Argentina surprised me with fresh, stainless-steel aged reds

This just in: check out this awesome write-up today of a recent New York Wine Writers Guild tasting of white wines from Campania by Italian wine maven Charles Scicolone.

expresion tanatAbove: I really loved the Finca Sierras Azules 2013 Tannat. It was fresh and bright in the glass, with great acidity and balanced alcohol. It would cost roughly or under $10 in the U.S. (although it’s not currently imported).

Fellow Houston wine blogger and good friend Sandra Crittenden, author of Wine Thoughts, had extended an invitation to a walk-around tasting of Argentine wines on Friday afternoon.

And so I went, inspired more by collegial respect than by the anticipation that I would taste wines that I’d like.

To my surprise, I found that many wineries in Argentina produce two separate and distinct lines of wines: the “important” label, more concentrated in flavor and aged in barrique; and an “everyday” label, vinified in a fresh, food-friendly style and aged generally (at least based on my experience on Friday) in stainless steel.

The 2013 Tannat Expresión by Finca Sierras Azules (above) was a revelation for me. It danced in the glass with bright, lip-smacking red fruit flavors. It had that zinging acidity that I crave at the dinner table and it had a wonderfully clean and refreshing finish. The rep at the table told me that none of Sierras Azules wines are aged in oak. I estimate that the wine would cost roughly or under $10 based on the ex cantina price that the rep quoted me.

tracia malbecAbove: the Tracia 2013 Malbec was another standout for me. Malbec from Argentina can be so delicious, I discovered, when it’s not doctored with cultured yeast and dominated by woody flavors.

“We’re not focused on the wood,” said Alejandro Isaias Brant, who showed his family’s Garbin wines at the tasting. “We are more focused on the typicity of the grape variety.”

The tasting reminded me of tasting in Barbera country, Italy, a few years ago. The producers had their “important” barriqued wines and then they had their fresh, stainless-steel or cement-aged wines that they drank themselves.

Aaaaaaa… the misguided power of the American palate and wine market!

The sparsely attended tasting seemed strangely geared more toward consumers than to trade (no proper spittoons, no stemware station, and overly chilled white and rosé wines were annoyances) and the winemakers were oddly startled by my many questions about aging regimens and winemaking styles.

But as I headed back to my desk, I couldn’t help but think about how Argentina could really break through in the American market if the producers would get hip to current wine trends in the U.S. today (acidity over alcohol, food-friendliness, lighter styles inspired by traditional European winemaking, etc.).

“We’re just behind Chile,” said Alejandro. “But we will reach them soon.”

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