October 2, 2013

On Wine: Don't give short shrift to the low-profile Argentine Cabernets

By JOE APPEL

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Two everyday wines: The Domaine Bousquet is a bit less controlled than Catena's Cabernet Sauvignon, which is approachable, but not boring.

Courtesy photo

Same for me. I've found a way to enjoy one of the great varietals of the world, through wines that don't demand deep thought or effort, but invite the sort of attention and appreciation their prices belie.

Bodegas Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, $22 (Easterly), Mendoza. This was the wine that did it for me. The first line of my initial tasting notes from a year ago read, in all capital letters, "THE GRAIL." First of all, note the vintage. Then, taste. This is very old, soulful, earthy wine, truly Bordeaux-like. Aromas of cigar leaf and fig give way to clove, smoke and cigar on the tongue. The flavor arc is from deep, sweet summer-red fruit to smoke and incense, to grapefruit and a bitter, cocoa-like finish. It is so real-deal you want to hug the bottle; the sort of gnarly, chewy, dirt-fighter that Californians nostalgic for the old Napa style yearn for. "In limited availability now, but coming back into regular stock in November (possibly from the 2006 vintage)."

Nemesio Cabernet Sauvigon 2010, $12 (Crush), Patagonia. From the cooler-climate Patagonia region of the south, the Nemesio is more purple than red. With a black currant and licorice nose sweetened by Turkish coffee, the plum fruit is deep and pulsing. But in a region more suited to Pinot Noir than Cabernet, the wine comes out with a much more mineral profile than the Mendoza wines I've tasted: grill-charred vegetables, baking chocolate, and a finish like cast iron. A muscular, peppery wine, Nemesio is a lot of wine for twelve bucks, and not to be messed with.

Perhaps you'd like to start with something a bit ... friendlier? There are two that stand out for me. The Santa Julia Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($10, Pine State), from organically grown grapes sourced from Mendoza is that ideal "everyday" wine: approachable but not boring. It is definitely a "made" wine: vanilla-scented from oak, boysenberry and blueberry, rounded tannins, nary a whisper of Cabernet's challenging leafy qualities, smoothly milk-chocolate, few hairs out of place.

The Domaine Bousquet 2012 ($11, Wicked), also from organically grown grapes (hand-picked) from Mendoza, is a touch more jagged. There are plenty of berries, but met by white pepper, smoke, bacon and braised meat. And all in a rather dusty-textured package. Everyday wine, but a bit less controlled than Santa Julia.

The first tier of wines from Catena is a benchmark for middle-priced, bold, structured Argentine wines. (Nicola Catena is considered by many the founding father of Argentina's fine wine industry, and the "Alta" and "Zapata" lines of Nicola's descendants Nicolas and Laura are thought-ceasingly great).

Catena's Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($21, Pine State) is rich, elegant, fearless wine, and yes, this is the time for steak. Well-integrated tannins bolster its profound, ripe fruit and toasty, soul-food geniality. A wine conducive to long, satisfied exhales. 

Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market, but not all the wines mentioned in this column are necessarily sold there. His blog is soulofwine.com, and he can be reached at:

soulofwine.appel@gmail.com

 

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