Several months ago I found some excellent pinot noirs, a new pinot grigio and other wines on a trip to the Alpine border region where Austria and Italy — and in a couple of cases Slovenia — are separated only by an arbitrary, and recent, line on a map. Because of the stronger dollar, the prices are great, too, nothing’s over $20. Ask for “Bruce’s Alpine Series.”
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Try a new wine this week!
Los Cardos, Dona Paula Malbec
One of my favorite wine regions in the world is in Argentina. It’s named Mendoza, after a 500-year-old city that was actually Argentina’s first capital. What makes it unique, aside from its east Andes location, are the tree lined streets, irrigated by a system of canals that is also 500 years old. Rivers flowing from Andean snowmelt provide the water. Without that irrigation, there wouldn’t be any trees, because Mendoza is a semidesert. There wouldn’t be any vineyards, either, and there are lots of those.
It’s a beautiful setting, in the high desert plains in the shadow of the Andes. And not just the Andes, but Mount Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and third highest in the world.
Mendoza Province is exceptionally well suited to grape growing. Dry desert air cools quickly at night, and wine grapes thrive in hot days followed by cold nights. Also, a dry climate means few vineyard problems, from disease to insects to birds. None of this is a problem in Mendoza. This means that spraying pesticides is rarely if ever necessary, so it’s a prime place for organic farming. Additionally, since untimely rains rarely occur, vines get only the water they need, and only at the times they need it. Sometimes, though, hailstorms can cause a lot of damage.
The food is very Argentinean, and that means beef and Italian food. Many people know about Argentina’s famous grass fed beef, pampered on the pampas. They don’t age it, which is different from U.S. beef. It’s very lean and often served more well-done than we order at home.
As to the Italian food, Argentina by extract is about one-half Italian and one-third Spanish, and many Italian dishes appear on menus. Olive oil is the region’s No. 2 product after wine.
Deeply colored reds are the main wine style, especially the malbec grape. It’s originally from southwestern France, but is now No. 1 in Argentina. Cabernet sauvignon also does well here.
Some of my favorite Argentine wines are from Los Cardos. I’ve had their malbec and cabernet sauvignon many times, and have enjoyed both the good quality and the good price. Their reserve, called Dona Paula, retails for around $15, a good bargain.
All wines featured in E Wine of The Week are available locally. To receive the electronic version of E Wine of The Week, e-mail email@example.com.