Story by Manos Angelakis
Photos by Trivento Wines
While acreage of Malbec vines is declining in France, in Argentina the grape is thriving and has become their "national grape".
Malbec is a thin-skinned grape that needs more sun and heat than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature. It is very susceptible to various grape diseases, most notably frost, coulure, downey mildew, and rot; however, the development of new clones by Argentinean viticulturists and more rigorous vineyard management techniques have helped mitigate some of these plausible problems. As the Argentinean wine industry discovered the unique quality of wine that could be made from Malbec, the grape arose to greater prominence in that country and is today the most widely planted red varietal. There are over 25,000 hectares planted with Malbec in Mendoza alone; there is also considerable additional production in other Argentinean viticultural areas such as La Rioja, Salta, Catamarca, Buenos Aires and a few other regions.
Argentina's most highly rated Malbec wines originate from the high altitude regions of Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley, in elevation between 2,800 to 5,000 feet (800 m and 1500 m). In addition to numerous local luminaries, high-altitude Mendoza has attracted many notable foreign winemakers including Michel Rolland, Roberto Cipresso and Françoise Lurton to name but a few. The largest wine producer in Chile, Concha y Toro, purchased in the mid-1990s 3,200 acres in Luján de Cuyo on the other side of the Andes from Chile’s Central Valley to develop Trivento, a winery producing fine quality Malbec wines from that region.
A few weeks ago I was invited to a lunch in NYC to meet Victoria Prandina, the winemaker of Trivento, and taste a short vertical of their super-premium wine, the single vineyard “Eolo” produced from 9 acres of prime plots planted in 1912.
I had tasted the 2012 vintage of Eolo early in 2015 and, at the time, I considered it too young and hard. I thought that the tannins needed more bottle aging to integrate with the fruit. Tasting the same vintage more than a year later, paired with prime lamb chops, showed a completely different wine, impressive and mature.
The vertical consisted of three vintages 2005 (the first Eolo vintage), 2012 and 2013. While the 2005 was dark ruby-red in color and almost full- bodied, the 2012 and 2013 were both inky purple and full bodied.
The 2005 vintage was spicy, with jammy red fruit, hints of bay leaf and prominent cigar-box. Black and red fruit aromas blended well with notes of smoke, flowers, and Lapsang Souchong tea. The wine was a blend of Malbec with 10% Syrah.
The 2012 vintage was 100% Malbec; and it was the favorite of all the food writers that were invited at the lunch. It had lots of floral aromas mixed in with black plum and cherry jam; there were also hints of loam, graphite and vanilla. It was fresh and plush on the palate with a silky texture. It had an interesting, well balanced, long finish dominated by aromas of cocoa, pencil shavings and sweet tobacco.
The 2013, also 100% Malbec, was young, perfumed, with lots of violets, ripe black cherries, plums, citrus, chocolate and a hint of coconut on a silky and elegant structure. There were well balanced fine tannins and excellent acidity. Interesting citrus aromas were very evident in the long finish.
All things considered, the 3 wines showed the possibility of longevity when properly cellared.
Victoria Prandina is a young woman with a well-developed palate and flawless winemaking technique. She has been responsible for the development of Eolo since the beginning, initially under the supervision of Enrique Tirado, one of Concha y Toro’s master winemakers. She has come into her own, and we are very appreciative of her skill.
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