Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Argentina’s Achaval-Ferrer Raises The Bar For South American Wine

Finesse and style is propelling Achaval-Ferrer wines to international accolades and a new benchmark for South American wines. And yes, there is more to this winery than Argentinian Malbec.

Elevating Wine From Argentina

We love wine from Argentina. To confess, one of the reasons we do is the low price. You get a flavorful glass of grape goodness for just a few dollars. For some, the perception is that wines from Argentina are all just simple, fruit-forward bottles with no real sophistication.

That perception was crushed by our recent tasting of Achaval-Ferrer wines as part of the Wine Studio online education program.

Achaval-Ferrer was founded when friends Santiago Achával, Roberto Cipresso, Manuel Ferrer and Tiziano Siviero came together in the mid-‘90s to map out their plans for a winery. In 1998 the initial vision was realized with the purchase of a vineyard and their first crop.

From that beginning, Achaval-Ferrer has grown to a wine enterprise that spans 65 countries and is present on every continent. Malbec continues to play a leading role in their product mix which features three different lines.

Malbec As It Should Be

The Achaval-Ferrer winery is located in Luján de Cuyo, 10 minutes outside of Mendoza. Mendoza is the world epicenter for Malbec. Suitably, we started our exploration with the Achaval-Ferrer 2015 Malbec Uco Valley.

Complexity is the first impression upon sipping the 2015 Malbec. The wine is ruby red in the glass with earthy flavor notes. The tannins are smooth and help provide a nice structure – certainly due in part to the aging in French oak.

The long finish is a key element that elevates this above the commonplace Malbec. This has sophistication that is welcoming to any wine lover.

Cabernet From Argentina?

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the “most international” grapes. It grows in a multitude of countries and, as a result, there is a broad spectrum of styles. We sampled the Achaval-Ferrer 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon to get a reading.

Green Dragon whipped up a suitably sensational meal to pair with the Cab. We had Teriyaki steak with Asiago scalloped potatoes, braised kale and corn on the cob. The meal would have been delicious even without the wine, but with the Achaval-Ferrer, it was over the moon.

The Cabernet offered fresh fruit flavors in a medium body. The tannins are silky and the kaleidoscope of flavors included cherry cola and red licorice. The style is beautiful and flowing – a decided contrast to some tightly wound Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

A Double Blind Mystery

We wrapped up our tasting of Achaval-Ferrer wines with a blind tasting on World Malbec Day. Silly me – I assumed we would be drinking Malbec. We would, but only in part…

Two smartly wrapped bottles arrived for our tasting. In the kitchen, a thirsty Green Dragon was whipping up another tasty meal. This time she prepared a beef filet with mushroom sauce and Cajun potato wedges. There was black pepper aplenty – always a good match with Malbec.

We had two bottles concealed in tissue paper – one with lines and the other with triangles. As we munched on our dinner we compared the wines and participated in an online chat.

I was convinced that one of the wines was more vibrant than the other. Our host then mentioned that there were two different vintages. I asked Green Dragon to pull the corks, which had the vintages stamped on them, so I could make this a true blind tasting.
The wine was succulent and expressive, with acidity bringing life the the wine. Imagine my surprise when the wrapping was removed.

This was Quimera, Achaval-Ferrer’s premier blend. Not only that – but our host had mistakenly sent two of the same 2013 vintage. We were drinking the exact same wine, but were coming up with a hatful of qualities unique to each bottle. Luckily it was pointed out that each bottle is like a snowflake – just a little different than each other, even if they are the same vintage and blend.

Speaking of which, Achaval-Ferrer calls Quimera their warm-blend. It’s a mix of 50% Malbec, 24% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a soft, nuanced wine that is rich with floral notes. At $35, this is a showstopper!

If you thought that Argentina was simply fruit-forward Malbec, that myth has been busted! Achaval-Ferrer offers thoughtfully made wines that express the region and grapes used in a complex way. These are food friendly wines that pair perfectly with beef dishes or lighter entrees. They also offer a highly praised Cabernet Franc.

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