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Argentina is known primarily for malbec. Wineries such as Catena and Zuccardi offer subtly different expressions of it by exploring the various terroirs around Mendoza, planting vineyards higher in the mountains along alluvial fans left millions of years ago by melting glaciers. But Argentina, the Mendoza region in particular, also produces fantastic chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, wines that tend to be overcrowded on the market by competitors from elsewhere around the world. There’s also bonarda, known as charbono in California, that makes delicious, fun wines at reasonable prices. This week’s recommendations feature just a few wines from Catena and Zuccardi that demonstrate their exploration of Mendoza’s various terroirs, while offering great value. Zuccardi and Catena may be leading the climb, but they are not the only producers making fine wine from Argentina. Other labels to look for include Bramare and Felino, from California winemaker Paul Hobbs, as well as Mendel, Terrazas de los Andes, and various labels produced by Ernesto Catena.
Our greatest value of the week is the Santa Julia Tintillo red 2018 from Sebastian Zuccardi. A blend of malbec and bonarda made by carbonic maceration (the technique best known in beaujolais), the wine is a throwback to the jug wines Mendoza used to make for domestic consumption in the asado restaurants of Buenos Aires. It is meant to fuel conversation, not be the subject of it. Bring on the empanadas and cue the tango music.
Mendoza, Argentina, $13
Intellectual wines can drive fascinating discussions of terroir and the meaning of life. But sometimes wine should just be joyful. That’s what this one is — bursting with fruit and energy, the first sip ignites a party. Stock up on this for your house red this spring and summer. Alcohol by volume: 13 percent. This wine was previously exclusive to Whole Foods Market, but is receiving wider distribution with the 2018 vintage.
Imported by Winesellers, distributed by Winebow: Available in the District at Grand Cata, Rodman’s, Whole Foods Market (Foggy Bottom, H Street). Available in Maryland at Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Dawson’s Liquors and Goska’s Liquors in Severna Park, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg. Available in Virginia at Whole Foods Market (Alexandria, Arlington, Crystal City, Tysons).
Valle de Uco, Mendoza, $13
If Argentina makes you think of steak, here’s a perfect wine for you. Bold and juicy, with flavors of plums, dark fruit and spice, it can stand up to big flavors of meat and char. The blend is 70-30, with malbec in the lead role. Terrific value for the price. ABV: 13 percent.
Imported by Winesellers, distributed by Winebow: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Rodman’s, Wide World of Wines, Whole Foods Market (P Street); on the list at Busboys & Poets (various locations). Available in Maryland at Balducci’s, Bradley Food & Beverage and Lance’s Beer & Wine in Bethesda, Old Town Market in Kensington, the Perfect Pour in Elkridge, Rodman’s (White Flint), Snider’s Super Foods in Silver Spring, Wilkens Liquors in Baltimore; on the list at Busboys & Poets in Hyattsville, Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar in Frederick. Available in Virginia at the Brew Shop in Arlington, Whole Foods Market (Tysons).
Catena produces two rare and expensive chardonnays, White Bones and White Stones, from its Adrianna Vineyard in the Gualtallary area of the Tupungato. At well over 4,000 feet altitude, it is one of the highest in Mendoza. This wine comes from vineyards throughout Tupungato, and it delivers some of the same character, if not the intensity, of the Adrianna wines. There’s racy acidity and a firm mineral character embracing generous fruit flavors and a dash of spice. ABV: 13 percent.
Imported and distributed by Winebow: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Dupont Market, D’Vines, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at the Bottle Shop in Potomac, Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia, Oakdale Fine Wine & Spirits in Catonsville, Old Town Market in Kensington. Available in Virginia at One More Page in Arlington.
La Consulta is at the southern end of the Uco Valley in Mendoza province. Keep it in mind with Vista Flores and Paraje Altamira as some of the highest-altitude appellations from the region. (The town of La Consulta is at 3,300 feet altitude.) One could spend a very glorious evening sipping and comparing wines from these three areas. This wine speaks of both sunshine and earth, as if it reaches for the sky while remaining firmly rooted. The balance is superb, the fruit effusive, the texture supple. ABV: 13 percent.
Imported and distributed by Winebow: Available in the District at A-1 Wines & Liquors, Grand Cata, Rodman’s; on the list at Carmine’s, Malbec, Scotts, Thip Khao. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s, Bethesda Market, Bradley Food & Beverage, Georgetown Square Wine and Beer and Maple Beer & Wine in Bethesda, Bin 201 Wine Sellers in Annapolis, the Bottle Shop and World Gourmet Wine & Beer in Potomac, Dawson’s Market in Rockville, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg, Rodman’s (White Flint), the Perfect Pour in Elkridge, Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Balducci’s (Alexandria); on the list at American Prime in McLean, Red Fox Inn in Middleburg, Tortino Mare in Manassas Park.
Sebastian Zuccardi argues that aging wines in oak barrels disguises the true expression of the vineyard’s tsoils and climate. The new Zuccardi winery in the southern Uco Valley is high in altitude at about 1,100 meters, or 3,600 feet, nearly as high as vineyards can be planted with hopes of consistently ripening a crop. This wine shows the effect of altitude in its elegance and acidity, and the seasoning from rocky soils in its black fruit flavors. The concrete aging gives it extra grip and texture. The lack of oak might prompt overzealous marketing types to call this a “naked” wine. ABV: 14 percent.
Imported by Winesellers, distributed by Winebow: Available in the District at Calvert Woodley, Grand Cata, Rodman’s, Zachys. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s, Beer Wine & Co., Bethesda Market, Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Dawson’s Liquors in Severna Park, Old Line Fine Wine, Spirits and Bistro in Beltsville, Pine Orchard Liquors in Ellicott City, Rodman’s (White Flint); on the list at Capital Grille in Chevy Chase.
Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.