Tasting some interesting white wines from Argentina

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This was a great chance to taste some diverse white wines from Argentina with three interesting Argentine wine people. There’s Edgardo del Popolo, who works for Susana Balbo and his own project called Per Se; Sebastian Zuccardi who’s doing his own wine projects as well as working with the family winery; and Matías Riccitelli, who has his own winery and also consults.

In the past, I’ve been unimpressed by Argentina’s white wines. I asked Edgardo why Argentina has struggled a bit with whites. ‘First of all because of the climate: it is warm. But with new places we think we can do things better. When you are at 700 m there aren’t good conditions to grow white varieties properly.’

Sebastian Zuccardi thinks that one of the problems is that in the past everyone was more focused on reds: the market in Argentina is still 70% red wine. ‘In the last 3 years our attention has changed and we have been challenged to making whites. Semillon is coming back strongly.’

‘It’s very interesting what has happened with Semillon,’ says Sebastien, ‘because it is part of our history. We are looking back to what happened in the 1930s to the 1950s. Now we have to rediscover this.’

‘We lost many hectares and it’s a shame,’ says Matías, ‘but these wines are trying to keep this heritage.’

Bodegas Argento Pinot Grigio 2016 Argentina
Fresh, bright, simple and quite stony with lively citrus fruit. Tight and dry with good acidity. 86/100

Michelini Bros Ji Ji Ji Chenin Blanc 2016 Villa Seca, Uco Valley, Mendoza
10.5% alcohol. From a parral (high trellis). Named after a very famous local song, and fermented in concrete eggs. Yields of 10 tons/hectare, harvested very early, looking for acidity and freshness. Cloudy. Fresh, vivid and lemony with good acidity. Very linear and stony with lovely detail and notes of herbs and cheese. Very fine and expressive with lovely acidity and freshness. So distinctive and beautiful. 94/100

Roberto de la Mota La Primera Revancha Chenin Blanc 2016 Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
13.8% alcohol, 20% new oak. Roberta worked for Chandon and was the founder o Terrazas. He first made Chenin Blanc with his father, who worked at the Weinert winery. This was back in 1985 from a historical vineyard in Agrelo. Last year he found the old plantation of Chenin Blanc that he’d used back in 1985, and this ferments in a mix of stainless steel and barrel. Lovely purity here: fresh and delicious with good acidity and nice citrus and pear fruit, with a hint of apple. There’s some ripeness, but also freshness. Has lovely fruit expression here with great balance and detail. 93/100

Michelini Bros Via Revolucionaria Semillon Hulk 2016 Uco Valley, Argentina
10% alcohol. Lightly grassy, citrussy nose leads to a lean, bright, fresh palate with lemons, herbs and fine spices. Very lean and pure with crisp lemony fruit the core signature. Some fine herbs, too, in a very light style. 90/100

Mendel Semillon 2015 Mendoza, Argentina
13.2% alcohol, from Roberto de la Mota. 60 year old vines, 1000 m altitude. Distinctive, slightly nutty and waxy with lovely textured citrus and apple fruit. This has nice freshness and a stony minerality under the dense, textural fruit. Very attractive stuff. 92/100

Riccitelli Semillon 2016 Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina
Semillon is great in Patagonia, says winemaker Matías Riccitelli, who says that low yields are important or else botrytis is a huge risk. When he started with this Semillon he spoke with the owner, and said he wanted to pay a good price to keep this old vineyard (at the time, Semillon wasn’t highly regarded). 13% alcohol. 50% concrete egg, 50% used French barrels. This has lovely precision to the taut citrus fruit. Lovely concentration of flavour with good intensity to the lemon, grapefruit and orange peel flavours. There’s a slight mineral smokiness, too. Lovely wine with good acidity. 93/100

Susana Balbo White Blend 2015 Altamira, Vale de Uco, Mendoza
Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontes. 60% new oak. Such a distinctive floral, herbal nose. Very distinctive with some grapefruit, lemons, tangerines and ripe grapes. Detailed, fresh and quite mineral with some herbal notes. Very distinctive and bright with a touch of mint on the finish. 90/100

Viticultores de Gualtallary Volare de Flor NV Mendoza, Argentina
Edgardo del Pópolo and David Bonomi (winemaker). Kept for 10 years in a barrel. It’s a Chardonnay under flor that David started making in 2000. He started in demijohn and then with enough volume racked it to barrels. Had three barrels with different kinds of flor. So distinctive, spicy and intense with ripe apples, spice and cheese. Very tangy and lively with a hint of marmalade and lovely acidity. So pretty and detailed with real finesse and beauty. 94/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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