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The wines of Bodega Colomé, Salta, Argentina

Website: www.bodegacolome.com

Colomé is a remarkable wine estate in the northerly Salta region of Argentina that boasts the world’s highest commercial vineyards. It’s also run along biodynamic lines. And the wines are great.

Colomé has a long history. The winery was founded in 1831, with the first Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon vines arriving from France in 1854. There still exist three vineyards, totalling 4 hectares, on the estate that were planted at this time.

For a long time Colomé remained in the original Isasmendi-Dávalos family, but it was purchased by the Rodó family in 1969 before being bought back by Raul Dávalos in 1982. In 2001 it was bought by the Hess group, where its modern history begins.

The Hess group own the Hess Collection (Napa, California), Glen Carlou (Paarl, South Africa) and Peter Lehmann wines (Barossa, Australia). It’s clear that they had big ambitions for Colomé, which they seem to have realized.

In 1999 they purchased the 350 hectare El Arenal farm, at 2600 m altitude, on which they planted 30 hectares of Malbec. The Colomé property itself is a massive 39 000 hectares, of which 11 hectares were old vineyards of 60–150 years’ age. Altogether, there are now 70 hectares of vines at Colomé. There is also an experimental vineyard at El Arenal at an altitude of 3002 metres. A further 10 hectares are planted in Cafayate.

This high elevation makes a difference to the wines. First of all, it moderates the otherwise warm temperatures of this northerly latitude. There is a high day–night temperature differential. And the elevated UV levels at this altitude cause the skins of the grapes to be thicker and have higher levels of anthocyanins (colour) and tannins, but also these elevated tannins are of a smoother, less astringent kind.

Colomé Torrontes 2007 Salta
Beautifully aromatic: grapey, perfumed and a bit limey. The palate has a nice rich texture with sweet grapey fruit and a hint of lychee. Lovely stuff. 90/100

Colomé Amalaya 2005 Salta
70% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Bonarda, part aged in French oak. 14.5% alcohol. Really nice earthy, spicy nose is quite savoury. The palate shows lovely rich fruit with a nice savoury, minerally, spicy character. Not just about the fruit, and quite lovely. 89/100

Colomé Amalaya 2006 Salta
Fresh, spicy blackcurrant fruit nose is bright and mineralic. The palate is quite vivid, fresh and nicely fruity. Bright, with some savoury earthiness on the finish. A beautiful wine. 90/100

Colomé Estate Malbec 2005 Salta
85% Malbec, 10% Cabernet, 5% Tannat, three quarters matured in French oak. Quite lush with vivid fruit on the nose. The palate shows a lovely smooth, lush texture to the concentrated, vivid dark fruits, bolstered by lovely tannins and acidity. Vivid stuff with a nice mineral streak under the fruit. Brilliant effort. 93/100 (This is available in Oddbins and Waitrose, for £14.99)

UK agent: Enotria Wines (www.enotria.co.uk

Wines tasted 09/07  
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Older notes on Colomé:

Colome Estate Malbec 2004 Valle Calchaqui, Salta, Argentina
This is a striking, modern styled wine that's quite forward and seductive, while at the same time retaining balance. A deep colour, it has a beguiling, sweet, pure nose of blackberry jam with some fresh raspberries in the mix, accompanied by a hint of vanilla oak. The palate shows quite elegant pure fruit, sweet yet not mushy and over-ripe. There's some spicy tannin, and the only negative is the high alcohol (14.5%), which makes its presence felt. Clearly new world in style, and fruit-driven, but pretty classy in this seductive mould. Wines like this will have Chile worried, I reckon. If you are in the mood for it, this is thoroughly delicious, but traditionalists beware! Very good/excellent 91/100 (£12.99 Oddbins) 06/06

Colomé Estate Malbec 2005 Calchaquí, Salta, Argentina
From a high-altitude region in northern Argentina which includes the world’s highest commercial vineyard, at almost 10 000 feet. A deep red/black colour. Smooth, sweet, lush nose of black fruits, which is almost creamy. After a while it opens up a bit and the fruit sings an even purer, more alluring tune. The palate is concentrated and lush with very ripe fruit, although this is still quite fresh. Plenty of tannin here, but it is very smooth. Intense and pure, with a really rich structure. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£12.99 Oddbins, Bryan Ford’s, Noel Young, Coe Vintners, Hercules Wine Warehouse) 03/07

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