wine’s stature speaks for itself and does not need the heavy bottle, which contradicts Balbo’s commitment as stated on the winery’s website, “…in our packaging by reducing the weight of our bottles to decrease our contribution to carbon footprint.”  
92 Michael ApsteinJan 29, 2019

Susana Balbo, Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina) Signature “Brioso” White Blend 2017

 ($24, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  Susana Balbo has fashioned a captivating ying-yang of a white wine.  Floral and seductively aromatic, it delivers a hint of sweetness that is balanced perfectly with bracing acidity.   The overall impression is that of a clean, fresh and lively wine.  It would do well as a stand-alone aperitif or be a fine match for spicy Asian fare.  
89 Michael ApsteinJan 15, 2019

Bodega Catena Zapata, Uco Valley (Mendoza, Argentina) Malbec La Consulta 2015

($25, The Winebow Group):  The Malbec from La Consulta could redefine the image of wine made from that grape.  Not just big and ripe, this Malbec is lively and racy with appealing smoky nuances.  Though it displays Malbec’s smooth tannins, it is far fresher compared to Lunlunta.  Not ponderous, it handles its power well.  The La Consulta vineyard is higher — 3,600 feet — compared to Lulunta’s 2,800 feet, but the yield from the two vineyards is vastly different, so it’s hard to know precisely why the wines differ so much.  But what is clear and fascinating is that this pair demonstrate Malbec’s spectrum and that where you grow the grapes does matter.
92 Michael Apstein May 8, 2018

Bodega Catena Zapata, Maipu (Mendoza, Argentina) Malbec Lunlunta 2015

($25, The Winebow Group):  Catena, as the producer is usually known, is one of Argentina’s top producers.  They have always championed vineyards planted at high elevations, believing that the cooler temperature and the character of the sunshine make the wines distinctive.  They’ve just introduced two Malbecs from two different areas into the U.S. market.  This one, Lunlunta, comes from a vineyard planted lower down — but still at 2,800 feet elevation is not exactly ground-level — compared to La Consulta (also reviewed this week).  It’s a big, ripe, plush wine with soft tannins and is strikingly different from La Consulta. Tasted side by side, which I suggest you do with a group of friends, it’s a dramatic example that place matter.
88 Michael Apstein May 8, 2018

Alamos, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec 2015

($13): Malbec has achieved popularity in this country because it can produce a big juicy red wine with mild or little tannic structure.  The 2015 Malbec from Alamos fits that profile perfectly.  Soft and fruity, it’s ideal for people searching for an inexpensive big red to have either before dinner or with hearty fare.

86 Michael Apstein Oct 4, 2016

Bodegas Septima, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec “Obra” 2014

($25, Aveníu Brands): Obra, the reserve wine of Bodegas Septima, is a cut above the usual Malbec both in taste and in price.   Good acidity and vibrancy balances its thick and juicy profile without being aggressive or harsh.  This big red wine would be a good choice for robust grilled meats this fall.

88 Michael Apstein Aug 30, 2016

Bodega Benegas, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec “Ataliva” 2015

($13, Montcalm Wine Imports): Like so many Malbecs, this one is a big red wine, weighing in at a stated 14.5% alcohol, but unlike many, it doesn’t finish sweet.  There’s enough structure to balance the fruit and ripeness and subtle earthy elements lend a welcome savory aspect.  It’s far more sophisticated, balanced and interesting than its price suggests.  Drink it this summer with burgers on the grill.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2016

Malbec That Makes You Think

Subtlety and Malbec are two words rarely used in the same sentence.  Malbec, at least from Argentina, usually produces a big, ripe, jammy monotonic red wine with little structure or finesse.  But then, along came Count Patrick d’Aulan and his team at Alta Vista in Argentina and, later, at Altamana in Chile.  Together, they have shown that New World Malbec can convey both subtlety and a sense of place. Continue reading Malbec That Makes You Think

Finca el Origen, Cafayate (Salta, Argentina) Torrontes Reserva 2014

($11): Just as Malbec is Argentina’s signature red grape and wine, Torrontés, is becoming that country’s signature white.  Very floral, with even a glimmer of honeysuckle, Finca el Origen’s represents one end of the Torrontés style spectrum.  Analogous to many Muscat, it’s a bit deceptive because, while the aromas suggest that sweetness will follow, it doesn’t.  Though this one is not an electrifying as many, its roundness makes it a good choice for sitting around the pool or to accompany highly seasoned or spicy fare.
87 Michael Apstein Aug 25, 2015

Bodega Septima, Luján de Cuyo (Mendoza, Argentina) Malbec 2014

($14, Aveniu Brands): This big red wine has considerable polish, in part, no doubt, because Codorníu Argentina, a subsidiary of the great Spanish wine-producing firm, owns Bodega Septima.  This juicy wine manages concentration without going over the edge.  The tannins are mild, especially considering the overall size of the wine, which means it’s very approachable now and would be a good choice for grilled beef this summer.
88 Michael Apstein Aug 4, 2015

Susana Balbo, Argentina () Torrontes “Crios” 2014

($15, Vine Connections): Malbec is Argentina’s signature red grape, while Torrontés is that country’s signature white. Fresh and floral with hints of white flowers and snappy acidity, Susana Balbo’s 2014 Torrontés is bottled springtime.  The barest hint of sweetness in the finish makes it perfect as a poolside aperitif or to accompany spiced summer salads.
90 Michael Apstein Jul 14, 2015

Susana Balbo, Mendoza (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

($25, Vine Connections): Susana Balbo is a leading Argentine producer — and this well-priced Cabernet Sauvignon confirms it.  It has a bit of everything — great aromatics, a hint of minerals, and black fruit flavors — but it’s all in check.  It’s a wine meant for drinking, not just tasting, because the flavors expand with time as it sits in the glass.  It’s the kind of wine you start out thinking is fine, and all of a sudden, an hour later, it’s really grand.  It’s a perfect choice for grilled meat this summer.
91 Michael Apstein Jul 14, 2015

Argento, Mendoza (Argentina) Pinot Grigio 2013

($13, Blends Inc.): To their credit, winemakers throughout Argentina are experimenting with a plethora of grape varieties to see which actually work in their unique climate.  It seems that Pinot Grigio, at least this one, works.  A floral impression in the clean, bright and refreshing wine allows you to enjoy it either as an evening aperitif this summer or with linguine and clam sauce this summer. It delivers more than you’d expect for the price.
87 Michael Apstein Jun 30, 2015

Nieto Senetiner, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec “Camila” 2013

($10, Foley Family Wines): Full disclosure, Malbec is not my favorite wine because all too often I find it overblown and just too big.  So imagine my surprise when I ran across this one.  It’s refined — not a word commonly used to describe Malbec — with a lovely texture and freshness.  Not heavy-handed, it is an extraordinary value and a perfect choice for beef tonight.
88 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2015

Nieto Senetiner, Mendoza (Argentina) Bonardo 2012

($13, Foley Family Wines): Bonarda may, indeed, rival Malbec for Argentina’s top red grape.  This extraordinary value example shows why.  A hearty red with even a hint of tarriness, this Bonarda has polished tannins, making it a great choice for robust beef dish now.  Similar to Nieto Senetiner’s other wines, it’s not overdone.  This easy-to-recommend wine provides a lot of enjoyment for the price.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2015

Nieto Senetiner, Valle de Cafayate (Salta, Argentina) Torrontés 2013

($11, Foley Family Wines): Torrontés, Argentina’s signature white grape, is gaining in popularity as consumers realize the zingy wine, such as this one, it can produce and, at a bargain price.  Fresh, clean and zippy, Nieto Senetiner’s curiously has a whiff of mintiness that lends roundness, which actually allows consumer to enjoy it as a stand-alone aperitif.  Its best use, however, is to offset spicy Asian fare or a pork loin in a mustard cream sauce.
88 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2015

Nieto Senetiner, Mendoza (Argentina) Pinot Noir 2013

($13, Foley Family Wines): Pinot Noir is not likely to replace Malbec as Argentina’s signature red grape, but this wine will still get your attention. Thankfully, not overworked, this Pinot Noir is fruity and fresh.  To their credit, Nieto Senetiner is keeping it simple with this bright Pinot Noir, not trying to make a bargain-priced wine into something “important.”  Try it with burgers.
86 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2015

Achaval Ferrer, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec 2013

($25, Stoli Group USA): To my mind, Malbec is an overrated grape often producing a heavy monotonous red wine.  Thankfully, Achaval Ferrer’s is neither.   It’s certainly a robust meaty wine, but vibrant acidity keeps it fresh and imparts life.  There’s plenty of plumy black fruit — which does make for engaging pairing with charcoal grilled beef — but it’s a black cherry-like tartness in the finish that brings you back for another glass.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 12, 2014

Achaval Ferrer, Mendoza (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

($25, Stoli Group USA): Achaval Ferrer produces an easy-to-recommend Malbec and this Cabernet Sauvignon shows they are more than a one-horse show.  Their Cabernet has the same energy and acidity of their Malbec, but, as a plus in my mind, more herbal savory notes — even a touch of green olive.  All of this is wrapped in supporting tannins.  In short, it has more going on.  Another good choice for beef on the grill.
91 Michael Apstein Aug 12, 2014

Gascón, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec 2012

($15, Gascon USA): Gascón’s Malbecs have gotten more interesting over the years.  Years ago, when they first made their appearance on these shores, I dismissed them as big simple red wines.  The current version, the 2012, is still big, but simplicity has been replaced by an intriguing floral character, subtle dark cherry-like notes and even an appealing hint of bitterness in the finish.  Plush tannins remain, as does the bargain price.  It’s an excellent choice for hearty fare.
88 Michael Apstein Mar 11, 2014

Tomero, Mendoza (Argentina) Torrontés 2012

($17, Blends Inc.): Torrontés, Argentina’s signature white grape, with its lightness and delicacy, is at the opposite end of the spectrum from that country’s emblematic red grape, Malbec.  Honeysuckle, but without the sweetness, springs to mind after one whiff and taste of Tomero’s 2012 Torrontés.  Vibrant and bright, it’s another no-brainer when having sushi.
88 Michael Apstein Dec 31, 2013

Bodega DiamAndes, Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina) “Perlita” 2011

($13, Henry Wine Group): This “entry level” wine from DiamAndes, a Malbec (80%) Syrah blend is a good choice for this summer’s BBQs. The additional of Syrah to the blend and the talents of the winemaking team means this is not another “fruit bomb” Malbec. It’s a gutsy wine that’s restrained and not overworked. Everything–juicy fruitiness, a bit of spice, and supple tannins–fits. There’s a lovely, “not just fruit” component that holds your interest throughout the meal. This is an extraordinary value!
88 Michael Apstein Jun 25, 2013

Bodega DiamAndes, Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina) Malbec 2010

($20, Henry Wine Group): The Bonnie family who owns the Cru Classé Graves property, Château Malartic-Lagravière, have shown, with their project in Argentina, that their talents are not limited to Bordeaux. Their Argentine wines are a unique and stunning combination of New World fruitiness and Old World structure. This one, a marvelous blend of Malbec (90%) and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot, is big and juicy, but not overdone. The addition of other varietals to Malbec, even in small amounts, increases the complexity enormously. Nicely balanced, oak aging adds a touch of elegance without being overt and dominating. Moderate tannins are in keeping with the wine’s robust style and means it’s far better suited for the dinner table than as an aperitif. Bring on the beef.
91 Michael Apstein Jun 25, 2013

Susana Balbo, Mendoza (Argentina) “Crios Rosé of Malbec” 2012

($15, Vine Connections): Susana Balbo is one of Argentina’s best and most reliable producers.  Her wines are a fine place to start when exploring Argentine wines because she stratifies them into at least two levels based on quality.  The Crios label is the lower one and consistently offers a good price/quality ratio.  Full disclosure:  I don’t love Malbec because I often find it one-dimensional.  But I find this rosé charming with enough red fruit notes and structure to be both refreshing and substantial.  Stock up for summer.
87 Michael Apstein Mar 12, 2013

Susana Balbo, Mendoza (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

($27, Vine Connections): Susana Balbo, one of Argentina great winemakers, has put together an easy-to-recommend wine by blending a small amount of Malbec (10%) with the Cabernet Sauvignon.  Malbec adds an extra dimension to this fruit-forward weighty wine whose supple tannins allow for current consumption.  Powerful, but not overdone, it is a good foil for grilled meats.
90 Michael Apstein Mar 5, 2013

Alamos, Mendoza (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

($10, Alamos USA):  Argentina has become the place to find solid wines that deliver more than the price suggests. And here’s another one of them. One of the finest ten dollar Cabernets I have tasted, it delivers ripe, yet not sweet, fruit surrounded by suave tannins. A hint of the non-fruit nuances for which Cabernet is known peeks out and adds complexity. Consumers would do well to stock up on this balanced gem.
87 Michael Apstein Jan 29, 2013

Alamos, Salta (Argentina) Torrontés 2011

($13, Alamos USA):  Despite representing only about 10 percent of Argentina’s white wine vineyards, Torrontés is rapidly becoming that country’s signature white wine grape.  In Alamos’s current rendition, floral, Muscat-like aromas leap from the glass.  Bright acidity prevents the ever so slight hint of sweetness from turning cloying and adds overall balance.  Here’s a lovely sipping-by-the pool kind of wine. 87 Michael Apstein Aug 21, 2012

Cheval des Andes, Mendoza (Argentina) 2007

($73, Moët Hennessey USA):  The result of a joint project between Chateau Cheval Blanc in St. Emilion and Argentina’s Terrazas de los Andes, the Cheval des Andes erases any idea that Argentina cannot produce great wines.  The winemaking team led by Nicolas Audebert has put together a marvelous combination of dark fruit and mineral-like flavors all wrapped in velvety-like tannins.  It’s a blend of roughly half and half Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon although there is a small amount of the other three Bordeaux varieties, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, planted in the vineyard.  According to Audebert, the Malbec brings a plush/lush fruit character while Cabernet Sauvignon gives it structure.   It’s a wonderfully classy wine whose finely honed tannins makes it actually approachable now, especially with robust fare such as short ribs or a steak.  But it’s beautifully balanced, so I suspect it will reward cellaring and will evolve in a magnificent fashion. 95 Michael Apstein Mar 20, 2012

Bodegas François Lurton, Valle de Uco (Mendoza, Argentina) Torrontés 2011

($11, Vintus Imports):  Since 1988, Jacques and François Lurton, sons of André Lurton, the patriarch of one of Bordeaux’s most important families, have established wineries outside of Bordeaux and have become one of the leading producers in Argentina.  Torrontés, Argentina’s signature white grape, is under appreciated and deserves the popularity that Malbec has.  Lurton’s Torrontés startles the senses because it smells sweet, but is dry.  The Muscat-like floral notes suggest sweetness, but its riveting acidity makes it dry.  It works equally well as a stand-alone aperitif as it does with spiced Spanish or Asian cuisine.  A great value. 87 Michael Apstein Jan 24, 2012

Colomé Estate, Calchaqui Valley (Salta, Argentina) Malbec 2009

($25):  The Colomé website notes their vineyards are at an elevation between 2,300 and 3,111 meters (7,544 and 10,204 feet), the highest in the world.  The elevation moderates what would be otherwise scorching heat and allows the grapes to hold their acidity, which translates into a fresh and lively wine.  Indeed, this big (14.5 percent stated alcohol) red wine, a blend of primarily Malbec (85%) and Tannat (8%) delivers plenty of punch, but has balancing vivacity, a real virtue for a wine of this size.  The decision to include other grapes adds a complexity–even some subtle cocoa notes–lacking in many Malbec.  It’s an excellent choice for a hearty wintertime stew. 88 Michael Apstein Jan 24, 2012

Terrazas de los Andes, Mendoza (Argentina) Chardonnay Reserva 2010

($18, Moët Hennessey USA):  Terrazas de los Andes, a subsidiary of Moët & Chandon, is dedicated to still wines.  Vineyards in Argentina, such as the ones belonging to Terrazas de los Andes, are frequently planted at high altitude to take advantage of nocturnal cooling which preserves acidity in grapes and freshness in wines.  The elevation of the vineyards helps explain the clean and bright signature of this Chardonnay.  The subtle melon and apply notes speak clearly and convey plenty of enjoyment because the wine is neither oaky nor over ripe.  It’s a Chardonnay with class.
88 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2012

Bodega Elena de Mendoza, Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec 2010

($11, Wine Brokers Unlimited):  Malbec is all the rage these days.  Most, especially at this price, are just overdone big red wines.  This one, in contrast, with a stated alcohol of 13.8%, is certainly fruity and bold, but not over the top and actually has complexity with layers of flavors.  Supple tannins make it easy to enjoy now with a steak.  An excellent buy. 87 Michael Apstein Nov 8, 2011

Bodega Elena, Mendoza (Argentina) Chardonnay 2010

($11, Wine Brokers Unlimited):  It’s always refreshing to find a Chardonnay at this price that is worth recommending.  A touch of Sauvignon Blanc in the blend might account for its lighter, more vivid signature.  Whatever the reason, it’s a fine choice when ordering “a glass of Chardonnay” or you need something less expensive for a large crowd. 85 Michael Apstein Nov 1, 2011

Crios, Mendoza (Argentina) Torrontes 2011

($15, Vine Connections):  Susana Balbo, owner of the Dominio del Plata winery (aka Crios), must be one of Argentina’s best winemakers.  With the 2011 vintage, she handed the pipette to her son, José Lovaglio, who, judging by this wine, is every bit as talented.  This Torrontés, Argentina’s signature white grape, is a wonderful sensory contradiction.  Its Muscat-like aromas make you think it will be sweet.  But the crisp dry citrus signature tells you it’s most definitely not.  It’s a beguiling contrast that works equally well as an aperitif-type wine or with pork dishes. 88 Michael Apstein Nov 1, 2011