2015 and 2016 Viña Cobos “Felino” Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina (14.5% Alcohol) LCBO Vintages $19.95 (750ml)
This new 2016 vintage of the Viña Cobos “Felino” Chardonnay comes in slicker packaging than previous years, and I find the wine itself to be one of the superlative releases I have tasted from this always solid producer. While the 2016 I recently tasted isn’t released until the end of April, there is still some of the rounder 2015 in the system, packaged in a distinctive brown label.
Sourced from semi-desert vineyards located in Luján de Cuyo, Tupungato, and San Carlos, at altitudes of between 3,254 and 3,303 feet, this entry level Chardonnay from famed Winemaker Paul Hobbs heartily overdelivers at under $20. Tasted blind I’d probably think of it as sitting somewhere around the $30 range, such is the wine’s undeniable polish and richness.
Paul Hobbs has a reputation for making or having a hand in many incredibly well-crafted wines the world over (California, Argentina, Armenia, France, Canada, and New York State) and as an introduction to his deft hand with the Chardonnay varietal there is not a more accessible example than the Felino bottling.
Both vintages present superbly in the glass, with the 2015 being a bit more luscious and giving, the 2016 having a touch more nervous acidity, what with it coming from considerably cooler vintage. Aromatically they are very similar, with the 2015 edging out the 2016 slightly with its prominent ripe tropical fruit profile that will certainly appeal to most Chardonnay fans, the 2016 having a much more floral personality.
The restraint on the 2016 coupled with that smashing brisk acidity makes for a very stylish wine indeed. There’s some oak in there, but nothing that in any way detracts from the purity of ripe fruit. A seven month natural primary fermentation and malolactic fermentation add to the already nuanced and complex nose. On the palate the wine has excellent poise coupled with decent weight in the mouth, and an almost silk-like texture. The persistent finish is incredibly satisfying for a wine at this price point.
Tasting the two side by side will prove to be a very interesting exercise.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, and writer Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that’s a steal.