Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Non-Tollerman Argentina

On this visit we became intrigued to find out what the Portenos drink for their everyday wines. Visiting a branch of Carrefour

- the French supermarket chain that is even bigger than Tesco - we clocked the fact that many of the most prominent wineries (such as Michel Torino of our favourite Don David range) also produce wines for the low end of the market. These tasted no better than their prices ( 7 - 11 Pesos or £1 - £2 a bottle) would have led one to expect. The only exception here was Etchard's excellent Torrontes on sale for 11.5 Pesos which was rather good.

Eleswhere there were dodgy brands such as San Felipe's '12 Uvas' which makes the astonishing claim to be the only wine in Argentina to consist of

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Bonarda, Sangiovese, Barbera d'Asti (sic), Pinot noir, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Chenin.

(they might have said the whole world and been pretty sure they were safe in doing so). Apparently these brands have been going for a long time and have their faithful public.

We had also found a 'genuine' Argentinean Chianti,

lots of "Champagnes" also grown in Argentina. We knew about the "Borgognas" and the "Beaujolais" of Bianchi from our previous visit. Surprisingly generic Tinto or Blanco served as restaurant house wines were not as bad as these bottom end supermarket wines so a certain amount of choice is obviously available and some wines are better than others. Interesting to us was the fact that the Cabernet Sauvignons stood up better than the Malbecs, Tempranillos and Syrahs at this end of the market.

Trawling through the better wine shops such as The Winery (a chain) and Ligier,

we found an 11.5% Valle de Uco Sauvignon Blanc at 11.5% by O. Fournier for only 40 Pesos (£6.66)

which was as refreshing as any wine could be. O. Fournier is of course one of the greatest producers in Argentina but they refuse to send their wines to 'Vinas, Bodegas & Vinos de Argentina' for some reason which is obviously a crippling blow to this publication. It is a pity that we didn't find any other good guide to Argentinean wine while we were there.

The Winery is a pleasant chain with knowledgeable staff, a welcoming seating area and surprisingly high standard of shopfitting which one encounters everywhere in this cash-strapped country.They have the usual range and were not able to think of much when asked about any rarities or out of the ordinary stuff. Strange because we found this sparkling Bonarda from Alma 4 which looked interesting given that we had not encounteresd such a thing elsewhere.

At the airport we bought a bottle of Rutini’s ‘Trumpeter’ Mendoza Petit Verdot, a Bodegas Bianchi Nebbiolo and a Corte Friulano ‘Gran Lurton’ which is actually a blend of Sauvignon Vert, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Torrontes). There was also a bottle of Yacochuya red bearing the signature of Michel Rolland but no sign of alcohol content. We looked in vain for Cruzat Larrain.

Tollerman says this is the benchmark of Argentinean Espumante. According to Winesearcher Pro, this is not yet available outside Argentina. The winery itself seems only to have been established in 2004. A pity the airport doedn't recognise this yet.

Well, another reason to return to Argentina - in case we needed one.

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