Almost every wine shop of any size in the United States carries wines from Argentina, most commonly inexpensive Malbecs. Argentine wines tend to offer excellent value for the money, but that’s not true only at the low end of the price spectrum. Its fine wines routinely outshine their price tags, a trend especially evident in the increasing crop of single-vineyard wines.
Mendoza, relatively new to fine-wine production, has started delving into the intricacies of its terroir, and many wineries now craft superlative single-vineyard wines from a range of grape varieties. The focus has shifted from simply producing the best Malbec (or Cabernet or Chardonnay) to creating wines that express something of the vineyard from which they come. Mendoza began its fine-wine revolution by emulating Bordeaux, but now many vintners have taken a turn toward Burgundy.
The Malbecs we sampled at Achaval-Ferrer emphasized the difference terroir can make. Its 2012 Bella Vista had powerful, almost brooding dark fruit with big spice and undertones of tobacco, but the 2009 Mirador felt more bright and cheerful, with ripe cherry fruit, focused spice and more restraint. We tried the 2014 Altamira straight from the barrel, and even in its youth, it clearly exhibited more herbaceous qualities than either the Bella Vista or the Mirador. achaval-ferrer.com
The six elegant single-vineyard Malbecs we tasted at Viña Cobos all had impressive balance and focus, but here, too, the differences of the vineyards were clear, especially since the wines all came from the same vintage. The exotic 2012 Zingaretti, for example, had violet notes in the aroma, an impressively refined texture and an underlying eucalyptus-like freshness. But the zesty 2012 Marchiori was much rowdier, with unabashedly bold fruit, acids and spice. vinacobos.com
Mendoza vintners don’t confine themselves to single-vineyard Malbecs. Cobos also poured contrasting single-vineyard Chardonnays, and at The Vines’ winery, it was fascinating to compare a taut and minerally Torrontés from La Rioja with a rounder, more floral example from the Uco Valley. Most unusual was a late-harvest Terrazas de los Andes El Yaima vineyard Petit Manseng. It glowed golden in the glass. The ripe pineapple and light honey flavors might have been overwhelming, but racy acids kept the wine in exciting balance.
These single-vineyard wines are not always easy to find in the United States, but larger online retailers have started to carry them. I found two of the Viña Cobos single-vineyard Bramare wines on Binny’s, and Wine Chateau carries certain single-vineyard Achaval-Ferrer wines. Nevertheless, there is no better way to learn about Argentine terroir than by visiting yourself.