Argentina, Valle de Uco, DiamAndes

May 1, 2012
2012 / May 2012

“We’ve had Malbec in Argentina for a century, so there’s been plenty of time to make careful selections and develop only the best vines,” said Jean-Jacques Bonnie of DiamAndes. That is one reason Malbec, once a bit player in Bordeaux, is now the starring red grape in Argentina. Argentina’s dry, temperate, sunny climate and vineyards 3,000 feet high on the slopes of the Andes Mountains — conditions that help the grape ripen fully — produce the finest expression of Malbec, probably in the world.

Jean-Jacques’ family owns DiamAndes in Argentina’s Valle de Uco. It also owns the Grand Cru Classé de Graves Château Malartic Lagravière in Bordeaux, where the soil and climate are different from Argentina’s and where Cabernet Sauvignon is king. Still, as satisfying as their Graves wine is, the promise of Malbec in Argentina lured the Bonnies.

They built an architecturally stunning winery and produced their first vintage in 2007, working to capture the essence of Argentine Malbec while introducing a bit of Bordeaux to it. How? “By refining its tannins, giving it a complex flavor and a long finish,” Jean-Jacques said, “and especially, imparting our Argentine wines with a touch of Bordeaux’s elegance.” Another Bordeaux influence is DiamAndes’ philosophy of producing a limited number of wines. They have three categories.

At the top of the order is DiamAndes Gran Reserva ($38), a blend primarily of Malbec with, depending on the vintage, about a quarter of Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah. The 2007 vintage is dark-colored, supple, complex, intense and well-balanced, with a deep aroma of dark berries, plum and vanilla and a long, memorable finish.

The DiamAndes Varietal line includes a lively, lightly oaked Chardonnay with mild tropical fruit flavors; a fuller-bodied, round Viognier; and a rich, medium-bodied Malbec ($20) offering a nose reminiscent of coffee and chocolate.

Its Perlita line blends 80 percent Malbec and 20 percent Syrah, a bright, pleasurable fruit-driven choice for a casual quaff ($13). And DiamAndes’ older Bordeaux sibling? Château Malartic Lagravière 2009, still an infant, is a ripe wine of substance and lengthy finish that promises a long maturity. The 2008 Malartic is attractive, harmonious and aging beautifully. Both sell for about $70.

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