Six of the best wines from Argentina

Although home to the popular Malbec, there are so much more to Argentinian wines than their most famous export
Six of the best wines from Argentina
Argentina loves its wine, so much so it is considered a food, not a drink there. 

An Argentina focus this week, a country that Ireland has a huge affinity with given our equal love of conversation, drinking and dancing. I should also mention beef which they make (nearly!) as well as we do here in Ireland, but in addition to excellent grass fed beef they also make a wine that could be said to match it better than any other - Malbec. If you don’t believe me ask any butcher in Ireland, I have yet to meet one that did not want to talk to me about the joys of Malbec.

Buenos Aires is a wonderful food city and it is no accident that it is the second largest city for wine consumption in the world after Paris. Wine is considered a food not a drink there - there was a time when a pint of plain had the same status in Cork and Dublin. If anyone tasted Francis Mallmann’s amazing slow-cooked barbecue at LitFest in Ballymaloe in 2016 they will have an idea of why I love Argentina so much.

There is much more to Argentinian wine than Malbec these days but there is no doubt that they have taken what was a relatively obscure rather rustic grape grown in South-West France and turned it into a global superstar. Many have tried but no country can match Argentinian Malbec for complexity and sheer star quality.

Argentina does not have many coastal vineyards so if they need cooler temperatures for Pinot Noir or Sauvignon they go up the mountains. Grapes grown at altitude (and there are lots of very high vineyards) are often the most interesting in Argentina. The warm days ripen the grapes and cool night temperatures preserve fruit and acidity and increase the terpenes (aroma/flavour molecules) and polyphenols in the grapes, thickening the skins and adding flavour and complexity.

Ireland imports only 2% of its wine from Argentina but that figure is growing. Mostly we buy Malbec but Argentina also grows good Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and some unique grapes including Torrontés and Bonarda. Bonarda is Argentina’s second grape and deserves to be better known as it ripens easier and has generous fruits. Last week I was singing the praises of Colomé Bonarda (€26 and I also recommend Bonardas from Alta Vista (Mitchell & Son €22), Kaiken (€19 Independents) and most others. Final tip: if you spot no-name Bonarda under €10 it is usually a more reliable bet than random Malbec.

Wines Under €15

Michel Torino Reserva Malbec, Salta, Argentina - €13.99

Stockist: JJ O’Driscolls, Ardkeen, Martins, No. 21, Independents.

Michel Torino is a solid entry level Malbec producer as is their slightly higher end Don David brand (€16-€18). Based in the far northerly Salta region near the town of Cafayette their vines are grown at significant altitude. Bright juicy and fruity with some decent structure and complexity and lingering smoky touches. Watch for the intriguing Don David Tannat.

Aldi Exquisite Collection Malbec, Uco Valley, Argentina - €7.99

Stockist: Aldi

The Uco Valley is considered part of the Mendoza wine region although it is an hour south of the city and could be considered a region unto itself given its scale with a number of high altitude vineyards in Andean foothills. This has good typicity with lightly smoky black plums aromas and soft juicy fruit but also a lightness of touch and some freshness on the finish.

Roca Malbec Merlot, Mendoza, Argentina - €12.75

Stockist: Wines Direct Arnotts and Mullingar -

Grown by a family estate in Mendoza (and imported by family run Wines Direct), this is a bargain and has nice depth and richness for the price - the addition of Merlot softening out some of the edges - Blackberry and blackcurrant fruits with a spicy edge. Wines Direct have a nice selection from Argentina, watch for the Crios range from winemaker Susana Balbo (see Torrontés below).

Wines Over €15

Claroscura Cabernet Franc, Mendoza, Argentina - €17.55

Stockist: The Wine House Howth

The Wine House in Howth have an interesting mix of wines exclusive to them - they are linked in with a quality Belgian importer so have a bit of clout. From a husband and wife team in the Uco, fermented in concrete eggs, crunchy red fruit flavours, hints of Cab Franc’s leafy touches under the ripe fruits - warm and satisfying and supremely drinkable.

Fabre Montmayour Grand Vin Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina - €45.00

Stockist: Whelehan Wines

Yes this costs a little more but I tasted the 2011 recently without knowing the price and expected it to cost double. This is simply gorgeous and is easily the best wine I’ve tasted in 2020 so far - layers of violet scented complex red and black fruits, supple velvety black fruits on the palate balanced by integrated tannins and subtle use of oak. Treat yourself.

Crios Torrontés 2019, Argentina - €16.70

Stockist: Wines Direct Arnotts and Mullingar -

Torrontés is a big pulpy grape that can make flabby wines but thanks to the hugely respected winemaker Susanna Balbo this is changing. She led the way by picking earlier, reducing skin contact and growing at altitude (avg. 1700 metres). This is delicious - floral muscat aromas but bristling and crisp on the palate with green apple freshness and lime zest perfect for seafood or say creamy pasta dishes.

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