From July 3 to 30, B.C. Liquor Stores are partnering with Wines of Argentina on a “thematic”—which is, basically, industry jargon for the country’s wines being highlighted in most government liquor stores, with a few of them being offered at a buck or two off.
Wines of Argentina sent me a case as a little preview of what will be in the spotlight, and I thought to offer my take on them to assist you in wading through the store shelves.
This week’s column doesn’t comprise a full case; unfortunately, one of the wines suffered from cork taint, which renews my call for affordable wines (from everywhere) to be secured under screw cap. Sure, it’s less romantic than pulling a cork, but I can tell you that a wine that reeked and tasted of wet cardboard wasn’t exactly charming either. Screw caps don’t guarantee an untainted wine, but they sure make flaws a lot less likely. Onward.
El Esteco 2015 Cuma Organic Torrontes
(Calchaqui Valley; $12.49)
The Torrontes grape is Argentina’s own and the high-altitude Calchaqui Valley in the north is quite dependable for high-quality takes on the grape. Crisp and lovely, this is quite the appealing, summery white, shimmering with flavours of litchi and white peach, with a hint of grapefruit pith adding great texture. It is $1 off during the thematic.
Graffigna Centenario 2015 Pinot Grigio
(San Juan; $12.79)
An abundance of yellow fruit and floral notes on the nose leads to tropical elements like papaya and young pineapple on the palate. A solid, medium-weight Grigio perfect for casual lunchtime fare like Cobb salads or clubhouse sandwiches.
Alamos 2014 Chardonnay
I’m rather smitten by the subtle oak integration here, where a light, toasty character wafts out of the glass, then cradles a whole bunch of orchard fruit like apples, pears, and maybe a peach or two towards the end.
Pascual Toso 2014 Malbec
Smoky cherry fruit all the way through from start to finish, punctuated by a handful of blackcurrants and Concord grapes, with a pinch of pepper on the end. A good Malbec for those who find the grape too heavy or rich at times, it drinks more like a medium-weight Pinot Noir.
Domaine Bousquet 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon
The Bousquet family hails from the south of France and has been working on French-inspired organic wine in Argentina since 1990. This Cabernet Sauvignon has leathery, earthy, tobacco characteristics on the nose, then blooms on the palate with blueberry, dark cherry, and raspberries. Soft tannins, a touch of minerality, and good acid make it well balanced. The lighter side of Cab.
El Esteco Don David 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
(Calchaqui Valley; $13.99)
Black fruit, rosemary, and green bell pepper come darting out of the glass, with the bell pepper element rising to the surface in the first few sips. A little bitter and astringent. Meh. It is also $1 off during the thematic.
Finca Las Moras 2014 Reserva Tannat
(San Juan; $12.99)
Oh, how I love the Tannat grape. Granted, it’s a rarity to see it in our market, but do rush out and nab this excellent value of a wine, chock-full of sticky black fruit, Kalamata olive, anise, well-appointed grippy tannins, and an all-around meatiness, making it a chewy, delicious gem.
Escorihuela 1884 2014 Estate Grown Malbec
Harvested by hand and aged for eight months in 70 percent French and 30 percent American oak—the effort put into this wine is admirable, considering the quite accessible price. The lifted aromas of licorice-y black fruit, basil, and mint are quite intoxicating, while dusty cocoa and espresso notes on the palate drink ’em all up.
Casa Bianchi 2015 Finca Los Primos Malbec
(San Rafael; $12.99)
Blackcurrant, blackberry, black pepper. A little lacking in acid on the palate, fairly simple and one-dimensional, but otherwise an easy one to quaff. I dunno, it just kinda bores me.
Doña Paula 2015 Los Cardos Malbec
Blackberry jam, fresh potting soil, and a little thyme jump out right away. That jammy character floods the palate, with an undeniably purple-grapey finish. Juicy, with a spark of heat on the finish. Another one at $1 off during the thematic.
Valle Las Acequias 2011 Malbec
On the label, it actually says “Malbec Oak 2011”, which gives you a strong hint that this is a big boy. It certainly is, but with five (!) years of age on it, that oak and quite concentrated fruit dovetail really well. The purple and black fruit are starting to evolve into some amiable savoury or almost umami notes; some sun-dried tomatoes and fresh-carved-roast-beef characteristics bring complexity. Great food wine. Great value, especially when it’s $2 off during the thematic.