Sep 16, 2013
A continuation from Argentina Malbec and More and Mendoza
South of the main winemaking region of Cuyo (home to Mendoza) sit the lesser known winegrowing areas of Patagonia.
Now, Patagonia may be recognized as being the tip of South America (shared by Chile and Argentina) where you can observe Magellanic penguins or it may be widely recognized as the name of an outerwear company, but less so for wine.
The largest city in Patagonia is Neuquén, which is also a winemaking region within Neuquén province. The two other regions are Rio Negro Province and and La Pampa, which are also becoming known for producing some really tasty juice.
A very dry region (7 inches or 18 centimeters per year of rain) whose average vineyard sits at about 1300 feet (roughly 400 meters) above sea level with 1656 hectares of vineyard. There are broad shifts in temperature from day to night making it well suited to varieties such as Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
With slightly higher vineyards (400 meters+) and a drop more rain, Rio Negro wine region follows the plush Rio Negro River for 120 kilometers atop Patagonia's dry plateau and is the southernmost of all winemaking regions in Argentina. The Rio Negro high valley has become known for making wonderful Pinot Noir, Merlot and Malbec. The lower valleys although also home to vineyards are considered more traditional. Total vineyards account for 1733 hectares making it the largest of the the three regions of Patagonia.
La Pampa is known for being the agriculture core of Argentina where the vast amount of cereals, soy, fruit, vegetables and Argentine beef come from. At 340 meters above sea level this province is mostly flat (pampa means 'plains') and produces small amounts of bolder reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Chardonnay from its 520 hectares of vineyards.
Bodega Familia Schroeder
One of the visits I was most anticipating was to Familia Schroeder. The name is known to me and some of their products have been available in the Canadian market for some time.
It's a spectacular new winery with an onsite Saurus restaurant, that served one of my many fantastic meals I enjoyed during my last visit.
They are located in the newest wine region in Argentina, in San Patricio del Chañar Valley in Rio Negro. The winery is surrounded by 140 hectares of estate vineyards, which are partially viewed from the meandering drive up from the main gate.
Of German origins, the Schroeder family made their money in radio and newspapers in Argentina. The winery was started in 2001 and 70% of their production is sparkling wine, which they made a million bottles of in 2012.
Beyond sparkling, Familia Schroeder makes a dizzying selection of wines under the Familia Schroeder and Saurus labels. To understand the Saurus label is to know of the giant Tintanosaur bone they found on the property when digging in 2002. There is a special cellar and viewing area built to showcase the bone in its natural environment.
(above: winemaker Federico Moreira and Florencia Fiorenza of Familia Schroeder)
As I mentioned, there is a dizzying assortment of well-made wines from Familia Schroeder. Here are my favourites.
The Saurus Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is a lovely and lively sipper with fresh grass, gooseberry and guava, passionfruit and wildflowers. Lovely acidity in the mouth boasting an attractive creaminess. The 2012 Saurus Select Chardonnay is one step up from the un-oaked Saurus Chardonnay and offers creamy butter, spices and young golden pineapple ($15 CDN). The Saurus 2012 Pinot Noir ($14 CDN) was a highlight with good typicity and excellent value brimming with spice and smoke, beet greens and rhubarb with cherries and forest floor. The palate is silky and smooth leading with red fruit layered with spice, cedar chips, and cocoa. The Saurus Select Pinot Noir 2011 presents sweet spices and vanilla, cherry and raspberry with candied violets. The mouthfeel is supple and has great concentration with a spiced cocoa finish. Finally, of the Pinot Noir lineup, the Familia Schroeder 2007 Pinot Noir ($40 CND) delights with bold chocolaty notes, vanilla, star anise, mint and a mix of red and black sun-warmed raspberries. Potent and supple with plush fruit and floral flavours in the palate. The Familia Schroeder 'S' Malbec 2007 stood out with its intensity - almost liqueur-like with coffee, vanilla, baking spices and chocolate layered with black raspberries. It has a seductive weight, supple texture and integrated tannin. The Saurus Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 was also impressive with plenty of ripe cassis, vanilla and chocolate on the nose and suitable weight, balance and concentration in the mouth with god persistence.
To start, the Rosa De Los Vientos Pinot Noir, NV is a lovely pink colour with notes of strawberry, cherry and violets, it has a boisterous mousse with good berry flavours, attractive creaminess and a dry style. The Saurus Extra Brut, NV is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with dominant Chardonnay notes of pineapple rounded out with berries. A delightful bubbly at $20 CND. More common in our market, the Deseado de Familia Schroeder is a sweeter bubbly made from the highly fragrant Torrontes variety. It offers ginger biscuits, exotic flowers, muscat, lychee, pineapple chunks and honey with a vibrant peachy, ginger finish spritzed with lime. ($20 CND)
Del Fin Del Mundo
The first to plant vines in San Patricio del Chañar Valley in Rio Negro, Del Fin Del Mundo celebrated it's tenth anniversary in 2013. It is the biggest winery in the region with a total of 450 hectares in the region and 850 hectares in total. Prior to my visit, they had purchased the vast estate of neighboring Bodega NQN, on January 25th 2012. Suitably, Del Fin Del Mundo means vineyards at the end of the world.
Julio Viola's father (same name Julio Viola) became the pioneer of the San Patricio del Chañar region when the real estate tycoon purchased a swath of 3200 hectares of arid land here. He learned how to irrigate the land from a 20 kilometer canal from the Neuquen River and initially planted fruit trees and later grape vines - Familia Schroeder purchased their initial vineyard from Viola. The production is currently 10 million bottles per year.
The Del Fin Del Mundo Extra-Brut Pinot Noir Chardonnay, NV is dominated with 80% Pinot Noir and is pale salmon in colour. Aromas of strawberry, lees, nectarines translate to a taut and crisp bubbly with blood orange. The entry level Postales Sauvignon Blanc~Semillon, 2012 is very fun and aromatic with gooseberry and sweet herbs, mineral, floral and citrus peel notes leading to a lively and tart finish. Likewise the affordable and approachable Postales Cabernet Sauvignon~Malbec 2012 offers chocolate covered cherries black currents and bell pepper. The Del Fin Del mundo Roble Malbec 2012 has spicy and peppery notes, wild berries, toasted oak and violets. It is supple and very quaffable with great concentration and mocha on the finish.
Bodega NQN's Malma Finca La Papay Pinot Noir, 2012 is a clean and classic style with rhubarb, juicy cherries and leather boasting a silky palate and chic character. The Malma Malbec 'Universo', 2010 layers chocolate with black raspberry, vanilla, fleur de sel and a hint of spicy bell pepper. It has a savoury and supple palate that trails concentrated dark chocolate. The sparkling Malma Cuvee Reserve Extra Brut, 2011 is made of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. It has white fruit and brioche layered with citrus. Chic.
At the end of a seemingly unending dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, Noemia is a tiny, functional winery that is making international waves. Co-owners, Italian wine producer Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano and Danish winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers came here in search of a Malbec vineyard purported to have been planted in Rio Negro in the 1930s.
Vinding-Diers is the uncle of Peter Sisseck of the famed Dominio de Pingus, he has made wine in France and Italy and was previously the consultant at nearby Humberto Canale. His wife, Noemi Marone Cinzano (of the Cinzano vermouth family) ran Cinzano after her father's death (it was later sold in 1999), she formerly owned Tenuta de Argiano, which she sold early in 2013 and is the namesake of this iconic winery founded in the outback of the Valle Azul in 2003.
The nearby ancient vineyard they did find is 1.5 hectares and was indeed planted in the 1930s. The biodynamic certified estate vineyards are a total of eleven hectares.
Understated is the best way to describe the physical winery; the wines, made under the labels Noemia, A Lisa and J. Alberto are divine.
A Lisa 2012 is their entry level wine and is a blend of 90% Malbec with Merlot and Petit Verdot from estate and from various leased vineyards. It is ripe and earthy with spice and wild briary fruits, mineral and cocoa. It boasts lovely brightness, very good structure and supple tannins. The J.Alberto 2012 is a field blend of 95% Malbec and 5% Merlot. Expect intense black current and black plum, tobacco and cocoa with an earthy and spicy palate. A wine with restraint and a silky palate.
The Bodega Noemia 2011 is 100% Malbec from a specific plots within a single vineyard planted in 1932. The nose is gorgeous; raspberry and purple berries with savoury undertones. It is plush in the mouth with flavours of violets and cocoa, it is also supple and very juicy with excellent structure and length.
Humberto Canale is a family business run by the very charming Guillermo Barzi (right) and his son Guillermo. It's broken in two equal parts - fresh fruit for export to 27 countries around the world (they are a huge producer of Bartlett pears) and the second part is wine production.
The family came to Patagonia in the 1870s and they are the oldest winery in Patagionia, which was built in 1909. Humberto Canale began to export wine in the 1990s.
A stunning Riesling (of all things) made from 78 year old vines really lit me up during a tasting with Guillermo senior, who informed me of another Argentine Riesling made by Luigi Bosca in Uco Valley. This one, the Humberto Canale 'Old Yard' Riesling 2012 has a depiction of Guillermo holding his granddaughter Morita's hand on the label and it offers loads of minerl, lemondrops and tart white fruits. It has a kiss of sweetness but is wonderfully balanced, it has a slightly oily texture and racy finish.
The Humberto Canale Estate 2012 Pinot Noir is light in body but shines with sour cherry, red raspberry, cedar and violets. The palate is silky and juicy with a sweet and spicy finish ($17). The Humberto Canale Intimo Malbec, 2012 is very pretty and floral with spicy red fruit and briary berry. It's a feminine style with a lovely weight, juicy freshness and fine sweet tannin. The Humberto Canale 2012 Estate Malbec is spicy red raspberry, vanilla, sweet spice, cedar and violets. It is made from 50 year old vines and has some really good grip. It has great concentration and hints of mocha with a sweet, extensive chocolaty finish. The Humberto Canale Gran Reserva 2012 Merlot comes from 50 year old vines and was another surprise that led with tomato leaf, plums, herbs and red fruits. The palate is sweet with but savoury with fleur de sel, plumy fruit and cocoa with lovely freshness.
Finally the Humberto Canale Gran Reserva Malbec, 2011 supplies leather and pepper, wild berry fruit and brown spice with a hint of bell pepper. It is silky and supple in the mouth with that classic cocoa/mocha tannin flavoured finish I found common in Rio Negro. Perfect to pair with traditional asado.
~Daenna Van Mulligen
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