Pretty winery, pretty wines

By Celia Strong

Just so you know, the name of our winery this week actually translates to “pretty winery.” It’s nice to think about, and, of course, tasting the wines is nice to think about too. We’re in Argentina this week. For three wines — a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chardonnay and a Malbec. (We can’t do Argentina without doing a Malbec.) But, as you’ll see, all three are really good and different from others we’ve tried.

As more and more wines become available from this country, more styles of more grapes become available. When you think about it, the expanding availability of any region’s or country’s wines opens all kinds of doors for those of us willing to explore them (that means taste and drink). Lucky us!

The Arizu family is responsible for our wines this week. In 1901, Leoncio Arizu founded Bodega Luigi Bosca. Currently, the third and fourth generations are managing the winery. This makes them one of the few in Argentina that is still owned and operated by the founding family. This long record makes Luigi Bosca a paradigm in Argentina’s wine industry. Closely tied to their land and their vines, they have worked for more than 110 years to make wines that are true expressions of Argentina and their grape varieties. (It seems that most wineries and winemakers follow this direction also, but few are as true to their sources as this bodega.) Four generations have concentrated on global expansion, a reputation based on expertise passed down from one generation to the next, sustained quality in all their wines and the perpetual search for excellence through innovation and state-of-the-art technology. In the world of super premium Argentine wines, Bodega Luigi Bosca is a leader. In particular, in the last 15 years, they have offered wines that express the essence of Mendoza terroir and people and traditions. Every day for this family is a blend of their past and their future, always changing and always moving forward.

In the region of Mendoza, Luigi Bosca owns seven wine farms. “Finca” is a Spanish word that means property, estate or farm. Or, more loosely, it can mean winery. One of these seven is La Linda. And what does “la linda” mean in Spanish?  The pretty one. So our wines this week, labeled Finca La Linda, come from the pretty winery. The climate at Finca La Linda is similar to that of the other six farms. Chilly evenings in the spring, warm days and cool nights during the summer, early frosts in the fall and harsh winters make for a particular micro-climate, well suited to wine grape growing.

The Vistalba Valley, where La Linda is located, has soil with alluvial deposits of white and red clay and fairly steep slopes which give the vines excellent drainage. You might remember, way back at some point, we talked about organic growing in our country’s vineyards. At Luigi Bosca,  the biodynamics of lunar cycles are used for some versions of some grapes, like Malbec. Planting when the moon is waning helps to strengthen a vine’s roots. And harvesting when the moon is waxing yields better fruit. And, vines never grow alone in a vineyard at this bodega. Olive trees and chestnut trees keep them company. Finca La Linda is located at about 1,000 meters elevation. Some experts claim this land was once covered by sea water.  (Yikes, a really high tide!)

The different varieties of grapes planted at La Linda, and the other six farms, came from Europe at the end of the 19th century. Today, the varieties chosen for each farm are the result of years of learning which grapes made the best wines where. Over time, there was much inter-mixing of clones, all leading to sturdier and more distinctly Argentine grapes. These wines are now exported to over 50 countries, about 60 percent of their total production. That leaves them with a strong presence in their home country too.  And, if you’re lucky enough to fly on the right airlines, you can enjoy Luigi Bosca wines.

And, now, let’s talk wine. For a change, let’s go in reverse alphabetical order. That means Malbec, which makes sense because it is Argentina’s wine of renown. As we said a bit earlier, as more and more Malbecs find their way to us, it is fun not only to notice there are real differences between them, but that we really like some better than others.  The Finca La Linda Malbec is 100 percent Malbec, from several of the Bosca farms. The vineyards are 30 years old.  Grapes are hand picked, de-stemmed and picked over, and fermented in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. Remember, cool fermentations bring us lots more fruit flavors in our glasses. Then, the wine is barrel aged for a few months. We get a medium-bodied, smooth-textured wine with plum, dark berry flavors, chocolate (more like cocoa powder to me), and light smoke notes. This wine will go with beef, or course, but it’s also great with game birds and duck, seafood and so much more.

The Finca La Linda Chardonnay is a surprise all around. No oak!  Again, it is from 30-year-old vineyards and 100 percent its variety. After careful selection and de-stemming, these grapes are chilled for four hours before pressing and cool fermented with selected yeasts. It has intensely fruity aromas (green apple, white peach, pear) and long lingering flavors on our mouth. The acidity is crisp but not biting. I suspect, for some of us, we have just found our new favorite sipping white wine.

Last, but not least, the Finca La Linda Cabernet Sauvignon. Like our first two wines, this is also one hundred percent Cab, from thirty year old vineyards, hand picked, de-stemmed and cool fermented in stainless steel tanks.  Like the Malbec, it is aged in barrels for three months. Blackberries, black pepper and mulberries lead the list of flavors here, and, my favorite, a hint of baking spices.  Soft in your mouth in the beginning, moderate tannins do show up. Also a red meat wine, I think this is a good wine with much more. Like Sunday afternoon while it gets dark outside?  Yes, perfect.

So, there we are. Three pretty wines from the pretty winery. And pretty easy to enjoy pretty often. Each of them is $10.99, a pretty good price. The only problem is how much wine it will take us to keep ourselves pretty happy and feeling pretty good. Enjoy.

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