Old School in a New World

I was a lucky kid; I always liked going to school. From kindergarten through all twelve grades, plus my full ‘half-decade’ college career, which somehow concluded with an actual degree in hand. Showing up every day with a chance to learn something was what I loved the most, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. I was especially fond of history and geography; what happened where, and how incredible places around the world were even more deeply defined by the people who lived there over time.

In many ways, I love wine for the same reasons. Wine can be traced back a couple millennia, and it has defined world history, in both its geographical origins and the souls who cultivated the land and vinified the grapes.     

For September – the month of the harvest moon – and with classes back in full swing, I’ve chosen to feature a collection of wines with generational old school history, produced in one of the most important wine regions of the new world: Argentina.

One would be very hard-pressed to find a more beautiful country than Argentina, an exotic land of mountains, grassland valley floors, lakes, and oceanic cliffs. Its wine history is equally rich, dating back approximately 400 years, with Spanish colonizers leading the way. As centuries followed, immigrants from France and Italy would also plant vines that were indigenous to their homelands. Today, despite drops in recent harvests due to extreme climatic events, Argentina still ranks 6th in the world in terms of wine production. And, of course, the varietal that is most celebrated is Malbec. A native French grape of Bordeaux and Cahors, Malbec has found a permanent and majestic home in Mendoza, and is the most widely planted red wine varietal in all the country. There’s a very large number of wine producers in Argentina, whose wines include grapes such as Torrontes (white wine), Cabernet Sauvignon and the Italian Bonarda. But, Malbec is king, and this month’s article is devoted to some jewels in the crown.

The vines of La Posta

La Posta winery is the brainchild of Laura Catena, wine pioneer and daughter to legendary winemaker Nicolas Catena, arguably the most influential Argentine wine producer of all time. Born in Mendoza, Laura is an extraordinarily accomplished person, relentless in the pursuit of her passions. In addition to running her own wine label Luca, named after her oldest son, she also oversees her father’s Catena Winery and the Catena Wine Institute, which she founded, all the while living in San Francisco. She’s a mother of three, an ER doctor, and an acclaimed author. Oh, and she happens to be a biologist who graduated with honors from Harvard University.

With La Posta, the idea was there for the taking; to collaborate with Argentina’s best small-family growers and to create single-grower, single-vineyard, hand-crafted wines, with each label showcasing its own expression of Malbec, both in aroma and palate, generated by the various and distinct Mendoza appellations.

The term La Posta itself translates to “the tavern,” and refers to a place where family farmers would meet to swap their stories of the day, discuss the details of their respective soils and cellars, and ultimately celebrate their shared passion for life in vineyards.

In bringing these families together for a singular pursuit, Laura called upon esteemed winemaker Estela Perinetti Armando, whose own wine-growing family emigrated from Piemonte, Italy, and whose pedigree includes a degree in Agronomic Engineering from the National University of Cuyo in Mendoza, as well as winemaker stints for both Nicolas Catena’s Gascón label and Bodegas CARO, the joint venture between Catena and Domaine Barons de Rothschild – Lafite, where she spent thirteen years producing wine.

As for the families who comprise the new venture, they too are of Italian descent, their ancestors having come to Argentina for a new life in a new world, bringing with them their timeless traditions of hard work and unconditional love of both family and wine.

Paula and Pablo Pizzella are relatively new to Mendoza Province, but they are well-seasoned, meticulous growers of cool-climate Malbec. Their vineyard is called Finca Coquena, named after the god and protector of goats, sheep, and llamas in the Andes Mountains. As for the wine that comes from their grapes, the La Posta Pizzella Malbec 2016 is a gift to the Malbec world that invites you to journey westward to Altamira, in the region of La Consulta, situated in the glorious Uco Valley.

Pizzella Malbec 2016 has a beautiful, reddish purple color in the glass. The aromas of black cherries, dark chocolate, and baker’s spice fill the senses and transfer seamlessly onto the palate. Additional notes of blackberries and plum, along with shades of sandalwood and clove spice, complement the hints of violets that await the finish. This is a full-bodied Malbec, well-structured and very balanced. It’s aged for one year, mostly in French oak and partially stainless steel tanks; and with autumn around the corner, it’s an ideal pairing for grilled meats and rice pilaf, wild mushroom ragout, and sage risotto. It’s perfectly priced around $20 and is a 91 point recipient in Wine Advocate magazine.

Nicholas and Laura Catena

Next, we travel north to the town and department of Lujan de Cuyo, into the vineyards of Ugarteche. With elevations exceeding 3000 feet, it’s the perfect place for a different kind of Malbec, vibrant and explosive, like La Posta Malbec Paulucci 2016.

Angel Paulucci´s family has produced wine in Italy since the early 1800´s, and his family’s move to Mendoza in 1953, when he was 21 years old, would change his life forever. In 1960, he planted his first Malbec vineyard and has never looked back. If you get Angel talking, plan on staying awhile—tales of his childhood, with stories of enemy soldiers firing bullets into his family´s red wine barrels so that they could quench their thirst, will occupy some serious time and imagination.

As for the Paulucci Malbec 2016, Estela Perinetti Armando has captured the essence of Lujon de Cuyo. This wine is alive and explosive, even as the vines are upwards of 40 years old. Bright red in color, with aromas of red cherries, raspberries, ripe plums and field flowers bursting from the glass, there’s a toasty oak backdrop that delicately mingles with spice notes and soft caramel on the finish. This is a creamy, medium-bodied wine that’s full of life. It pairs with everything from hamburgers and chicken to pasta and mild cheeses. This 100% single-vineyard selection is also barrel aged for one year and, like the Pizzella, is carefully hand-crafted. Former Wine Spectator writer and critic James Suckling give the Paulucci Malbec 91 points and encourages Argentina wine lovers to drink it now!

Rounding out the triumvirate of La Posta small-family growers is Domingo Fazzio, whose single vineyard La Posta Malbec Fazzio 2015 hails from Tupungato, in the Uco Valley. Domingo’s grandfather, Salvador, was from Sicily and traveled to Argentina in 1917 looking for a better life. His son Francisco married in Mendoza, had three children and, in 1955, purchased fifteen hectares in Tupungato, dedicating himself to viticulture. His son Domingo expanded the family business and purchased additional lands in Tupungato, where he grew different fruits on a farm. In 2005, Domingo bought a vineyard of 100 hectares in the area of Agua Amarga and named it “El Nono Francisco” in honor of his father.

In many ways, Fazzio Malbec 2015 splits the seam of its two companions. A vibrant nose of red and black cherries, as well as ripe plums and floral accents, make way for more tannic wine, still full of fruit, but plenty of earthy structure to balance it all. In crafting this wine, Perinetti Armando implements both barrel and steel, giving the relatively young vines both fluidity and muscle. This is a delicious wine and pairs beautifully with pork tenderloin and walnut relish. Suckling also gives it 91 points, and like its two counterparts, it’s priced around $20.

And finally, if you’re a fan of red blends, Estela Perinetti Armando offers up her own special little wine. La Posta Cocina Tinto 2015 is a complex table blend of Malbec, Syrah, and Bonarda, another old world grape that has thrived in Argentina. Perfect by the glass, it’s even better by the bottle. Aromas of red cherries and raspberries are infused with mocha and spice, and your first taste will wash across your palate like a flood of fresh fruit. The viscous mouthfeel keeps the flavors lingering for a long while, while hints of baking spice and subtle oak keep the fruit flavors fresh and lively. This is a fun wine for fun occasions and priced inside $20. La Posta Cocina Tinto 2015 is, in many ways, the winemaker’s way of saying ‘thank you’ to three loving families whose toil in the fields inspires greatness in the glass.

I hope you get the chance to try all of these wonderful wines, and in doing so, experience the breadth of a truly wonderful varietal, given new life in a new world by a small group of ‘old country’ families. If you have any questions, contact me at info@winespique.com.

Until next time, Happy Vino’ing!

Mark Luna
About Mark Luna 10 Articles
Mark Luna is a Portfolio Rep for Roanoke Valley Wine Company. He has a Level 3 Advanced Certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and is a member of the prestigious Wine Scholar Guild, where he’s finishing his Italian Wine Scholar post-nominal accreditation. Through and beyond his work for RVWC, Mark writes, teaches and guest-speaks about wine in a variety of both industry and privately held events. He lives in Nokesville with his family. For events, Mark can be reached at mluna96@gmail.com.

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