What is a splurge-worthy wine?
It seems that one reason many people are attracted to wine from the Spanish-speaking world--Chile, Argentina, Spain, and Uruguay--is because they are generally extremely economical. You can get a great bottle of wine for $10 and even less. Since most people want to spend around $10-$15 for a bottle of wine, I'm defining a splurge as anything above $15. While there are some that are significantly more than that, the most expensive bottle I'm recommending is $50.
Price to quality
Sure a $100 bottle of wine is probably good. It's probably great. But is it worth the price? Is it really that much better than a different $25 bottle, will you really get $75 more enjoyment out of it...which would take 20 hours of teaching English in Argentina to pay for?
When you see a "red table wine" or red blend in the US, most people assume it's probably a cheap bottle of wine. Wineries of the United States tend to structure their winery such that blends are cheap while varietals cost more. The same thing used to be true in Argentina. Many older wineries in Argentina used to focus on quantity to satisfy the local market and their wines were generally blends. When artisanal wineries started to emerge in Argentina, they differentiated themselves by focusing on making varietal wines: Malbecs, Merlots, Cabernets, rather than the lower-quality blends produced in bulk. Now, however, there is an established trend going back to blends, or "cortes" in Spanish. Many of the higher-end wines produced in Argentina are now blends. Part of this is the freedom winemakers have to add a different element, complexity, or to round out their wine with a different kind of grape. The return to blends also has to do with going back to the Old-World-style of making wines, which were often blends.
After the tough work of 4 months of tasting wine in Argentina, here are some favorites. They're all reds that have spent a significant amount of time in oak, thus the price.
- Grand Assemblage Carmelo Patti. This vino is the priciest of the bunch, but a rich, fantastic act of love by winemaker Carmelo Patti.
- Corte A or B, Vistalba.Rich, deep, dark fruits.
- Kinien, Ruca Malen. Spicy yet elegant.
- Pleno, Tempus Alba. Vanilla, soft, and deep.
- Kaiken, Ultra Malbec. Complex, balanced, and smooth.
- Concierto 5, Domaine St. Diego. The winemaker himself, Angel Mendoza, did the best job describing this wine, encapsulating it in a feeling: a winter day, a family gathering, eating almonds, leather, tobacco…
- Alfa Crux and Beta Crux, O. Fournier. Both of these wines are divino.
- Enrique Foster Reserve Malbec.A spicy Malbec with a deep shiny intense color and full flavors.
- Bressia Malbec Monteagrelo. This is one of my top few wines of Argentina. Having spent 18 months in French oak, it has some beautiful complexity: light toasty tones, deep rich fruits, with a smooth finish.