We at Argovino recently came back from a few days in Buenos Aires, where we had a chance to taste some of the excellent wines that haven't yet arrived on these shores. One of our sources is always Victor Nastasi, the owner of the outstanding wine shop Autre Monde in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood. Victor is supremely knowledgeable about Argentine wine, and he came up with some great selections for us.
We were heading to a barbecue with friends, so we wanted red wines that were good for indoor and outdoor drinking, with forward flavors and plenty of depth. Together with Victor, we came up with a fantastic selection that all our friends enjoyed. Here they are, in the order we drank them:
Bodega Atamisque Serbal Assemblage 2012. The Monceau family came from France to make wine from the splendid terroir of San Jose, Tupungato in the Uco Valley. This unoaked blend of 50% cabernet franc, 25% merlot, and 25% malbec would find itself somewhere between Bordeaux and the Loire Valley in France, if it found itself there at all. In truth, it's a unique Argentine creation with all of the power and fruit of cabernet franc and malbec, plus the darker notes and finesse of merlot. The blend is so well balanced that you don't miss the oak at all.
El Sensacional Equilibrista Malbec 2011. Juan Ubaldini is the right-hand man at Monteviejo of Marcelo Pelleriti, the famed winemaker who also works with Chateau Le Gay and Chateau La Violette in Pomerol. In producing "The Sensational Tightrope Walker", Juan does indeed tread with incredible agility and delicacy while taking one's breath away with flavor. Made of 90% malbec and 10% merlot, the wine is velvety and yet not soft - the merlot adds structure without getting in the way of the malbec's sweet red plums. Only 250 cases were produced.
Monte Cinco Malbec 2008. The vines of this malbec from Lujan de Cuyo are more than 80 years old, and the grapes retain a distinct and mysterious character. The flavors include chocolate and winter spices, more reminiscent of intense malbecs from Salta, like Yacochuya, than those of other malbecs bottled nearby. This was the most thought-provoking of the wines, with a taste that developed over time rather than showing all of its colors immediately.
Achaval Ferrer Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. Achaval Ferrer is known mostly for its superb malbecs, which have a wiry, intense quality that contrasts with the lush and fruity wines produced elsewhere in Mendoza - rather like supermodels versus Rubenesque nudes. So we were excited to try this cabernet when we chanced upon it at Malbec World Day in New York, and still more eager to try it with food in Buenos Aires. We weren't disappointed. It's deep and rich with black currant yet not heavy nor as acidic as the malbecs, with flashes of mint thrown in.
The photo above shows Victor with our wines, all of which cost less than $25 at current exchange rates. Books are also sold in his shop - you can see them on the table as well - and he often arranges tastings with representatives of top wineries. Next time you're in Buenos Aires, stop by and absorb some of his insights. You'll walk out with some outstanding wine. Salud!