22 Dec 2011

Come on down to torrontes town (Salta, Argentina - Day Two)

Funny how hindsight is always 20/20, but Salta was a very expensive detour to make. Firstly the rental car here was the most expensive I've experienced at $100+ per day, plus a navigator. Then you factor in the three hours each way from Salta, and the three hours each way to Colome, and that adds up to a fair amount of fuel for two days. Then on the way back from Colome on the previous day I had a blow-out without realising on the gravel highway, and subsequently damaged the wheel, which cost me $220 damages. When you add on accommodation and food, I ended up spending about $500 for two days, well over the $100 per day budget I have set myself. Was it worth the effort and expense? We shall see...

My generous winemaker host from Terrazas in Mendoza had recommended a few wineries to visit in Salta, most notably his close winemaker friend Ignacio at Etchart in Cafayate. At short notice and so close to Christmas I really appreciated Ignacio making some time to take me around the winery. Etchart is one of the oldest wineries in the region, but is now under the French Pernod Ricard banner. It is very strong in the domestic market, which accounts for 70% of its production. The brand is so strong that they are associated with Cafayate, having trademarked the term back in the 60s when torrontes wasn't trendy. Torrontes is the focus here, and with good reason as even though the region doesn't produce the most of the variety, it is regarded as producing the best. This has a lot to do with the large oscillations in temperature between day and night. Ignacio took me out to the estate vineyard which has some of the most amazing vines I've ever seen, torrontes and a parent variety of torrontes, planted back in the 1860s.

Ignacio then took me up to the winery tasting room for a snapshot of the wines produced at Etchart. He opened three torrontes, all at varying price-points to show the variation in style. The Privado 2011 was very crisp, fresh and bright, with good acids and fruit. The Reserve 2011 was a step up in quality, looking for more texture on the palate whilst retaining the freshness and vibrancy. Thanks to some lees contact the wine also had a very soft character of parmesan rind. The top of the range torrontes was the Gran Linaje 2010, which is definitely in the rich, textured and volumous style. There is a nice element of honeyed rosemary which floats above the fruit and floral notes, and the acids ebb and flow gently on the palate. The Reserve Malbec 2010 we looked at had far too much fruit and sweet tannins to be taken very seriously, pretty much consumer friendly fare. The Arnaldo B 2008 blend on the other hand had great subtlety and depth, balance of fruit and savoury sweetness on the back, and excellent structure. Not a great wine per se, but great for US$25!

One of the other wineries that Gonzalo recommended was Nanni, and once I realised why (apart from the wines being good) I had a chuckle. The reason is that Ignacio recently got married to the daughter of the family who own Nanni, and she is good friends with Gonzalos girlfriend. Naturally Ignacio recommended the winery, and was nice enough to call ahead so they would expect me. Nanni is one the oldest wineries in the region that is owned by the original family, now run by the fourth generation. The focus is naturally on torrontes, but they also make a range of reds that include cabernet sauvignon, malbec and tannat. They also make a rosado made from cabernet, and their icon blend is led by bonarda, the next great variety in Argentina. The historic winery is very quaint and charming, and they are one of the few certified organic producers in Argentina, so very progressive as well. Of the wines I tried the Torrontes 2010 was wonderfully fresh and tropical, the Rosato 2011 was textured enough to match with a variety of foods, and the Torrontes Tardio 2010 had a lovely floral and citric nose with good and fresh sweetness on the palate.

Click here to see more photos from Day 2 of Salta

No comments:

Post a Comment