By Ben Heskett
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- It is a rare treat when one of Argentina’s venerable Malbec producers chooses to share its wines in your city. Such was the case on a beautiful late summer day at a recent "Achaval-Ferrer Estates tasting at the Piperade restaurant here. The winery has done much to expand the view of Malbec in the world at large, and it was a unique opportunity to hear from the co-founder, Santiago Achaval.
As the seminal book on Argentinian wine Vino Argentino by Laura Catena says: “Achaval-Ferrer has done much to promote the distinctive terroirs of Argentine Malbec.” This was never more evident than in the interesting vineyard designate Malbecs at the tasting – the Finca Bella Vista 2012 and a flight of Finca Altamira vintages from 2012, 2009, 2006 and 2000.
The wines express the focus of the winery – low yields, single vineyards, and old vines, working in concert to deliver a unique approach to Argentinian Malbec. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was the older vintages that provided the most character, depth and silky Malbec experience – the 2006 and 2000 vintages of the Finca Altamira shined with dark fruit notes and a long, luxurious finish.
Santiago Achaval gave a compelling narrative of his winery, its history and where he thinks the Mendoza region of Argentina may go in the future. This last topic was interesting – Achaval hopes to see more Malbec from interesting places, driven by a single-vineyard approach, and he also believes white Rhone varietals will work in the region.
Achaval (pictured at left) and fellow winemaker Roberto Cipresso are committed to developing his wines without a lot of intervention, letting the particular vineyards – Finca Altamira, Finca Bella Vista, and Finca Mirador – speak for themselves. This needs to be underscored - This is a fairly unique approach in Argentina, and a philosophy that is certain to develop further in the region.
Achaval Ferrer also produces a Malbec-driven blend called Quimera as well as a Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon using the general appellation designation Mendoza.
Separately, for those podcast enthusiasts, Grape Radio recently posted a good primer and discussion about Argentinian wines and Malbec specifically. You can listen the episode here.