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waters on wine

Alamos Vineyard, in the Mendoza region of Argentina.Gordo Monton/Alamos Vineyard

Most consumers’ knowledge about Argentina’s wine industry is tied exclusively to Mendoza. The region is home to 75 per cent of the nation’s vineyards and the largest number of wineries in the country. It’s the region that appears on the labels of popular brands, such as Alamos, Catena and Pascual Toso, sold in Canada.

Operations such as Familia Schroeder, which produces a range of red, white and sparkling wines further south in Patagonia, are looking to expand the horizons of Canadian wine lovers.

Schroeder’s Alpataco Pinot Noir, which is named after a native bush that thrives in the semi-arid conditions where the Schroeder’s vineyards are planted, shows the bright and refreshing personality of the grape as well as the potential for wines with different personalities from a country that is often defined by the crowd-pleasing nature of its malbecs.

This simple and fruity red doesn’t draw comparisons with the best or finest expressions of pinot noir from Burgundy, but that’s not the point. It’s made to showcase the flavours of the grape, which it captures admirably. Most pinot noirs that retail for less than $20 in Canada fail to capture the fragrance or the finesse that makes the variety so special. They often taste more like merlot or a nondescript red wine than delivering any sense of the grape’s vital character, which makes this pleasant pinot from the southernmost winemaking region of Argentina worth tasting.

In addition to the Alpataco Pinot, this week’s recommendations are a mix of red and white wines to serve and enjoy during the remaining weeks of summer.

Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Argentina), $15.95

Rating:87 /100

This is an attractive cabernet sauvignon with cedar, toasty oak and dark fruit aromas and flavours that make it a solid barbecue red. Some grippy tannins peek through on the finish, which makes this style more enjoyable with a meal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $14.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $16.49 in Saskatchewan, $14.99 in Manitoba, $18.99 in New Brunswick, $18.49 in Nova Scotia.

Alpataco Pinot Noir 2019 (Argentina), $14.95

Rating:88 /100

It’s nice to see affordably priced pinot noirs from Argentina like this one turning up more frequently at wine shops across the country. Produced by the Schroeder family’s winery in Patagonia, this fresh and fruity red wine captures the tart red berry and earthy character of pinot noir in a simple, unadorned fashion. There’s no spice or vanilla notes from oak, just vibrant fruit character, which makes this a terrific red wine to enjoy with a meal. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $19.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $16.95 in Quebec.

Bread & Butter Chardonnay 2018 (United States), $18.95

Rating:88 /100

Bread & Butter delivers the crowd-pleasing style that made California chardonnay a global sensation. This is a full-bodied white wine, with creamy character and a core of ripe tropical fruit mixed with vanilla flavours from oak. Some vibrant citrus notes add some refreshment to the finish. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price ($16.95 until Sept. 12), $22.99 in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, $27.49 in Saskatchewan, $21.99 in Manitoba, $19.05 in Quebec (2019 vintage), $23.99 in New Brunswick, $22.98 in Newfoundland.

Cambria Estate Winery Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 (United States), $38.99

Rating:91 /100

Located in Santa Barbara, Cambria is one of the boutique wineries owned and operated by the Jackson family, which is responsible for Kendall-Jackson, La Crema and other labels that are well known to Canadian wine lovers. This is a ripe and complex style of pinot noir that is easy to appreciate. The mix of ripe fruit and savoury notes showcase the beguiling nature of pinot noir, while the smooth and supple texture make for a red with mass appeal. Drink now to 2025. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta.

Estancia Los Cardones Anko Torrontés 2019 (Argentina), $16.95

Rating:89 /100

The torrontés grape from Argentina produces distinctive white wines with pronounced floral aromas. The variety performs best in the high elevation vineyards around Salta in the north of the country, where grapes can get ripe enough to develop those perfumed characteristics. This is a solid introduction to the style and character of the dry and aromatic wines made from torrontés, which like muscat or gewurztraminer can be a bit of an acquired taste. Drink now. Available in Ontario.

Jim Barry Single Vineyard The Farm Cabernet/Malbec 2018 (Australia), $29.95

Rating:91 /100

Located in the Clare Valley, the Barry family continues to be one of the leading producers of red and white wines in Australia. This ripe and juicy blend of cabernet sauvignon and malbec is something of a rarity, having only been produced three times since 1997. (Most vintages are made strictly from cabernet.) Made in a generous style, with concentrated ripe fruit flavours and a smooth texture, this medium-bodied wine is enjoyable on its own or with a meal. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario.

SpearHead Winery Clone 95 Chardonnay 2019 (Canada), $30

Rating:90 /100

Produced from a vineyard in Summerland planted with one of the most popular clones of chardonnay in the Okanagan, this is a rich and refreshing white wine that offers ripe fruit flavours with nutty and vanilla notes that come from fermentation and aging in oak barrels. It’s drinking nicely now, but promises to gain more complexity and concentrated character with bottle age. Drink now to 2024. Available at the above price direct through, various prices in Alberta.

Tiki Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (New Zealand), $21.95

Rating:91 /100

The sauvignon blanc grapes for this fresh and fragrant white come from Marlborough’s Awatere Valley, which typically produces wines with more green and herbaceous notes. This flavourful example offers an appealing mix of tropical fruit and vegetal notes, including pea pod and fennel, that carry through to the refreshing finish. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario.

Toi Toi Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (New Zealand), $17.95

Rating:88 /100

The family-owned Toi Toi winery harvests sauvignon blanc from vineyards located throughout Marlborough to produce this nicely balanced and fruity white. The aroma and flavour suggest an easy-to-appreciate combination of citrus and tropical fruit notes. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $21.99 in New Brunswick.

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