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A World Class Surprise

5 mins read

By Celia Strong

One of the interesting things about different wines is the reputation that comes with them. For example, if we bring up a Cabernet and say it’s from Napa Valley, its reputation and the impression we get of it is set right away. Napa Valley is known for making great Cabernet wines. Same thing if we say something about a Malbec from Argentina. The wine, including where it comes from, gives us expectations and a mindset. (Otherwise, there’d be no reason to worry about where any wine came from!) Suppose, though, we started mixing grapes and sources that aren’t usually joined together, like Cabernet and Argentina. 

Open doors can be dangerous, but fun — and fulfilling. For years now, Chile has had a reputation for great Cabernet wines. Optimal soil, climate and elevation, and similar to Argentina’s conditions. But, as the Argentine wine industry has grown, so has its curiosity with other varieties and the skills and knowledge to make them. Now that their Malbec wines are accepted, and cherished, around the world, maybe their Cabernets can be their next big red.

All the vineyard conditions that work so well for Malbec also work for Cabernet. Remember, both varieties lived and prospered together in Bordeaux. Cabernet grown in Argentina ripens well and delivers great varietal character. These wines have power and elegance and unique qualities from where the grapes are grown — Cafayate in the north where they are leaner, intense and minerally, aromatic and pure fruit bombs; Patagonia in the south where Cabernet wines develop red fruit flavors, an earthiness and nuttiness; and Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley in Mendoza where sun-baked days and cold nights give them intense black currant and ripe red fruits, juicy mouth textures and great aging potential. It seems obvious that Argentine Cabernets are going to prove to be as good as their Malbec cousins. World class wines! 

Ernesto Catena is a fourth-generation winemaker. His uncle, Nicolas, was one of the first and most innovative Malbec producers. Before going into the wine industry, Ernesto was a designer and student of Renaissance humanism. He views his vineyards as sculptures and milieus for artists to create and commune with nature., much the same way the Incas and Mayans designed their cities to be enjoyed by their Gods and let them live with harmony in their world. Ernesto is called “poeta del vino.”

Bodega Siesta en El Tahuan is one tier of Ernesto’s wines. Siesta Cabernet is a single vineyard wine from the Vista Flores vineyard in the Uco Valley in Mendoza. This vineyard is 3,281 feet above sea level. The grapes are harvested at the end of April and cold macerated before fermentation for about 25 days. The wine is aged in oak for 14 months and is 80 percent French and 20 percent American. The barrels are 70 percent new, first-time use and 30 percent second- and third-time use. Only about 3,000 cases — six bottle cases — are made each year. This wine has intense red hues with slight hints of purple in its rim. Its aromas and flavors are black and red fruit (blackberries, black cherries, red cherries, dark plums, black currants) as well as cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa powder, espresso, licorice, red peppers and green olives. An extremely complex wine with an unctuous texture. Juicy, fresh, intense and lingering. While it does have its own Argentine style, this wine can compete with Napa Cabernets at much higher prices — another reason to try Argentina’s upcoming star. Because they are not as well-known, they are still reasonably priced at $30.99. Enjoy.  

Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.

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