A personal selection
Published:  28 August, 2008

This month: we ask trade personalities to name the wineries they most admire in Argentina

? Tim Atkin MW, Critic

Pulenta Estate is Atkin's nomination. "Not so long ago, this company grew fantastic grapes for other people," he says. "Now it is one of Argentina's top names.

"Its wines look as good as they taste - the Gran Corte and Cabernet Franc are two of Argentina's finest reds - and they are sensibly priced too."

Pulenta is located in Alto Agrelo, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina. The estate spans 130ha of vineyards, dating back 16 years, and enjoys excellent climatic conditions at 980m above sea level. Meltwater from the Andes supplies the irrigation.

The winery also prides itself on its "young wines", branded as La Flor. This range includes Malbec in traditional and rosé styles, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Berry Bros & Rudd handles the wines in the UK.

? Matt Wilkin, Sommelier

Bodega Poesia, a 13ha estate in Mendoza's Lujan de Cuyo, is Wilkin's choice and his reason is blunt: "the best Malbec in Argentina" is his assessment.

Poesia is owned by Vignobles Garcin and hence part of a distinguished family which includes Clos L'Eglise (Pomerol), Château Barde-Haut (St Emilion Grand Cru), Château Branon (Pessac-Leognan) and Château Haut Bergey (Pessac-Leognan).

Its fruit derives from a single vineyard, first planted in 1935 and made up of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This is viticulture as the purists like it to be. No herbicides or pesticides are used, all picking is done by hand and the average yield a modest 25hl per hectare, producing 20,000 individually numbered bottles a year. All the winemaking equipment is brought over from France, including the 60hl wooden vats.

Malolactic fermentation takes place in new French oak barrels and the wine - a blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon - is aged for between 18 and 20 months.

The wines are handled in the UK by Genesis Wines.

? David Hemsley, Independent wine merchant, The Secret Cellar, Tunbridge Wells

"Bodega Terrazas de los Andes is my favourite across the board," says Hemsley, who also gives an honourable mention to Famila Zuccardi. "I just think they're really individual and represent fantastic value for money versus quality.

"Their top wine is about £30 and absolutely stunning but the normal Malbec, year on year, is outstanding. We sell absolutely bucket loads of it."

The history of Terrazas dates back to the late 1950s, when Moët & Chandon despatched chief winemaker Renaud Poirer to investigate South America. Having chanced upon Lujan de Cuyo, Poirer was immediately taken by the vine-growing conditions at altitude and soon Moët had established its first vineyards outside of France as Bodegas Chandon Argentina.

"The vineyards are all located in Mendoza, the majority of which are planted in the sub-region of Vistalba, where the Malbec thrives," explains a Moët Hennessey UK spokeswoman. "Terrazas de los Andes is focused on independent retailers and multiple specialists, as well as select restaurants, as it is a wine which benefits from being hand-sold by knowledgeable staff." 

Grapes for the Reserva range are hand-harvested from vineyards in Tupungato, Vistalba, Perdriel and Cruz de Piedra.  The 2007 Torrontés has recently joined the range, retailing at £10.99. Others in the line-up include Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.

Terrazas' Afincado wines are made with grapes sourced from two of the best sites in Mendoza, in limited quantities, and only released in exceptional years. The 2004 Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon retail at £24.99.

? Julie Buckley, Oddbins buyer

"It would have to be the Doña Paula Estate for its Doña Paula range," says Buckley.

"We have been working with Stephano Gandolino for just over two years and the relationship is still as strong and exciting as it was at the start. The Doña Paula Estate wines come from vineyards in Ugarteche and Tupungato, which have a specific soil type, which create wines of exceptional character and elegance.

"These wines are not only excellent quality but they also deliver amazing value for money to our customers."

Doña Paula was founded as recently as 1997 by a Chilean company, the Claro Group, which owns Santa Rita and Carmen. It didn't enjoy the best of starts, with the 2000 and 2001 vintages blitzed by hailstorms, but after investing in special netting the Doña Paula began to enjoy the benefits of its environment rather than its occupational hazards.

The wines are represented in the UK by Codorniu UK.  

? Matt Pym, Buyer, Majestic

"It has to be Catena for me - they've been at the forefront of Argentine winemaking for years, and to me they still set the standard," says Pym. "Great attention to detail, a massive amount of research and great pride in what they do. Lovely wines."

Richard Cochrane, off-trade director for Catena's UK agent, Bibendum, admires Nicolás Catena for the business skills he has brought to the business and to Argentine wine generally. "As an economist he has an ability to look beyond the world of wine," he says. "He works in several other industries and I think it's that ability to bring really quite crucial, globally-based insights to the Argentine wine industry that has allowed him to develop his business so well.

"When you look at a brand like Catena, which has been on the market for some time, one of the challenges is how you keep it new and interesting. Nicolás has driven a regime of continuous innovation." This involves experimentation with altitude, planting density, clones and rootstock.

"He has umpteen students running research dissertations there and constantly experimenting. The product at the end of it may still have the same name, but what goes on behind that is evolving year on year. I don't see that very much in the wine industry."

? Anthony Rose, Critic

"It's hard to single out any one specific Argentine winery," says the Independent wine critic.

"I have been impressed by the work of Andeluna (Novum Wines), Fabre Montmayou, Mendel (Prestige Agencies), Pulenta Estate, O Fournier (Seckford Wine Agencies), Achaval Ferrer (C&B), Finca Decero (Berkmann), Bodega Colomé, Catena, Finca Sophenia (Ellis of Richmond), Monteviejo, Bodega Chacra and Bressia to mention just a handful.

"If you were to ask me to pick out just one to watch, I would say keep an eye on Pulenta Estate. It's going places."

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