I have a dream…

I have a dream Or in this case, last night I had a dream that I could actually remember, for a change, having just stumbled out of bed this morning. As I awoke from my slumber I remembered where I found myself last night in the lovely world of sweet dreams. I was at home, calmly drinking a whole bottle, yes all 75cls worth of Ch.Latour 2012 and all on my own. It was really quite superb, not decanted and just straight from the bottle, poured into an old fashioned heavy Claret glass. I have no idea what Herr Freud would make of this of course, and I don’t care either as the wine, the vintage and the colour where all pretty dam good. I have been lucky enough to drink various vintages of Latour over the years, as I can still just about remember drinking a 1921, 1955, 1961 and 1964 (my favourate Latour vintage of all time, and by the way none of this is showing off), a 1970, ’71, 76, 79 & a miserable but still very drinkable 1980 with baked potatoes and cheddar cheese. I cannot remember drinking any of the big 1990’s vintages except for the more than passable 1993, and when I get to the millennium vintages, I don’t think a drop has passed my sweet lips at all. Les Forts and Paulliac (the baby wine) yes, but for now what I am really pondering on is my rather strange dream about drinking the 2012 Ch.Latour that does not actually exist on the market yet. It does not concern me at all that in my dreamworld the vintage was important, I am happy to be drinking Ch.Latour of any vintage both in reality or amongst the angels, but what does prick my senses is the way the label and the vintage were both so predominant in the dream.

As most of you Claret buyers know, Latour changed all their ‘En Primeur’ business a few years ago, when Monsieur P (the rich fella) took charge of the world’s greatest vineyard and they decided to now only release the Grand Cru when they see it is ready and fit for drinking, apparently. Please also remember that the chateau owner is the richest man in France and so it’s not a problem for him to sit on stock like this, sometimes for up to eight years. I do beleive 2012 will be released later on this year, or post-flu, or even as I type this bloggy.

Château Latour

In the dream, both the wine, the sensation and the texture finish where very real and complete. Alas, I cannot afford to drink Ch.Latour in the real world anymore, could I ever?, and even those weaker vintages. So as I just double-checked on W/Searcher to see what the current Latour values are, I did raise an eyebrow or two. Whilst preparing my morning coffee, I began to think of good wines, other than Ch.Latour of course, that are available in my local market place (zero!), that could be of the same level as a good Pauillac, lesser in price and yet still produced on the ‘Cotes d’Este de los Andes’. According to the price on oracle-searcher I can buy several Argentine Malbec and their Blends for the same price as a single bottle of 1976 Ch.Latour or even a bottle of 1993 Latour. Sure neither are great vintages for this fabled estate, but I really don’t mind as the vintage is the vintage always and I just want to drink Latour like in my dream. Needless to say I can see that the prices for hi-level Argy red are very similar to great Claret, and in this case ‘the best! vineyard in the world. The question I have now is, how do they do that? So I endeavored to track down three professionals on the subject of wine produced in Argentina and pose my question to them. All three answered in their own style and I want to share with you the answers, so as to remove any more doubt as to my post-dream query.

The sensible Master of Wine Question was:
”Why are so many new Argentine wines, both Malbecs and Blends (today is Malbec day here, 17th Apri’20 – C19 cancelled by the way) priced as if they have a long track record, history and a reputation to deserve such a high-price-level? ”

The first reply came from Toby Morrhall who has been buying Argentine wine for The Wine Society (est.1874) for over 28 years now. (He also covers superbly, Burgundy, Chile & Uruguay for their Co-Op portfolio. And having been a member of the oldest Co-Operative in the world since 1982, I can tell you frankly that their wine buyers know an awful lot about what they chose and don’t)

Toby MorrhallIt is a good question and difficult to answer, other than the market is prepared to pay higher prices for Argentine wines than say Chilean ones. Malbec is fashionable at present but finding a good one is quite difficult in my view. The cheaper wines can be soft and simple and may please some because they are inoffensive and do not have a strong taste, like chicken breasts! Shipping and duty (UK) are more expensive than from Chile so that adds a bit onto the price.
Although Argentina has pulled a lot of old Malbec vines up, it still has many old vineyards. I do think old vine Malbec from the cooler areas are worth the money eg: Mendel Malbec. Their Malbec comes from a vineyard planted in 1928 and today is 16 pounds a bottle. This graceful old vine texture is not easy to replicate.

In the same week Tim Atkin MW released his annual Argentine Wine Report (2020). This is his 8th edition and as I happened to be live! on a Zoombuster tasting with 67PM and to promote the report, and taste six of Tim’s Argy recommendations ‘Virtual’, I thought it would be a good opportunity to pose the same question to Mr Atkin ‘a la chat’:

Tim Atkin

I think there are two reasons for this. One, they sell very well in the States (USA). America is their biggest market and people are prepared to pay for them. Two, the pe$o. With the weakness of the peso it’s very difficult for Argentina to produce cheap wine, that sells cheaply. They can indeed make cheap wine but that’s not interesting at all. To produce good wine they need to import barrels and corks and some of the prices are indeed on the punchy side.

NB As indeed are some of the flying wine-makers that touch down regularly on the tarmac at Mendoza’s airport.

Finally, and with enormous pleasure I asked our local, based in Buenos Aires, Master of Wine (to be) Matias Chiesa on his thoughts to the question.

Matias ChiesaI think it’s a combination of a few things and situations. Mainly, there is no real competition in the ”high-end wine” category. These local wines are usually on the market, and as in general the market is flooded by Argentine labels and there is a drought of big International names. This leaves an empty space that clever wineries fill-in with their new labels. Then the consumers will rank the wines as worthy or not. Secondly, social media has changed a lot of the story behind a wine. The reputation of a wine or a winery, Domain or Chateau is now built on these platforms, making it much more easy and fast. Also the reputation and the history might be weak because of the same easy and fast foundation. Thirdly, but not least, consumers in the local market care little or nothing on the vintage information. The label is much more important than a good or a bad year. Making a perfect branding situation rather than specific reputation of a specific wine. Serious wines around Europe are the ones that proved during a long period and especially in bad vintages that they are still capable of producing great wines, with vintage and also with land expressions. These are the main factors, but other variables are also to be considered.

A BiG thank you, here, to the Three Wise Men of Malbec!

And to promote the 2020 Argentine Wine Report, Tim A MW did a live tasting and fascinating chat on the 67PM Zoombuster. These where the wines Tim chose to taste with us on that evening. A really good and interesting selection, even in my humble opinion. Just goes to show that the fellow really does know what he is talking about. Two whites and three reds, in this order and our stock availabilty ex LCB VT:

2019 Riccitelli Wines Old Vine Semillon, Río Negro (sold out)
2019 El Esteco Old Vine Torrontés, Cafayate (sold out)

2017 Emma Zuccardi Bonarda, Paraje Altamira (sold out)
2016 Andelua Pasionado Cabernet Franc, Gualtallary (sold out)
2016 Per Se Lubilius, Gualtallary (in stock)
2015 Cheval des Andes, Mendoza (in stock)