This week sees us take a deep dive into the world of Argentinian General List and Vintages Essentials wines, and I have to say that we were pleasantly surprised to discover some pretty damn good wines for the money.
What with everyone watching their wine budgets in these uncertain times, it appears that the Argentinians are offering more value than ever.
Please note that all but one of the following wines are on LTO (Limited Time Offer) from the 19th of July until the 15th of August.
2018 Los Cardos “Doña Paula” Sauvignon Blanc, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 12.5%, Residual Sugar 2 g/L) LCBO $11.95 – limited time offer $9.95 (750ml bottle)
A brand-new addition to the LCBO GL, and a certified sustainable and vegan-friendly one at that. This wine is produced from 100% estate-grown fruit sourced from vineyards over 1,000 metres above sea level, and it certainly packs an aromatically pungent Sauvignon punch (coupled with some intriguing reductive complexities). It’s sufficiently crisp and vibrant enough to carry all that ripe Sauvignon fruit, and ends up delivering an extremely pleasant and lingering mineral-like finish.
2019 Zaphy “Organic” Chardonnay 2019, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 13%, Residual Sugar 3 g/L) LCBO $11.95 (750ml bottle)
Another new addition to the LCBO GL, but unfortunately the only one of these wines not on LTO (limited time offer), this certified organic Chardonnay offers a decent quaff lot for its modest $11.95 price tag. Entirely unoaked, this Chardonnay has an interesting bouquet of green figs, green apple, and herbaceous notes, which wouldn’t usually push me towards identifying it as a Chardonnay. It’s certainly made in a leaner style, with decidedly firm acidity, and a clean, taut finish; probably more suited to matching lighter foods than as a solo sipper.
2019 Argento “Selección” Pinot Grigio, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 4 g/L) LCBO $11.50 – limited time offer $10.00 (750ml bottle)
Another certified sustainable and vegan-friendly offering, that happens to be Ontario’s best selling Argentine Pinot Grigio, and in a way I can understand why. This bottling is certainly clean, neutral and winery-crafted, leading to a simple take on the NE Italian style of Pinot Grigio, but one that certainly has its charms for the average consumer’s palate. Apart from a touch of reduction, the nose is stone fruit-driven, with hints of subtle florality.
2018 Graffigna Pinot Grigio, San Juan & Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 13%, Residual Sugar 6 g/L) LCBO $12.95 – limited time offer $10.95 (750ml bottle)
While not being a textural example of Pinot Grigio, there is much to enjoy in this wine, with generous aromatics of pear and green mango, alongside some subtle orchard blossom nuances. The palate, although not complex, has a ripe attack, and is crisp and full of an just-under ripe peach vibrancy. The wine ends with a medium length persistence on the back of the palate.
2018 Fuzion “Organic” Chardonnay/Torrontés, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 13.9%, Residual Sugar 3 g/L) LCBO $13.00 – limited time offer $11.00 (750ml bottle)
Although I have been known to run a proverbial mile from wines with even a hint of Torrontés perfume, I found this offering rather alluring. The nose was rich and ripe, with loads of dripping peach and apricot aromatics, something that carries on to a ripe hit right on the very front of the palate. It wasn’t cloying by any means, as there was some delightful Granny Smith crispness that really lifted the fruit core. Having possibly overlooked this label in previous years, I plan to check in with it every so often in the future after this experience.
2018 Kaiken “Especial” Malbec, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 14.5%, Residual Sugar 6 g/L) Vintages Essentials $15.95 – limited time offer $13.95 (750ml bottle)
Probably one of my biggest surprises out of this lineup, I was pleasantly surprised to see a wine with such elegance and structure at this price point; figure in the limited time offer price, and this is an absolute steal. Produced by Chile’s acclaimed Aurelio Montes, this offering exhibits wild berry fruits on the bouquet (read: blackberries, brambles and wild strawberries) as well as a warm whiff of wood spice. It’s full-bodied in the mouth, but extremely well-structured, the smooth chocolatey tannins bringing so much pleasure before a very satisfying finish.
2017 Catena Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 5 g/L) Vintages Essentials $19.95 – limited time offer $17.95 (750ml bottle)
A perennial favourite of mine, and a wine that I feel consistently punches well above its weight. Sourced from high mountain vines, Catena’s Malbec exhibits many qualities that are absent in other bottlings at this price. It’s always set a pretty high benchmark quality-wise for other wines of this region, and this vintage certainly doesn’t disappoint. The nose and palate are both jam-packed with ripe black berry fruits, with nuances of mocha, very subtle anise, violets, and warm cooking spices hiding within the bouquet. Looking back on my tasting notes I have often found blueberries, but less so in this vintage. Supporting all that dark fruit is some lovely fresh acidity, and some assertive (but smooth) dry tannins, both giving the wine a structure than is rarely seen in a $20 bottling. Given all that combined ripeness and freshness, I always enjoy this wine with summer nights and grilled red meats… although I’ve been known to enjoy this by the fire in the colder months also.
2018 Santa Julia “Reserva” Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 14%, Residual Sugar 2 g/L) LCBO $14.05 – limited time off $12.05 (750ml bottle)
The aromatics that I find most appealing on Malbecs tend to be those more floral nuances, and this Suckling-acclaimed bottling certainly has a very pleasant floral aspect to it. It’s made in a medium-bodied style, but certainly isn’t lacking in the fruit department, with loads of black plums, blackberries, and crunchy black cherries filling the glass, as well as some notes of espresso bean, cocoa powder, and vanilla bean. It’s certainly juicy on the palate, with some black raspberry-like acidity in there, as well as some sweet, ripe tannins. All in all, an impressive package for the money.
2018 Alamos Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 13%, Residual Sugar 4 g/L) LCBO $16.00 – limited time offer $14.00 (750ml bottle)
This Alamos offering gets off to a strong start, but unfortunately stumbles and falls before the finish line. While this Malbec has an interesting nose (fleshy and just-jammy black berry fruits, coffee, as well as some woodsmoke), the palate seems a little hollow and lacking on the mid-section. The tannins are rather dry and rough upon the finish, makin the wine appear a little out out of kilter.
2018 Masi Tupungato “Passo Doble Organic”, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 14%, Residual Sugar 2 g/L) LCBO $15.00 – limited time offer $13.00 (750ml bottle)
This organic and vegan -friendly bottling from Masi Tupungato is a bit of an outlier in that it contains 15% semi-dried Corvina as a nod to the Venetian appassimento process; this addition brings an unmistakable richness and depth to the wine. The nose is beautifully fragrant and floral, with a core of black fruits peppered with clove and tobacco. The tannins are taut and quite astringent, which confusingly sits at odds with the ripe fruit characteristics present on the medium-bodied palate.
2018 Callia Alta Cabernet Sauvignon, Tulum Valley, San Juan, Argentina (Alcohol 13%, Residual Sugar 6 g/L) LCBO $10.00 – limited time offer $9.00 (750ml bottle)
Of all the wines tasted in this lineup, I feel that this simple very Cabernet Sauvignon would be my choice as a great accompaniment for burgers, due to its pleasurable but straightforward black fruit profile and its inherent juiciness. While not an overly complex wine, it delivers a fair bit of fruity enjoyment for the buck, and pours best with just a little chill on the bottle.
2019 Trapiche “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 5 g/L) LCBO $12.95 – limited time offer $11.45 (750ml bottle)
This Trapiche Reserve is made in a slightly bigger, bolder style that will appeal to those who enjoy shedloads of ripe fruit in their wine. In the glass you’ll find an explosion of slightly jammy cassis and ripe black berry fruits, with some interesting spice and herbal notes. There’s a lot of ripe fruit on the palate too, but this is tempered somewhat by medium acidity and soft, pliable tannins.
2017 La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipú, Mendoza, Argentina (Alcohol 14%, Residual Sugar 5 g/L) LCBO $16.00 – limited time offer $14.50 (750ml bottle)
A very impressive Cabernet for $16, and even more so at the limited time offer price of $14.50. I had to return to this one a number of times, as the wine’s development and evolution in the glass kept me coming back for more. The nose is all about juicy raspberry and crunchy blackcurrants, with some rather pleasant wood spice and vanilla from élevage in 50/50 French/American cooperage. The palate exhibits impressive structure with crisp acids and beautifully smooth tannins. An excellently savoury/pontefract cake finish completes the picture.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he discovered some rather good wines there.