By Celia Strong
Life can be so trying sometimes. Unhappy weather, long lines at grocery stores, friends staying too long at your house, beach sand in your carpet – so many things. Yuck! But, thankfully, we can always count on having new wines. Week after week. And, no matter what the ups and downs of everyday life are, there is a sense of security in knowing our new wines will go on. And, too, a sense that these new wines, and all of our old familiar ones, will make it all seems better.
This week, we are going way down south. Back to Argentina, the largest wine producing country in South America. Even though it is the second largest size-wise, it has over 1,000,000 square miles of vineyards. Most of them located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, three quarters of them in the Mendoza region. The combination of vineyards on arid, dessert valley floors and at high altitudes of up to 5,000 feet above sea level gives Argentina their aromatic, intensely flavored wines.
The history of grape growing and winemaking in Argentina dates back to 1534 when two immigrants, Father Cidrón and Juan Juffré, who founded the town of Mendoza, planted the first grapes. Artificial irrigation, necessary for their vines, was already established in the western part of the country. The flow of melting snow and ice coming down the mountains was channeled to where it was needed. In the 19th century, Italian and Spanish immigrants brought better, European techniques and grape varieties. The presence of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot led to much better quality in Argentine wines. In the 1990’s, Argentina became a big, successful wine producer. As we know, Malbec has become their main claim to making great wines. But, as we keep exploring new wines, we can learn that others are just as good. Today, that is our assignment!
Our winery this week is Bodega Luigi Bosca. Founded in 1901 by Don Leoncio Arizu, this is the oldest family-owned winery in the whole country. Today, it is managed by Alberto, Sr. and Alberto, Jr., third and fourth generation Arizu family members. Besides being the oldest winery in Mendoza, Luigi Bosca is also a leader in many other facets of their industry. In 1988, they were responsible for establishing the Lujan de Cuyo Denomination of Origin (DO) appellation. This DO has stricter rules for aging and viticulture. Including wines labeled as DO have to come from vines that are a minimum of 50 years old. Further, Bosca is one of the first to look to improving their wines using biodynamics and biodiversity. Each vineyard’s ecosystem is maintained. Bodega Luigi Bosca makes several tiers of wines, ours today are the Luigi Bosca label. These wines come from the best, estate vineyards.
Having said that Argentine wines have grown beyond their Malbecs, our first wine this week is made from the country’s second most grown red variety – Cabernet Sauvignon. These grapes grow in Bosca’s east-facing El Paraiso vineyard in Lujan de Cuyo. The vines are an average of about 45 years old and grow at just over 2,500 feet above sea level. The soil here is well drained, shallow and a mix of limestone and silt. The grapes are hand-picked and sorted and destemmed when they get to the winery. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at cool temperatures and the wine is aged for 14 months in French and American oak barrels. It is lightly filtered. And delicious. Fresh and fruity and velvety. It has aromas and flavors of black and red fruits (dark cherries, black currants) violets and chocolate. It is full bodied with good structure and goes well with red meats and game, grilled for sure, and hard cheeses. This wine is 100% Cabernet. For $14.97.
Our second wine this week is way less common a variety for Argentina. But only because the big wide wine world hasn’t discovered it yet. It’s the Luigi Bosca Pinot Noir. These grapes, in fact, grow very close to Bosca’s Cabernet grapes, and these Pinot grapes are handled exactly like the other Bosca varieties. But the wines are aged only 12 months in new and second-use French barrels. Milder oaking for a milder wine. Also 100%, this Pinot explodes with flavors and textures. Red cherries, strawberries, cranberries, violets, chocolates, espresso, truffles. Yum! This wine is a perfect blending of Old World and New World style Pinot Noir. Fruit flavors and earthiness. It goes well with seafood and poultry and game birds. And soft cheeses. My thinking is this is a better surprise as we try our new wines, because it can open our eyes to some missed opportunities in Argentine wines. For $14.97.
So, yep, two new wines. And both outstanding. And both a lesson well learned. On we go for another week of hot humidity. But we are now well armed to get through it. Enjoy.