Argovino may be only eight months old, but those eight months were enough to taste some truly fabulous wines. In the past we've shared some of our greatest value selections, but this week we want to highlight pure quality. For us, these wines reached the pinnacle of drinking satisfaction on several levels: looks, aroma, flavor, and overall enjoyment of sip after sip. In some cases, less expensive bottles beat out their pricey counterparts. But here, money is no object - we only want the best. We fully expect you to disagree with some of our choices - if we've missed a great wine, please let us know!
Malbec. Of course, we have to start with Malbec, and the favorite from our tastings in 2013 was the Vina Alicia Brote Negro 2007 (95 points). Alicia Arizu (pictured here), from the family that owns Luigi Bosca, created this and several other excellent and unusual wines as a side project. Even the less successful ones are always interesting, but this one brings malbec to a new level. Our runner-up is the Bramare Marchiori Vineyard Malbec 2010 (94 points), from an exceptional plot of land that we'll discuss more below.
Cabernet Sauvignon. Hubert Weber knows cabernet. He's responsible for our top wine, the Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (95 points), as the label's longtime winemaker. And he also made our runner-up, his own Hubert Weber Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (92 points). These wines have a refined Old World style that slowly reveals layer after layer of aroma and flavor. Can you plunk a Swiss guy down in Argentina's wine country and end up with the smells of a Levantine market? Yes you can.
Red blend. We had a five-way tie in points for red blends this year, so it's hard to pick one winner. But if we use value for money as a tie-breaker, there's no contest: it's the Norton Privada 2009 (93 points). It's hard to imagine a richer, deeper wine for just $16. Not far behind is the Casarena Reserva Sinergy 2011 (93 points), for only $20. The wine offers extremely concentrated flavor now and is likely to keep improving.
Torrontes. So far, Argentina's great white grape hasn't reached the same heights as its reds. But we still had four wines of outstanding quality that deserve more than just a quick quaff on a hot day. For value, the Pascual Toso Torrontes 2010 (90 points) is the champion - it's $10 and boasts mature flavors that would make French whites blush. Next in line is the Recuerdo Torrontes 2012 (90 points), from an American-Argentine venture that uses grapes from their original home in the province of La Rioja.
Chardonnay. We've never had an Argentine chardonnay quite like the Bramare Marchiori Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 (92 points). It has just enough oak to evoke some truly varied and exotic flavors, but not so much that it turns into a California-style vanilla bomb. Truly, the small plot that Andrea Marchiori's family contributed to her enterprise with husband Luis Barraud and Paul Hobbs offers some of the choicest terroir in Mendoza. Its chardonnay and malbec may be the best one-two punch in all of Argentine wine. A close second to the Marchiori chardonnay was the Joffre e Hijas Grand Chardonnay 2009 (91 points), a graceful wine whose age has added some rare darker notes to the floral bouquet.
Sparkling. Argentina's best sparkling wines rarely make it to American store shelves, but a couple strong entrants have finally made the trip. We've enjoyed the Familia Schroeder Deseado Torrontes NV (89 points) for years - it's a sweeter wine, best as an aperitif or and after-dinner treat, but with mellow flavors that always make us smile. The runner-up Bianchi Extra Brut NV (88 points) is made via the traditional method, with tangy flavors and tiny bubbles to change any skeptic's mind.
These wines tell just one tiny part of the incredible wine odyssey that we've enjoyed over the past eight months. We hope you'll join us as we taste, savor, and review even more wines this year! Salud!