Maipú Malbec

First introduced to South America by French Agronomist Miguel Pouget in the 1850’s, Argentina’s signature Malbec grape has gone through numerous cycles of being in and out of commercial favour. For most of the 20th-century, Argentinean winemakers were focused on outputting vast volumes of bulk wine for local consumption, and Malbec was often just used to bolster the colour and body of these low-grade blends. Following from generations of experience, the adapted cultivars of the Malbec grape gradually revealed their potential for yielding premium grades of varietal wine that was suitable for a highly competitive international marketplace. From it transplanted roots in the French Cahors region to thriving in now famed Mendoza, the hearty, thick-skinned variety has endured–becoming a go-to favourite for lovers of big-bodied, highly characterful red wine.

Centred in the city of Maipú at the foot of the iconic Andean mountains, Bodega Trapiche is no Argentinean upstart as it received its first international award in Paris in 1889. From its modest beginnings in 1883 as a small plot called El Trapiche, the winery has consistently been an innovative force in developing Argentina’s wine industry. It even built a railway link to the capital, Buenos Aires, to better ensure the timely delivery of wine to market. Building on these successes, Trapiche now oversees 1,255 hectares of vineyards and works collaboratively with 300 other local growers. It’s also managed to become a leading South American influence on applying biodynamic farming practices that aim to preserve the natural balance of both the fruit crops and their surrounding ecosystems. In gradually eliminating the use of chemicals, herbicides and fungicides, the strategy is desirable for both ecological sustainability and the payoff of producing wines that are more representative of the regional terroir. And, so it does!

For this week’s DéClassé recommended bottling of Trapiche Medalla Malbec 2014, the grapes are selectively sourced from vineyards in the higher elevations of the Uco Valley–a sub-region that’s particularly conducive to cultivating fulsome yet still fresh versions of this wine style. If you are already a Malbec fan, then you’re unlikely to find a more over-achieving bottle at this modest price-point. If it’s time to top up your longer-term cellar stock on a budget, then this addition will become even more rounded over the coming 2–5yrs. If you’re incapable of waiting, then fully decant an hour or so in advance of enjoying. I doubt you’ll be refilling much of it back into the bottle.

TRAPICHE MEDALLA MALBEC 2014
Vintages/LCBO – Product #547869 | 750 mL bottle
Price $17.00
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Mendoza, Argentina
By: Grupo Penaflor Sa
Release Date: September 1, 2018

Tasting Note
Along with its deep ruby colour, this wine has heady aromas and flavours of plum and blackberry fruits. Also, expect many of the classic Malbec spice and vanilla notes and a hint of smoky toast in among reasonably smooth tannins. Try serving with grilled meats, hearty stews, maple-roasted squash, spicy empanadas or mushroom risotto.

Mendoza Tinto

Historically inspiring this bottling’s brand name, La Posta del Viñotero is a typical sort of wine tavern in Mendoza where the local growers congregate to sample the results of their harvest labours–while passionately exchanging opinions and insights into their working of soils, vine stock and wine styles. La Posta is also the Italian name for Post Office. Unsurprisingly, these became vital gathering places for many of the millions of Italians who immigrated to Argentina in the 19th and 20th century.

Fruit for this week’s DéClassé recommended offering is drawn from a collection of 3,000 foot, high-altitude vineyards in La Consulta, Rivadavia, Vista Flores and Altamira. The narrow band of alluvial soils in this renowned and prolific wine-producing province are ideally suited for the cultivation of Argentina’s signature Malbec grape. The growing conditions are an apparent agricultural contradiction whereby some of the most characterful wines are being extracted from mature, 30-year-old vine stock thriving in near-inhospitable geography. Just to the east is barren desert; to the west is the so-called ‘rain shadow’ created by the nearby chain of majestic Andean peaks.

Malbec is a thick-skinned grape variety that was first introduced to South America in the 1850’s by Frenchman Miguel Pouget, and has evolved through several cycles of being in and out of commercial favour. The spiced and fresh fruit elements that his variety lent to traditional Bordeaux blends have become calling cards for Argentinean Malbec–now often shining alone, on its own merits in varietal bottling form.

This opaque, purple-red blend is made up of 60% Malbec with 25% parts of Bonarda and 15% Syrah. It’s an inexpensive, well-made, fun, easy drinking wine intended to be enjoyed young. Barrel-aged for 10 months in second-use oak, it has sufficient depth for those who prefer more weight and mouthfeel in their reds. For palettes that lean toward bright, brambly fruit flavours, it has much to offer as well. Try this ‘summer red’ on the slightly cooler side of serving temperature.

LA POSTA TINTO 2016
VINTAGES/LCBO – Product #555789 | 750 mL bottle
Price $14.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Mendoza, Argentina
By: Puerto Ancona S.A.
Release Date: August 4, 2018

Tasting Note
La Posta has many of the typical Malbec aromas and flavour profiles of raspberry and cassis with some hints of cocoa and mocha, albeit on the slightly-muted side of the scale. An ample dose of fresh acidity lends balance to this fruit-driven blend. Try it as every day, apéritif wine or with herbed roast chicken, lamb, beef and grilled vegetables.

Mendoza Chardonnay

Long before its rising reputation as one of Argentina’s premier winemaking sub-regions, Luján de Cuyo already had an established history of being a garden for the indigenous Incan and Huarpe Peoples. In the centuries ahead of Spanish and Italian immigration, the clever and resourceful native populations were able to harvest a bounty of squash, corn, beans, and quinoa by developing irrigation dams and canals fed by the Mendoza River system; gradually transforming the landscape they called Araucanian cuyum puulli (‘sandy land’ or ’desert country‘). Eventually, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the mineral rich soils and long dry days blessed with a plethora of sun and a respite of cool nights combined as some of the most desirable conditions for cultivating grapevine, anywhere.
In the modern age, in large part due to a prolific output of the greater Mendoza region, Argentina has evolved into the wine world’s 5th largest producer!

susana-balbo-vineyard

Other evolutionary development has also occurred among Argentina’s vintners as they continually incorporate outside expertise (particularly French and Italian) with their own, significant cadre of home-grown talent. Since becoming the first Argentinean female to earn an Oenology degree in the early still-male-dominated 1980’s, Susana Balbo honed her wine craft at the renowned Catena and Zapata Bodegas before the 1999 launch of her own; made up of a wide-ranging portfolio that includes BenMarco, Susana Balbo, Nosotros, and Crios. With a 35-year focus on developing varietal whites, her continuing accomplishments include the informal anointment as the Queen of Torrontés, a third term as the President of Wines of Argentina’, and summarily maturing into one of the most influential, new-age winemaking ambassadors, at home and globally – felicitación.

As evidenced in this week’s DéClassé featured bottle of Crios Chardonnay 2014, self-described as a youthful ‘everyday’ wine, the emphasis is on freshness and a palatable finesse in the finishing; in the ‘Susana Balbo way’. With an over-oaked Chardonnay style now a vestige of past winemaking practice elsewhere, here in this recipe only 30% of the vintage sees a brief aging in barrel before blending with the majority that’s been stored in Stainless Steel tanks. The result is a crisp and balanced style that still features the acidic brightness, herbal accents and tropical fruit notes of the Chardonnay grapes; more so than the creamy vanilla tones that typically develop in fully oaked versions. At this price, it’s hard to imagine a better buy to make your summer ‘everydays’ special!

Crios

CRIOS CHARDONNAY 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #243196 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 13.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Mendoza, Argentina
By: Susana Balbo
Release Date: June 11, 2016

Tasting Note
This pale golden/yellow and medium-bodied white has an abundance of tropical fruit aromas and flavours. Serve with canapés of goat cheese/roasted pistachio, lightly curried vegetable pasties and pickled yellow cherry peppers, or with mains of apple and sausage stuffed chicken breast and lemon buttered asparagus.

Malbec Blend Alert

Inspiring this bottling’s name, La Posta del Viñotero is a wine tavern in Mendoza
where local wine growers would historically congregate to sample the results of
their harvested labours, while passionately exchanging opinions and insights into
their working of soils, vines and wine styles. La Posta is also the Italian name for
Post Office. For many of the millions of Italians who immigrated to Argentina in
the 19th and 20th century, it became a key gathering place to socialize.

Fruit for this week’s DéClassé recommended offering is drawn from a collection
of 3,000 foot, high altitude vineyards in La Consulta, Rivadavia, Vista Flores and
Altamira. The narrow band of alluvial soils, in this now renowned and prolific wine
producing province, are ideally suited for the cultivation of Argentina’s signature
Malbec grape. The growing conditions are an apparent agricultural contradiction
whereby some of the most characterful wines are being extracted from mature,
30 year-old vine stock thriving in near-inhospitable geography. Just to the east is
infertile desert; to the west, is the so-called ‘rain shadow’ created by the nearby
chain of majestic Andean peaks.

This thick-skinned grape variety, which was first introduced to South America in
the 1850’s by Frenchman Miguel Pouget, has evolved through several cycles of
being in and out of commercial favour. The spiced and fresh fruit elements that
this variety lent to traditional Bordeaux blends, have become calling cards for
Argentinean Malbec, shining alone, on its own merits in varietal bottling form.

This opaque, purple red blend is made up of 60% Malbec with equal, 20% parts
of Bonarda and Syrah. It’s well-made, fun, easy drinking wine intended to be
enjoyed young. Aged for 14 months in oak, it has sufficient depth for those who
prefer bigger weight and mouth feel in their reds. For palettes that lean toward
brambly fruit flavours, this has loads to offer as well. Try it on the slightly cooler
side of serving temperature.

La Posta

LA POSTA TINTO 2013
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #269860 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 12.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Mendoza, Argentina
By: Puerto Ancona S.A.
Release Date: Dec. 13, 2014

Tasting Note
Has many of the typical Malbec aromas and flavour profiles including raspberry
and cassis with some hints of cocoa and mocha. A fair amount of fresh acidity
lends balance to this fruit-driven red. Try this as an everyday, apéritif wine or with
herbed roast chicken, lamb, beef and grilled vegetables.

Bonarda Alert

By now, most wine consumers are aware of the success in the transplantation
of Malbec from its roots in the French Cahors region, to thriving in the relative
new world surroundings of Argentina. Less well-known is the intriguing story of
the Bonarda grape: the region’s second-most planted variety. Currently, debate
and uncertainty continues to swirl about its origin with some expert speculation
suggesting that its parent vine stock is Bonarda Piemontese or Novarese from
Italy. Others propose that it’s the French grape Corbeau in disguise, which is now
nearly commercially extinct in its native, sub-alpine region of Savoie. What does
seem somewhat more certain, in a cross-cultural farming legacy with so many
twists and turns, is that it was imported to South America by Italian immigrants
who are credited with the further development of the vineyards first established
by Spanish missionary priests, then improved on by French botanists – and now
being very innovatively overseen by visionary, homegrown talent!

Launched in 2000, the ‘VinEcol’ winery project set out to join the leading-edge of
the organic wine-making scene that has quickly developed both in Chile and here
in Argentina’s famed Mendoza region. Arguably, these wine-making regions enjoy
unique geographic and climatic attributes such as high altitude and low humidity
which guard against many of the scourges and susceptibilities suffered by grape
vines elsewhere such mold, fungus and insects. This reality has made transition
to organic practices much less complicated, though no-less admirable a pursuit.

Desirably situated at the edge of the Ñacuñan Biosphere Reserve in the district
of La Paz, the bodega’s 80 hectares of trellised vineyard excel in an unspoiled
and almost pollution-free environment. Some challenges exist though, in what is
essentially a near-desert environment created and perpetuated by being in the
‘rain-shadow’ of the Andes range. The upside to this is the relative abundance of
melt water from the mountains, which feeds the Mendoza River and then in turn,
gets distributed throughout the dusty plain – offering growers the option of drip
and/or surface (flood) irrigation.

As the ‘organic’ farming movement is still in its early years, there are numerous
outstanding questions regarding the impact of these regimes and philosophy on
quality and flavor. In the case of this week’s DéClassé recommended bottling of
VinEcol Bonarda, the questions are moot; this is simply great wine being offered
at a remarkably modest price-point. Dare to try it ever-so-slightly chilled as your
new, go-to summer red. Better buy a bunch before it’s gone until next year!

Vinecol Bonarda

VINECOL ORGANIC BONARDA 2013
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #375493 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
14.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Mendoza, Argentina
By: Winery Vinecol Sa
Release Date: Jun 21, 2014

Tasting Note
This rich, ink-coloured and pleasingly rustic wine has loads of dark berry fruit,
chocolate and a touch of spice. Try serving with grilled meats, roasted veggies,
or as an apéritif with slightly more assertive cheese such as Pecorino.

Malbec Alert

Centered in the town of Maipú, at the foot of the majestic Andean mountains
Trapiche is no Argentinean upstart; having received its first international award
in Paris in 1889. From its modest beginnings as a small plot called El Trapiche,
the winery now oversees over 1,255 hectares of vineyards, as well as, working
collaboratively with over 300 local growers. It is also a leading South American
influence in actively pursuing Biodynamic farming practices. Aiming to preserve
the natural balance of both the fruit crops and surrounding ecosystems, they
have gradually eliminated use of chemicals, herbicides and fungicides. This is not
only a pure form of ecological agriculture, but also intends to produce wines that
are more representative of terroir through a less-invasive manner of production.

Cultivation of Argentina’s signature Malbec grape, a hearty, thick-skinned variety
first introduced in the 1850’s by Frenchman Miguel Pouget has gone through
many cycles of being in and out of commercial favour. From the transplantation
from its roots in the French Cahors region to thriving in new world surroundings
in the now famed Mendoza region, this week’s DéClassé recommended, varietal
bottling is 100% Malbec. Harvested from mature, 25 yr.-old vine stock, this is an
example of the Broquel (‘shield’ in Spanish) tier of wines, that are single vineyard
selections from within the estate aged for 15 months in a combination of 100%
new French and American oak barrels.

For bigger-bodied red wine lovers, you’re unlikely to find a more over-achieving
bottle at such a humble price-point. Time to stock up your cellar on a budget
– as this will continue to become even more rounded over the coming 2–5yrs.
If you’re incapable of waiting, then decant an hour or so in advance of enjoying.

Trapiche Broqel

TRAPICHE BROQUEL MALBEC
LCBO Product #234385 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 12.95
Limited Time Offer
Was: $ 14.95
Until May 25, 2014
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Mendoza, Argentina
By: Penaflor/Trapiche

Tasting Note
This wine with its deep ruby hues gives off heady aromas of red and black fruit.
Also expect classic notes of spice, vanilla and fairly smooth tannins – though
this is still a young wine. Try serving with grilled red meats, hearty stews, pastas,
maple-roasted squash 
or mushroom risotto.