When Alberto Arizu, the fourth-generation owner of Bodega Luigi Bosca in Mendoza, was president of Wines of Argentina, he promoted the easy-drinking and flavourful appeal of malbec to international consumers.
Now, with that variety firmly entrenched as the flagship grape for his country, Arizu has embraced a new project: raising the reputation of cabernet sauvignon.
Working with vineyards, particularly in high-elevation locations such as Gualtallary in the Uco Valley, offers the opportunity to produce “our own style of cabernet that stands out in the world,” says Arizu, who served as Wines of Argentina’s president from 2010 to 2020.
With vineyards planted at altitudes of up to 1,600 metres, Gualtallary rests at the extremes of Mendoza’s viticultural limits. Grapes grown here benefit from cool nighttime temperatures that lengthen the ripening period, which in turn allows the fruits to retain their acidity.
Thirty years ago, the region was considered too cold for cabernet, Arizu says. “It would have been impossible to even think to plant cabernet there.”
In the drive to produce a distinct expression of cabernet, Luigi Bosca recruited Australian winemaker Rob Mann to consult. Mann is the sixth generation of his family to work in wine and he has forged an impressive résumé, working at Tintara and Cape Mentelle in Australia and Newton in the Napa Valley.
“Malbec remains the most important grape to me. It’s important to have that signature,” says Arizu, who reports that it accounts for 40 per cent of Luigi Bosca’s production. “Our new challenge is to show the diversity of malbec in Argentina. We have the ability to craft a diverse range of malbecs from different vineyards, from exuberant, full-bodied wines to delicate, floral, restrained wines.”
Luigi Bosca, which celebrated its 120th anniversary last year, is looking to increase production of cabernet sauvignon by buying more vineyard acreage in the Uco Valley. At present, 15 per cent of its vineyards are planted with cabernet sauvignon – and the current release of Bosca’s entry level cabernet is featured among this week’s recommendations.
Azienda Poliziano In Violas Merlot 2017 (Italy)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $32.95
Produced with 100-per-cent merlot grown in Cortona, Tuscany, this rich and rewarding red wine offers juicy dark fruit and complex chocolate, spice and earthy notes. The style boasts appealing structure and intensity, with that bright acidity common to Tuscan reds. This is just hitting its stride. Decant for best enjoyment. Drink now to 2029. Vegan friendly. Available in Ontario at the above price, $34.25 in Quebec (2018 vintage).
Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2018 (United States)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $29.95
A single-vineyard chardonnay from Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara, this wine uses a blend of barrel fermented and tank fermented wines to produce a ripe and refreshing white. The mix of citrus and tropical fruit take centre stage, with a pleasing mix of zesty and juicy flavours rounded out by subtle creamy and nutty notes. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $31.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
Erasmo 2015 (Chile)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $19.95
This estate-bottled red blend comes from an organically certified estate in Maule that’s operated by the family that own Col D’Orcia in Tuscany. The 2015 vintage has a surprisingly fresh and youthful character, with serious structure and a compelling mix of juicy fruit and savoury notes. Lacking the minty and herbal notes common to many red wines from Chile, this elegant and integrated red offers a polished charm. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario.
Gérard Bertrand Orange Gold Organic White 2020 (France)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $24.95
The growing category of orange wines, where white grapes are fermented in the same way as red wines, has crossed over from oddity to ordinary. Here, one of the largest producers in the south of France has produced a vibrant and fragrant white by blending seven different grape varieties together, including chardonnay, viognier and muscat. Fermenting the wine with the stalks and skins gives the wine its bright orange colour – and brings a slight bitterness on the finish (from the tannins) that adds to its refreshing character. Available in Ontario at the above price, $29.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $31.99 in Saskatchewan, $29.85 in Nova Scotia.
Gray Monk Monk’s Blend 2019 (Canada)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $19.99
A new addition to the Gray Monk lineup, this blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon from vineyards in the southern Okanagan and Similkameen valleys offers an attractive mix of spice, chocolate and dark fruit flavours. Components of the blend were aged individually in French and American oak barrels for eight months before bottling. Drink now to 2025. Available in British Columbia at the above price, $18.99 direct from graymonk.com, various prices in Alberta.
Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Argentina)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $18.95
Luigi Bosca uses cabernet grown in its El Paraiso vineyard in Lujan de Cuyo, where vines average 45 years of age to produce this concentrated and flavourful red. Made in a rich and complex style, this cabernet shows significant oak-derived notes, suggesting toast and cedar, which add interest to the dark fruit flavours. Its firm structure and lingering finish make for a classic expression of cabernet at an attractive price. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Rabl Langenlois Gruner Veltliner 2020 (Austria)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $18.95
This exciting white wine from the Kamptal region captures the zesty and herbal intensity of gruner veltliner, with nicely concentrated citrus fruit flavours and a lingering peppery finish. Fresh and juicy and made in a dry and medium-bodied style, this is a terrific introduction to Austria’s signature white grape and a terrific match for fish or seafood dishes. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at that above price, various prices in Alberta.
Roberto Sarotto Nativo Nebbiolo 2019 (Italy)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95
This polished and fruity red wine from Langhe in Piedmont offers the intensity and complexity that nebbiolo is known for without excessive tannins (the astringent and drying component of a wine that comes primarily from the skins and seeds of the grape). The deep and rich fruit flavour is balanced by good structure and bright acidity that makes this a terrific match for roast meat or game dishes. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario.
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