Barullo – Argentinean Wine
Forty Argentinian wine producers turned up in London this week to promote BARULLO – a celebration of food, wine, art and music in a dusty warehouse in trendy Hoxton in East London. The uncomfortable seating and the balancing of glass and plastic plates didn’t detract from the delicious tit-bits of food produced by Mauro Colagreco and his team who run a two Michelin star Argentinian restaurant in Menton in the Côte d’Azure in France and was brought over specially for the event. Nor did it detract from the quality of the wines on display from Argentina’s “most revolutionary producers” (as they say) although many of them have been long in the tooth established in the UK market.
There were certainly some big players there – Trapiche, who produce 30 million litres of wine each year and other giants such as Bodegas Bianchi, Rutini, Norton, Nieto Sentiner, Alamos, Catena and Argento, each producing in excess of 7 million litres.
I decided to focus on the little guys and found three producers making 100,000 litres or less just to see how beautiful small really is. It’s no surprise then that two of the three are biodynamic/organic, promoting the extra care and attention they give to their vines and winemaking procedures.
Bodegas Krontiras was the first 100% certified biodynamic project in Mendoza and apart from the ubiquitous Malbec produces biodynamic Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Aglianico. The Doña Silvana Aglanico 2014 is decidedly a New World version of the varietal in the same sense that Argentinian Malbec has taken all the rough edges off its European counterpart. Maybe this will become the new trendy Argentinian wine. It was certainly a lot smoother than many of the Italian ones that I have tasted and the 12 months in oak assisted with the roundness of the wine. 3 stars. The blend (70% Merlot/30% Aglianico) is just a step up in smoothness. 3.5 stars. Fresh Malbec 2015 is unoaked and perhaps a little hollow. 2.5 stars. The regular Malbec 2014, 12 months in oak certainly has more body. 3 stars. Malbec Reserva 2009 is in a quite different league, with real complexity and a long finish. 4 stars. Finally, a Malbec Rosado 2015 is fresh and fruity without any overt sweetness on the finish. 2 stars
Angulo Innocenti is a small family vineyard making wine only in 2010 from vines planted in 2004. Located in the Uco Valley in Medoza, the two “Nonni” entry level wines , Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec 2014 are perfectly quaffable wines although the Malbec is a bit leafy. 2.5 stars for the Cab. Sauv. and 2 stars for the Malbec are perhaps just a little bit pricey at £15. Better value, for only £3 more are the wines under the Angulo Innocenti label. Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 has much more depth and the Malbec 2014 is a bit of a blockbuster although in both cases only half the wine has been in oak for just 7/8 months. 3.5 stars each. Top of their range is Unisono 2013 – 66% Malbec, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Cabernet Franc – 18 months in oak and a step up again in complexity and fullness. 4 stars. £25.
Alpamanta wine is both biodynamic and organic and are also making some unfiltered ‘Natural” wines. The Breva Sauvignon Blanc 2015 whilst looking like a smoothie in the bottle, nevertheless has good varietal flavours and a balanced long finish. Oak aged for 4 months. 3 stars £14.95. By comparison, the Terroir Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (which I suppose you might call “unnatural”?) was equally impressive if a little bit more angular. Oak aged for 12 months. 3 stars. The unoaked Natal Malbec 2015 was subtle with some body, whilst the Estate Malbec 2013, 12 months in oak, was rounded and smooth. Both 4 star wines £19.95 and good value for the quality. Just a little behind in quality, 3.5 stars, came the Estate Cabernet Franc 2014. A little disappointing however, was the Terroir Malbec 2012, presumably the tête de cuvée wine of the Estate, but this was somewhat leafy and a little astringent. 2 stars.
All in all, Argentinian wines promote a good price/quality ratio and at the lower end they are excellent restaurant wines. But as these three boutique wineries show, wines can be produced at a high standard without costing the earth.