A Taste of Mendoza
It comes as a surprise to many people that Ireland imports more wine from Chile than from any other country. We drink more Chilean wine than French, Spanish or Italian.
Mendoza is Argentina’s foremost wine region, and it is responsible for the country’s best bottles. The province is located at around thirty degrees south of the equator. This is the northern limit of wine grape production, any closer to the equator and the grapes would shrivel in the heat. The Andes, that lie between Mendoza and Chile, raise the land to an altitude that counterbalances the equatorial heat. The result is that the vineyards of Mendoza are some of the highest in the world, between 600m and 1,100m above sea level. They produce some fantastic wines using international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, as well as local specialities Malbec and Torrontés.
And you couldn’t talk about wine from Mendoza, or even Argentina, without talking about Susana Balbo.
Susana Balbo is a trail-blazing enologist and entrepreneur. She was Argentina’s first female enologist and worked with a who’s who of the Argentine wine scene before starting her own winery, Dominio del Plata in 1999.
Susana’s first job as a winemaker was at Michel Torino Winery in Argentina’s Salta province. There, she developed their Torrontés wines. Torrontés is a uniquely Argentinean grape, and Susana took advantage of its adaptation to the local climate to produce a wine that has a floral nose and a refreshing citrus flavour. Susana is rightly credited with pioneering this style of wine and is known affectionately as “The Queen of Torrontés”.
And if Susanna is “The Queen of Torrontés”, then her Crios Torrontés is the princess.
Crios means “offspring” in Argentine slang. Susan looks after these wines as if they were her children, and she chose the name to reflect the loving care the bottles receive. The benefit of her motherly attention is clear in the Crios Torrontés. There are intense flavours of citrus and green apple with some tropical notes of lychee and honeysuckle. This is a ripe and refreshing white wine that would make a great alternative for regular Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio drinkers.
Torrontés is a boon for adventurous pescatarians. It goes equally well with meatier grilled fish as it does with more delicate dishes like sushi. Personally, I would drink Crios Torrontés with a spicy, citrusy ceviche.
From Susana’s figurative offspring we move to her actual children.
Bodini Malbec is made by José Lovaglio, Susana’s son. Like his mother, José served an apprenticeship with some heavyweight of the world wine business before returning to Argentina to take charge of the Bodini label. Interestingly, José Lovaglio explicitly acknowledges every individual’s contribution to the collective effort involved in making this wine – Bodini stands for “Built On Dreams of Individuals, Not Institutions”.
But Bodini doesn’t need to rely on its social credentials; it’s a seriously enjoyable wine. The medium body delivers plum and damson flavours that lead into a savoury, spicy finish. The Bodini Malbec would perform well with any mildly spiced beef or lamb. Smoked charcuterie like Cecina would also make an ideal accompaniment.
These two bottles from Mendoza will be open for tasting in Arnotts and Mullingar from Monday 2nd of October. You’re more than welcome to stop by and discover that there’s far more to South American wine than Chilean Cab Sauv!