Malbec from Eastern and Southern Mendoza, Mendoza, Cuyo Region, Argentina
Purchased: 12 Nov 2017 – $9.99
Opened: 29 April 2018
Robert Parker: 90
Flagstaff Magazin: 90
Wine Enthusiast: 87
Wine Spectator: 87
Cellar Tracker: 86
Argentina’s wine history dates back to the 1500s when Catholic priests planted vineyards around their monasteries to guarantee wine for the parish and Holy Mass. The country was the first South American country attempting to commercially grow vines, beginning in Mendoza in the early to mid-1800s. Many of the initial plantings came from Chile in the early 1800’s but the varietals that would change world wine history came from the Bordeaux region of France in 1853, including the ubiquitous Malbec. Eventually, Mendoza was producing world-class Malbec wines, on par or superior to those produced in France, mainly due to its high elevations in the foothills of the Andes, well-drained soils, and lots and lots of hot sunshine. Today the country produces 75% of the world’s Malbec.
Argentina is the world’s 6th largest producer of wine by volume, just behind the US and ahead of Australia. It produces about 6% of the world’s total wine. The country has 510,000 acres planted in grapes, 55% in red wine grapes, 25% in roses and the rest in whites. Malbec plantings account for 20% of the total acres planted with Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay accounting for another 20%. Argentina has 4 main wine-producing regions: Atlantic, Cuyo, North, and Patagonia.
Cuyo is the largest and most important wine-producing, macroeconomic region in central Argentina and includes the wine sub-regions of La Rioja, Mendoza, and San Juan; with Mendoza being the largest of the 3 by area, population, GDP, and wine production. The region produces about 80% of all wine in the country. The area is arid to semi-arid receiving less than 20 inches of rain per year and experiences large diurnal temperature variations of about 35°F.
The Mendoza region, lapping up onto the eastern foothills of the youthful Andes, is the largest wine producer in Argentina, accounting for 65-75% of the country’s total. A third of the country’s vineyards are dedicated to Malbec with Mendoza also producing the lion’s share of that variety with 85,000 acres planted. The Mendoza wine region is partitioned into another 5 sub-areas: Central Oasis, East Mendoza, North Mendoza, South Mendoza, and Uco Valley. North Mendoza, aka Lujan de Cuyo, designated as an appellation in 1993, contains an additional 6 micro-regions including: Agrelo, Barrancas, Las Compuertas, Perdriel, Ugarteche, and Vistalba.
The East or Eastern Mendoza sub-region, 50 miles southeast of Mendoza, is the country’s largest wine-producing area with almost 175,000 acres of vineyards and is further divided into 3 smaller areas: Rivadavia, Junin, and San Martin. The largest plantings are in Bonarda, Malbec, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards are grown in the foothills of the Andes at 2100-2500′ above sea level with maximum summer temperatures in the low 80s°F and averaging 8″ of rain per year. Because of the low rainfall, the vineyards are irrigated with snowmelt waters from the Andes. The soils are mostly a heterogeneous mix of infertile, sandy loams and rocks.
The Southern Region is located 100 miles due south from Mendoza, at an elevation 3,000-4,000’ above sea level in San Carlos County. Bonarda and Malbec are the commonest grapes grown in the region. The high elevations mean lower temperatures and bright sunshine. The Southern Region is a desert with annual rainfall averaging about 14″ per year and summer temperatures that get up into the high 80s°F.
Malbec, Argentina’s national and highly celebrated grape was brought to the country in 1853. With its introduction, and other varietals, to the country the legislature established Quinta Normal, a school of agriculture, in Mendoza on 17 April 1853 which was to become the date for the annual Malbec World Day.
Malbec is a black, thin to thick-skinned, depending on elevation, grape that tends to ripen early. The wine from the grapes has aromas of cherries, strawberries, or plums; producing soft flavors and mild but meaty tannins. Malbec’s aged in oak keep for a long time and can be kept uncorked for 10 years or more. Malbec has many synonyms including Cot, Cahors, Grifforin, Hourcat and Quincy.
Bodegas Esmeralda, founded by Don Juan Fernandez is named in honor of his only daughter: Esmeralda Fernandez. The winery is located in the city of Junin, approximately 300 miles west of Buenos Aires and almost 800 miles east of Mendoza, producing wines both for the local market and for export. The winery’s Tilia labeled wines, named after the Latin name for the Linden tree, are all produced for the export market.
Tilia’s Malbec grapes are sourced from a variety of vineyards in the 3 counties that make up the Eastern Region: San Martin, Junin, & Rivadavia and San Carlos county of the Southern Region. The vineyards are in a true desert climate, receiving less than 1″ of rain per month and are irrigated with the Andes’ snow melt waters flowing down through the Tunuyan River. Because of the desert conditions the sun shines 90% of time throughout the year, generating hot days and cool nights.
After harvesting and sorting, the grapes are fermented for 12 days in stainless steel tanks at 81-84°F. The wine undergoes a 15 day maceration period followed by 6-9 months ageing in French and American, new and used oak barrels; steel tanks, and concrete vats. The wines are aged in bottles for 3 months before putting them on the market.
A dark purple wine with aromas of black cherries and plums with a hint of vanilla. The wine is medium to full-bodied with flavors of blackberries and currants. A nice finish with easy tannins and a crisp acidity.
Malbec wines go well with simple foods. We served this wine with a simple meal of spaghetti and meatballs in a marinara sauce producing a solid and enjoyable combination.
A good wine at a great price. It should last until 2022-24. Decanting this wine did it a world of good.