When it comes to wine, Argentina is nearly synonymous with malbec. But the world’s fifth largest producer of wine has some unexpected offerings from bodegas (wineries) around the country. Pinot noir, a notoriously difficult grape to cultivate, thrives in the cool desert climate of Patagonia in the southern part of Argentina. Bondarda, Argentina’s second most widely planted red varietal behind malbec, becomes fruity and flavorful in the famous winemaking province of Mendoza, which is centrally located on the country’s western border. Tannat grapes originated in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France, so it’s no wonder the varietal acclimated to Salta’s high-altitude vineyards in northern Argentina. Salta soils produce a concentrated tannat that is rich in color, aromas, and flavor.
Try it: Bodega del Fin del Mundo was named when the owner, Julio Viola, was telling another winemaker about his new project in Patagonia. When Viola described the location, the winemaker said, “But that is at the end of the world!” Bodega del Fin del Mundo, which translates as “a winery at the end of the world,” produces a ruby red pinot noir with aromas of red fruit and subtle notes of vanilla and smoke. The 2012 Reserva ($19) has soft tannins and a long finish, which will leave you savoring each sip.
Buy it: Ninth Avenue Wine
Try it: Familia Zuccardi Winery, located in eastern Mendoza, is one of the best places to cultivate quality bonarda — a varietal that viticulturists identified as the rare corbeau or charbonneau of Savoie, a French area adjacent to the Italian Alps. A good bonarda has fruity aromatics, almost like a pinot noir, and a lighter texture than malbec. A great example is Zuccardi “Serie A” 2011 Bonarda ($12), which has a rich bouquet of blackberries and blueberries with flavors of black cherries and chocolate.
Buy it: K&L Wine Merchants
Try it: El Esteco was founded in 1892 in Salta’s wine capital, Cafayate, one of the highest places in the world where vines grow — more than 5,000 feet above sea level. Don David is El Esteco’s reserve range, which uses the best grape selection. The Don David wines are available under the badges of both “Michel Torino” and “Bodega El Esteco.” Michel Torino Estate Don David 2012 Reserve Tannat ($16) has typical tannat characteristics — deep, dark and rich — with flavors of blackberries and spices.
Buy it: Saratoga Wine