Argentine Pinot Noir

by Patrick Sandeman

Lea and Sandeman announcing the discovery of an outstanding Pinot Noir from Argentina may well provoke a gasp of disbelief among some of our customers who know perfectly well that when it comes to Pinot Noir we are still heavily prejudiced towards Burgundy.  It is true we have been know to raise the flag for exceptionally well made Pinot Noirs from New Zealand, such as Rippon, Gladstone and Felton Road, and even Australian ‘value’ Pinots, such as Pike and Joyce, but South American Pinot Noir has left us cold up until now – the supermarket Chilean versions being the nearest thing to boiled beetroot juice on the market.

Although long in the tooth we are always open to tasting new things, and such tastings sometimes can even surprise two maturing wine buyers. Let’s just say that we were not especially looking, and arguably do not really need Argentine wines (although Malbec does seem to have become the new Merlot), so to be faced with an Argentine Pinot Noir that we even liked enough to ship from half way around the globe was a bit of a momentous moment.

So, we are delighted to announce the arrival and exclusive distribution of Bodega Chacra wines in the UK. From the world’s most southern vineyards, set in the arid, desert like planes of Patagonia, Bodega Chacra produces three exceptional Pinot Noirs. Owned and headed up by the charming Piero Incisa della Rocchetta, the family famous for their San Guido (Sassicaia) estate in Bolgheri, their pedigree is almost guaranteed.

In 2004 Piero purchased a three hectare block of Pinot Noir vines which was originally planted in 1932, followed by other blocks which had been subsequently planted in 1955 and 1967. These gnarled old vines, still on their own rootstock, are set in the porous soils of the Rio Negro Valley. The soils are made up of gravel and coarse alluvial pebbles, with a significant limestone content. At an altitude of 750m, with great luminosity and blessed with an exceptionally long and even growing season, the conditions are near perfect and the vines can be tended in line with Biodynamic principles.

Three cuvées are produced by world renowned winemaker Hans Vinding Diers. The ’55’ (Cincuenta y Cinco) and ’32’ (Treinta y Dos) cuvées are named after the year the vineyards were planted, while a third wine called ‘Barda’ is produced from vines replanted on the original site of the 1932 site, as well as ‘declassified’ grapes from the premium vineyards.

The ’55’ was the top scoring wine in the Wines of Argentina Super Premium trade tasting held at the Gaucho Grill in April of this year.

2007 ‘Barda’ Pinot Noir £18.95 single bottle £16.95 by the case

Barda, meaning ‘The Ridge’, is Bodega Chacra’s main production of Pinot Noir from a vineyard planted with the same rootstock as the 1932 and 1955 plots, together with some grapes and wines which are deselected from those same plots. Made in exactly the same manner as the top wines, with similar Burgundian oak treatment (largely one year old Allier oak), Barda is an elegant Pinot with soft supple texture, rich, tangy fruit and a fresh, lingering finish. Put this up against almost any ‘village’ wine from Burgundy and it will more than surprise you. Serious wine making, fun wine drinking.

"An elegant, floral Pinot Noir from Patagonia’s top producer of PN. Barda is warm, creamy and intense. An emphasis on balanced raspberry and cherry favours mixed with rose hip and freshness give it Old World personality. A very drinkable and honest style of red wine. Good now into 2011." 90 points. Wine Enthusiast Magazine

2007 Chacra ’55’ Pinot Noir £45.00 single bottle £39.50 by the case

From Chacra’s six hectare 1955 vineyard, vinified in whole bunches and given less than 40% new oak, this is so beautifully textured (in the same vein as Thibault Liger-Belair’s wines) with rich berry fruit, it is still reserved at first but then builds to a wonderful crescendo on the finish.

"From vines planted in 1955, this is a rose-tinted Pinot with a woven, integrated bouquet of toast, mineral and berry fruits. There’s more Burgundian character here than New World, so it pours on the cerebral scents and flavours of tea, rose hip, strawberry and raspberry. Reserved in style, but good to drink now and over the next few years. If $100 seems to be a lot to spend on Argentinian Pinot, you should give it a try at some point; you may be convinced otherwise." 94 points. Wine Enthusiast Magazine

2007 Chacra ’32’ Pinot Noir £55.00 single bottle £49.50 by the case

Chacra’s oldest vineyard, planted in 1932 is composed of three hectares of ungrafted, pre-phlloxera vines producing tiny yields. As with the Barda, berries are de-stemmed by hand prior to fermenting. Still tight, linear and slightly tannic this is beautifully layered with very fine fruit flavours which with a little more time in bottle will evolve fabulously. Grand Cru quality without doubt.

This wine from vines planted in 1932 is linear and intense to the core. It is an age worthy specimen with fine acidity and tight structure. Now, it is juicy and a little sharp, with piercing black cherry fruit and spice galore. Best to wait for another year or two to begin drinking, and beyond that it may last for another 5-10 years if well cellared.  94 points. Wine Enthusiast Magazine

One thought on “Argentine Pinot Noir

  1. Ken Robinson

    Living in the Rio Negro area, I can only concur that the quality of Chacra wine is superb! The Pinot, definately worth the effort!

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