Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Argentinian Wine to the Fore

It seems that the further away you go from home, the more exotic the destination becomes. Argentina, located right on the other side of the globe from Singapore, qualifies as one of the lesser visited places, but thanks to gauchos, tango and chimichurri, we know that the country has a rich and unique cultural heritage. During the recent World Cup, Argentina gained further recognition as football fans cheered each goal scored by its star export Lionel Messi. Perhaps Messi himself celebrated his victories with a glass of Leo, a wine born from a joint venture between the Leo Messi Foundation and Bodega Valentin Bianchi.

Celebrity promotion aside, much of the groundwork for the promotion of Argentinian wine in Singapore has been laid by Wines of Argentina (WofA), the umbrella organisation that represents over 200 wineries. For the second year in a row, WofA has held a tasting in Singapore with the aim of showcasing the best the country has to offer. This year saw 22 wineries take part in what was billed as “the largest selection of Argentine wines ever gathered in Singapore”.

While the image of other wine producing countries may be built around affordability (such as Australia), or diversity (such as South Africa), the trump cards for Argentinian wine are its star grape varieties of Malbec and Torrontés. The former, a red grape variety hailing from France, is the most widely planted grape in Argentina. It produces wines that are deeply coloured, with a plush texture and soft, rounded tannins. Alcohol levels tend to be on the higher end of the scale, but this is balanced with a juicy freshness that makes the wines immediately appealing upon release. The vineyards in Argentina tend to be planted at extremely high altitudes that help to maintain the natural acidity of the grapes.

Wines made from Torrontés, a white crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica, fall into two camps. Some producers, like Alta Vista, chose to make a completely dry style, with aromatic and floral notes reminiscent of Gewurtztraminer. I also tasted a Torrontés from Casa Bianchi that had some residual sugar to it, making it more like an off-dry Moscato. “It is a style that goes well with the grape and is easy to sell,” commented the winery’s representative. Knowing which style you’re getting when you buy a bottle of Torrontés can be tricky as the label often doesn’t provide an indication.

At a mere market share of 0.7%, there is clearly much room for Argentinian wines to grow. If you’re looking to try something different, then these are just the wines for you, chock-full of character and with an interesting story to boot. Several of the producers I spoke to were seeking representation, and I can’t help but feel that we are on the verge of an Argentinian wine revolution here in Singapore. Maria Innocenti of Angulo Innocenti Wines commented “We think that even though Singapore is a small market, it is very good for branding.”

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