Wine Patterns: Rustic Industrial vs. Boutique Spoofulates

Apologies & greetings from Mendoza-- 'tomorrow' took a whole week & over a thousand kilometers to arrive at this page.
Even now, as I write courtesy of Azafrán's Wi-Fi linkage, I'm looking at sinking my teeth into a cheese & smoked meat sampler board before I cut to the chase & share a few quick'n'dirty tasting notes...

One day later by now...I tried to backtrack to include some thoughts on some of the more 'International Style' offerings journalist & sommelier Andrés Scola brought to a dinner I cooked at the Rosario home of Luis Paz, my friend 'Bati's Dad, but I took no tasting notes & got stuck reaching back into my faulty sense-memory bank...


I seem to have a hard time 'cutting to the chase'...by now it's Monday the 17th of December & I'm regretting not having stuck to my original plan of writing my drafts by hand & inputting at whatever public Internet access I could find-- no lack of 'Cybers', as they're referrred to in Argentina. Have spent most of last week learning my way around Windows XP. 'Nuff said.

Another big regret was not being able to link up with Andrés Loszowycz, based in Rosario & renting space to make his wines. He has planted-- or replanted or possibly grafted-- some of the family vineyards in San Juan to Petit Verdot & Cabernet Franc, among other varietals.

The first wine opened at the start of the evening alluded to just above was his bottling of Petit Verdot commemorating the 10th aniversary of the founding of 'La Sociedad de Honorables Enófilos': its' medium body lightened in the midpalate, but there were some nice, minimally spoofulated tannins that brought up an unusual aftertaste mix of dark berry & black olive for a lingering, puckery finish.

Other offerings from the Society's wine club were less successful to this palate: for example, a Tempranillo from Salta, better known for its headily perfumed Torrontés whites, was dense, cooked black cherry fruit that fell off like a disoriented hiker in one of the dramatic canyons that Cafayate, the heart of Salta wine production, is also known for.

Right around the corner from Luis Paz's house I found a little shop dedicated to artisanal wine & food products, & we opened my purchase of a Bonarda made by Vittorio Longo in the province of Catamarca. Andrés Scola, with his sommelier training, thought it was atypical of the variety (--but what about allowing for a different expression of the grape related to 'terroir'??) --and detected a bit of sulphurous reduction, musing on the likelihood that there'd been a (bacterial?) problem during the settling & maturing period, traditionally done in epoxy-sealed cement deposits, with extra sulfites added too close to bottling time. I got a good whiff of burnt match myself, but thought the olive-leaf & black olive notes asserting themselves both in nose & mouth above pleasant if vague black fruit character warranted maybe trying a second bottle-- & adding Catamarca to my list of under-the-radar wine production areas to watch.

I also enjoyed another couple of interesting examples of the rough & rustic Argentinian wine tradition that survives in industrialized form to supply an economy product aimed strictly at the local consumer. First off, we're talking the equivalent of two to four bucks at current exchange rates! Peculiarly, traditional containers for retail have gone from five-liter demijohns ('damajuanas') which you still find for the really inexpensive stuff, to a very soft-shouldered Burgundy-style bottle with a 700 ml capacity.
I had a red wine labeled 'Carcasonne' which opened up nicely with Grenache-like light rose petal & jasmine tea accents over a couple of days. This wine is one of the traditional economy offerings
of Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón (--actually bottled under the sub-label 'Los Vinos de Escorihuela': you'll notice that particular wine is not listed in the 'export-focused' website's product listing linked to above--) which became part of the burgeoning Catena family wine empire in 1993. I visited the winery & enjoyed the elegant & formal but surprisingly warm, relaxed & attentive service at Francis Mallman's '1884' restaurant on the premises, so I may have to dedicate a separate posting to sundry insights derived from my visits...
The second wine I had was a great deal more surprising. It was a honey-colored white with pinkish, salmon glints, labeled as 'Parnaso', from 'Bodega M71343, Viñas de Alvear, SA'.
I've agonized over the fragile pleasures of iffy white wines before-- here, & more recently & coherently, here.
This particular iteration was definitely oxidized, but in the pleasantest way: sherry-like, with burnt orange peel & some blossom in the nose, green olive acidity & lightly bitter orange on the tongue. Only thing lacking was the bit of nutty oiliness which fattens the midpalate & may be what the solera method brings out...

It'll be a month tomorrow since my flight touched ground outside Buenos Aires & there is so much more to tell & write...I'll just say I expect to be heading just out of town tomorrow to the neighboring hamlet of Maipú to spend a couple of evenings lodged at Bodega Cecchin, pioneering organic producers in the area, who make a lovely Carignane, & just took a chance on making their first sulfite-free Malbec...stay tuned!