The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

An Argentine Adventure and a New Appreciation for New World Wines

One IWM staffer visits South America and comes to know and love Argentine wines just a little bit better

 

Oaked Malbec with Sirloin Steak

Oaked Malbec with Sirloin Steak

Working at IWM, I have had the opportunity to taste some amazing Old World wines from Italy, France and Spain. I’ve become very fond of Italian Bordeaux-style blends, Super Tuscan and otherwise. I have fallen in love with White Burgundy (the most amazing expression of Chardonnay I can think of) and spicy, earthy, lush Rioja. This love has spurred in me a curiosity in New World wines and Southern Hemisphere wines. I had just that chance to try some of these wines, first-hand on a recent trip to Argentina, when I spent ten days in sunny, Springtime Buenos Aires and Patagonia.

The Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires

The Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires definitely lives up to its title as the Paris of South America, with wide Boulevards and fabulous parks. The restaurants serve absolutely fantastic food; my favorite has to be the lunch I had at El Gran Parilla del Plata near the Palermo Viejo neighborhood. There, I had the quintessential Argentine meal: a sirloin steak, served with two variations of chimichurri and a tomato salsa on the side. All with one of the best glasses of Malbec I’ve ever had, a wine from La Rioja Province aged in French barrique, which gave the wine further structure, balance and complexity with that unmistakable hint of vanilla.

The next stop was a five day stay in San Carlos de Bariloche Patagonia, a city at the foothills of the Andes Mountains about two-and-a-half hours from the Chilean border. Here, I got the chance to experiment with more fantastic Malbec, along with Argentine Carmenère, Tannat and Tempranillo. Tannat, a grape variety widely grown in neighboring Uruguay, is similar to Malbec, though it felt heavier in texture yet still light on the tannins. Argentine Tempranillo is not as spicy as its Spanish cousin, and it’s drunk in younger vintages that are approachable on a medium-bodied palate. And Carmenère, a variety originating from Bordeaux that was made famous in the mid 90s by Chilean winemakers, is meaty, earthy and chocolaty.

Hiking in Patagonia

Hiking in Patagonia

At IWM, we are proud to offer a few gems from Argentina in the form of Pinot Noir through the vision of Bodega Chacra and its owner-winemaker, Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, the grandson of the late Mario Incisa, who founded Sassicaia. The winery’s Cincuenta y Cinco and Trenta y Dos (the names correspond to the years when the vines were planted) are deliciously decadent versions of this varietal with savory notes that blend with classic red fruit on the palate. Chacra embodies so well the ways in which New World winemakers are representing this noble grape.

Now back at work, I wonder what Italian reds I can think of that pair best with these reds or what can I compare to Italian wines? The oaked Malbec I had in Palermo reminded me of a Classico Amarone della Valpolicella, a darkly tinted, raisinated red that offers a gamey note bursting with fruit and toasty flavors. The elegant fruitiness of younger Malbec is reminiscent of Valpolicella, also from the Veneto or the earthy reds you find in Sicily, especially those made by producer Agricola COS. Tannat is a fun, delicious red that’s a bit out of the ordinary; it’s got red berry notes and velvety tannins, much like the Monferrato Rosso Le Grive by Forteto della Luja, a Barbera and Pinot Noir blend from Piemonte. Then there was Carmenère, a meaty dark and brooding red that I find akin to the French Beaujolais with its finesse, gaminess and fruity complexity.

image_3Traveling in Argentina and tasting its wines was such a treat, and something I found incredibly fascinating. It was so interesting getting to experience Old-World vinifera in the hands of the New World. My travels provided me a glimpse into the wine industry in Argentina, how proud Argentines are of their grapes, and the care and innovation they take in their production. I urge you to take a better look at Argentine vino, with a good steak and a side of papas fritas, of course.

Expert Picks: Bodega Chacra and Paolo Scavino

Two expert selections from Will Di Nunzio

Will_newYou might think coming up with wines to talk about everyday is a challenge, but not for us. And that’s because we constantly taste wine. We are fortunate enough at IWM to have access to amazing wines of many kinds, styles and countries. It’s also fortunate that we get to share these greats wines with our customers here in our showroom, whether at a Saturday tasting, winemaker dinner, or just someone stopping in to say hello (there’s always a bottle open for a quick taste of wine in the store). Whatever the reason, there is never a lack of tasting wines and there are plenty of excuses to do it. Today’s wines are a good reason to taste.

Bodega Chacra Pinot Noir Rio Negro Cincuenta y Cinco 2011 $60

Rio Negro, Argentina – Pinot Noir

This wine is still great and it seems to get better each and every time we open it. “Stunning,” “delicious,” “balanced,” and “elegant” are some of the words that come out of people’s mouths when they drink this Patagonian Pinot Noir. This is easily one of the best wines to have on hand in your home and never fails to impress.

Paolo Scavino Barolo Bric del Fiasc 2008 $109.99

Piemonte, Italy – Nebbiolo

Although Scavino is known to be a modern producer, this Bric del Fiasc was a great surprise to me this past Saturday when I hosted IWM’s Modern Barbaresco and Barolo tasting. The ‘07 of the same is approachable and drinking pretty well for a Barolo, but from a warmer vintage like that year we can expect that. This ‘08, a spotty vintage in Italy, is an incredible bottle of wine. I was expecting it to be shut down and tight, but it was balanced and beautiful (after about three hours bottle aeration, of course). This will be a spectacular bottle in three to five years.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Bodega Chacra 2011 Barda

An under $26 Pinot from the hands of a Sassicaia scion

ARG-RD248-2I have always been a Pinot Noir fan. My first Pinot was a Burgundy; then when I worked in California, the Pinot Noir made in Sonoma was the most readily accessible to me, so I imbibed them happily. More recently, I’ve grown to love the meaty, smoky Pinot Noirs of New Zealand and especially the fantastic flavor profiles of Bodega Chacra in Patagonia, Argentina. I relished the opportunity to try the estate’s value Pinot, Barda, over the weekend.

This wine surprised me from the get-go. While Chacra’s higher end wines have always blown me away, this one replicated the emotion, and did it very well at a fraction of the cost. I opened a bottle of the Bodega Chacra 2011 Barda for dinner with a friend, and when I told him the bottle was $26, he was flabbergasted. It was beautiful. It was earthy and smoky with at least three different types of cherries—tart, sour and sweet—as well as notes of eucalyptus and rosemary. As IWM’s site describes it, I met my perfect dinner companion in this wine. We enjoyed the bottle with one of my current favorite dinners: braised chicken thighs with caramelized onions and Sriracha sweet potatoes. It paired perfectly with the spiced notes of the chicken and onions, and while the Sriracha overpowered the wine just a bit, I couldn’t resist; I love that flavor profile.

I’m not sure why I was so surprised at how wonderful this little wine is—nothing less than spectacular should ever be expected from a maker of Italian great Sassicaia. In 2004, Piero Incisa della Rocchetta purchased the first of vineyard land, which he now uses to cultivate grapes for this complex and smooth wine. Piero’s team hand harvests the biodynamically grown grapes from gnarly old Pinot Noir vines that are situated in northern Patagonia, protected by an arid climate that is completely different than the surrounding desert.

I absolutely recommend this wine for your next meal at home, or in a glass on its own. It’s a perfect compliment to food—or even just to crystal.

Expert Selections: Bodega Chacra

Two expert selections from Brian Maurice

Brian Maurice

Brian Maurice

Although Argentina is probably more well known for its Malbec, in the region of Patagonia, Pinot Noir is stealing a little of  Malbec’s thunder. A perfect example is the project of Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, a third-generation winemaker and the grandson of Mario Incisa Della Rochetta, the creator and proprietor of Sassicaia, who purchased the first of Bodega Chacra’s vineyards in the Rio Negro Valley in 2004. This property had an existing, although abandoned, vineyard of gnarled old-vine, head-trained Pinot Noir that were planted in 1932 and still on their original rootstocks. The vines produced miniscule amounts of deeply concentrated grapes that Piero crafted into the intense first bottling which is called Treinta y Dos; since then, Piero has purchased more old-vine Pinot Noir vineyards within the region and is now producing several other wines, including one a vineyard planted in 1955 called “Cincuenta y Cinco.” These are serious wines that definitely deserve a bit more attention than they are currently receiving, and once you taste them, you will understand why.

Bodega Chacra Cincuenta y Cinco 2011 $60.00

A dense and rich style of Pinot Noir that has an alluring nose of rose petal, spice and red fruit. On the palate, the wine has outstanding depth with impeccable balance and velvety-texture followed by flavors of raspberry and cherry; they are sweet and succulent and leave you with a very long silky finish that is just incredible.

Bodega Chacra Treinta y Dos $130.00

This wine has an incredibly brilliant medium ruby color. The nose is intense and mineral laced with powerful aromas of ripe berry and cherry that are followed by a beautifully concentrated palate of layered strawberry, cherry, red currant and fresh spice. The wine is somewhat weightless and comes across the palate as silky and with a great balance, firm acidity and an incredibly long finish that leaves your palate yearning for more.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday

Bodega Chacra Pinot Noir Rio Negro Barda 2011

ARG-RD248-2Easter is around the corner and I always use this time to taste what I think would go well with whatever it is I’m going to prepare for my family. I look for value and for a crowd pleaser that all can enjoy.

Then I remembered that the new Pope, Francis I, ,is from Argentina so I’m sure that he’s also a soccer fan and a wine drinker. I wonder if he prefers Vin Santo (the Tuscan dessert wine whose name translates to “holy wine”) or Lachryma Christi (the traditional Campanian wine  whose name translates to “tears of Christ”). I did read somewhere that while deciding who the next Pope would be the Cardinals drank Ribolla Gialla and Brunello (two of my favorites) during their breaks. Since Argentina is the home country of the new Pope, for this year’s Easter feast I will be sharing some Bodega Chacra from Patagonia in Argentina.

Bodega Chacra is located in the Rio Negro Valley of northern Patagonia. It’s about 620 miles south of Buenos Aires and sits right in the middle between the Andes Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. The air in this region is pristine, creating tremendous luminosity and purity of sunlight for the grapes to soak up. The man behind Bodega Chacra is Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, the grandson of the late Mario Incisa, who, in 1968, launched the Super-Tuscan movement with Sassicaia, his pioneering blend of Cabernets. Piero’s passion is reminiscent of his grandfather as he has introduced his own groundbreaking efforts with Pinot Noir in the Pategonia region of Argentina. Three wines are made at Bodega Chacra and each one is named after the year in which the vines were planted, and all are original root stocks: Treinta y Dos, complex and intended for cellar aging; Cincuenta y Cinco, offering approachability with depth; and Barda, a soft and inviting everyday wine/

For Easter I need value and easy drinking, so I’m going with the Bodega Chacra Pinot Noir Rio Negro Barda 2011, a real value at $26.99. I found the wine to be smooth with bright elegant plum, cherries, rose petal and some violet and spice aromas on the nose followed by a bit of cherry and lavender like tones. Behind the elegance you can taste the origin with some light earthiness and minerality, spice and herbs. Firm tannins and a nice silky finish lead me to think it will do well with some herb crusted lamb chops.

Irrigation for the Bodega Chacra vineyards is managed through an intricate system used to bring water from melting glaciers in the Andes. Interesting historical side note: this system originated in the 16th century with the Spanish settlers using techniques previously used by the Incas. Water flows down from the mountain through a series of ditches and canals, where it is stored in reservoirs for use by the vineyard, and I believe that all that movement through the mountain helps yummy minerality trickle into the grapes. A recipient of that minerality, Barda is composed of fruit from the two extremely old vineyards used for the estate’s Treinta y Dos and Cincuenta y Cinco, planted in 1932 and 1955, and is 100-percent biodynamic with only 800 cases produced.

This Sunday I’m raising a glass to the new Pope with some Bodega Chacra. I’m very much looking forward to it.

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