Wines of Argentina are worth your time

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      As a guy who writes, consults, and produces events focusing on wine, I often get asked what’s in my cellar.

      My initial reaction is to smirk and maybe even get a little flushed in the cheeks as I begin to stammer on the reality of my wine-collecting habits. First off, my 500-square-foot apartment doesn’t lend itself to containing anything resembling an actual cellar, but if for some reason you’ve pictured a couple of weathered cardboard boxes in the bottom of a bedroom closet… Well, then you are indeed picturing my “cellar”.

      I’ve previously mentioned in these pages that most of the bottles I hold on to are Rieslings. Part of this is because I love the variety and it ages well, but a bigger part is that many Rieslings that set me back 25 or 30 bucks can actually go the distance, easily five or 10 years.

      Yeah, it’d be nice to put away some nice Bordeaux or Burgundy, but that’s simply not realistic for this Gen-Xer tackling a monthly Vancouver mortgage. I do love the odd opportunity I get to taste a well-aged quality red that’s gone the distance, but those opportunities for me are few and far between, never mind that they’re usually experienced at events where I’m spittin’ ’em out within a few seconds.

      A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to try new wines recently released in our market that are, well, actually old(ish). You can pretty much consider picking them up at local B.C. Liquor Stores as a bit of a wine hack, because they’ve already been cellared and aged for you.

      The wines in question come from Bodega y Cavas de Weinert in Argentina.

      It was in 1975 that German-born Bernardo Weinert followed a business-logistics career in Brazil by buying a winery building in the Luján de Cuyo region in Mendoza. After heavy investment in vineyard management and refurbishing the winery, it was legendary winemaker Raul de la Mota at the helm of the place through 1997, when current winemaker Hubert Weber took the reins, on which he still has a firm grasp to this day.

      Born in Switzerland, Weber attained much of his winemaking chops in Bordeaux. It was in the 1990s that Weber initially tasted a Malbec from Bodega y Cavas de Weinert and was so impressed that when the opportunity came about to do an internship abroad, he set his sights on Argentina, soon ending up in his current position.

      It is the Weinert winemaking style that makes the place unique. Harvested grapes are fermented in concrete, then aged in large French and Slovenian oak barrels for anywhere from 36 to 60 months. No typo, that’s oak ageing of up to five years. Then, once they’re bottled, Weber holds on to the wines until he feels they are starting to hit their stride. Only then are they released.

      Although many are used to wines from Argentina being fruit-forward, ultrajuicy, and maybe a little tannic, these are not only expressions of regional style but also hallmarks of young wines. The current releases from Weinert—and these wines are indeed current releases—are practically of another dimension, one usually afforded only to those maintaining decent cellars.

      Bodega y Cavas de Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Mendoza, Argentina; $32.99—or $30.99 through June 1—B.C. Liquor Stores) has aromas of stewed currants and dates, with distinct elements of pencil shavings and crunchy, autumnal forest floor. On the palate, it’s reminiscent of well-aged left-bank Bordeaux: flecks of anise hit roasted coffee beans, with brandy-macerated cherries, graphite, and a little mocha carrying the medium-length finish.

      Bodega y Cavas de Weinert Malbec 2006 (Mendoza, Argentina; $32.99—or $30.99 through June 1—B.C. Liquor Stores) is an absolute revelation for me. I can’t recall having an Argentine Malbec with this amount of age on it, and I’m outright amazed by where this portal takes us. Balsamic, violets, and fresh-carved roast beef waft out of the glass, then lead to Italian plums, sundried tomatoes, a drop or two of hoisin, and an undercurrent of cardamom all the way through. The tannins are well-integrated, and pitch-perfect acidity keeps everything buoyant. Further sips see more of those meaty elements coming to the surface, along with a tiny bit of fresh-plucked thyme.

      People pay a lot of money and spend a lot of time waiting to be able to enjoy wines that show like this. This is a great opportunity to see where Argentine wines can go.

      One note: once these wines are opened, they evolve a little quicker than younger, fresher wines of the same ilk. Ideal expression will be enjoyed the day you pull the cork. After the first couple of swirls and sips, it should be no problem polishing them off.