Wines of Argentina make a strong showing

The Bodega Catena Zapata table at LearnAboutWine's tasting of wines of Argentina. More than three dozen producers poured their wines for a trade and consumer tasting.
(S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times)

Maybe I’ve been unlucky, but I’ve tasted so many indifferent Malbecs lately that the idea of attending a tasting of wines from Argentina didn’t exactly set my heart racing. But I found myself, albeit somewhat reluctantly, last Wednesday at a trade and consumer tasting for Wines of Argentina at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. And I was happily surprised by what I found.

Organized under the auspices of LearnAboutWine, a good three dozen wine producers were there pouring their latest releases for the event dubbed “Wild Sophistication.” And I found not only some terrific Malbecs that shifted my take on the grape, but also some worthy Cabernet Sauvignons, Pinot Noirs, Torrentes, and Sauvignon Blancs from Argentina.

When I walked into the tasting just after 3 p.m., it was already thronged with somms and wine buyers, but not so crowded that you couldn’t ask questions. Some attendees were really getting into it, grilling producers about the soil, the elevation, their wine presses and filtration policies.


I just wanted to taste the wines.

One attendee pulled me over to rave about the sparkling Torrontes, Argentina’s unique white wine grape, at Bodega Familia Schroeder. Sparkling Torrontes may be a novelty, but I’m not convinced. The flavor is bright and fresh, but the bubbles frothed aggressively in the mouth. Maybe next year they’ll have figured that one out.

But Familia Schroeder also had two Pinot Noirs from Patagonia. That’s wild when you think of it. But I’d pick up either of the pretty 2013 Alto Limay Pinots—joven (young) or select— for under $20. Their 2012 Saurus Select Malbec is a good pick too, for its dark velvety fruit and graceful balance, at $19. The name Saurus comes from the fact dinosaur fossils have been found at the winery.

Luigi Bosca’s 2011 Malbec from Mendoza is lovely, fresh, and very quaffable, a great match for pizza or pasta--and just $20. Spend $5 more, though, for the 2011 Luigi Bosca Malbec D.O.C. and you get a big jump up in quality. I’m hoping this one will be around in stores in L.A.

At the Pulenta Estate table, a woman was trying to convince her husband to buy the estate’s Sauvignon Blanc. “I’m so over New Zealand,” she told him. And at $15, this is a very good buy.

Viña Cobos, like Familia Schroeder and Pulenta Estate, under the Paul Hobbs Imports umbrella, didn’t bother pouring anything under $45, with good reason—just well-made, tightly knit Cabernet or Malbec. The single-vineyard wines cost $30 to $45 more, and they’re stunning, especially the elegant 2011 “Bramare Marchiori Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon. And also the same vineyard’s 2011 Malbec, which is even more chiseled, bright and true.

Other highlights included the trio of 2011 Achaval Ferrer single-vineyards—Finca Mirador, Finca Bella Vista and Finca Altamira at $120 to $130, the edge going to the thrilling, high-toned Bella Vista with its notes of blueberry and long lovely finish.


Bodega Catena Zapata presented some terrific wines, too, which started at $35 and climbed to $135. The 2011 Catena “Alta” Malbec is elegant and autumnal, well worth its price of $60 and the best buy on the table. The higher end wines are excellent, but more concentrated, truly big dogs—and not as food-friendly.

From the interest exhibited by wine buyers at the event, these wines--if they’re not already here, should be showing up at local wine shops and on restaurant wine lists soon.

Follow @sirenevirbila for more on food and wine.