The WC Club – Argentina

Last week saw the first sitting in 2013 of the WC Club, which stands for, well, the Wine Club, eh, Club. I found myself honoured to be invited to this gathering of like-minded wine lovers, the first meet of the club in some time, and indeed I felt a little trepidation, like my first day at school.

A wine topic is chosen in advance – whether geographical, varietal, etc. – and each attendee is expected to bring along a bottle fitting the bill. Each wine is tackled individually, preceded by an informed presentation from its benefactor, then studiously examined and discussed in a balanced, erudite fashion. Marks out of 100 are given, with extra points going to wines at €12 and below. The meetings are decorous and abstemious, and finish early in time for bed and the Late Late Show.

The topic of this congressional was Argentina, so much of my spare thought that evening was taken up wondering whether the wines were Argentine or Argentinian. I’ve Googled it since and still don’t know any better. Either way, here’s what was on the table that night:

Marks & Spencer Fragoso Chardonnay 2011, €12.00, M&S[singlepic id=13 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Lanolin and butter on the nose and medium-bodied on the palate with your typical touches of tropical fruit, but not enough to warrant any sort of excitement. I thought it was lightly oaked, but no, it was completely unoaked, much to my surprise.

There was a little something on the nose also which those in the trade call ‘funky’ – and no I don’t mean in a swinging sixties way – but a sort of ‘barnyard smell’ which oftentimes can be attributed to a little excess sulphur which is yet to ‘blow off’ or dissipate given a few minutes of air. Ok ok, enough wine euphemisms: it’s a ‘farty’ smell, but it’s relatively normal and not uncommon with screwcapped wines as they provide a tighter seal which can exacerbate the issue. But it’s all grand, really. Seriously!

Anyway, this wine was found wanting and had a harsh jarring quality which, as you can guess, is not exactly good. All in all it was an experience to have an Argentinean/Argentine chardonnay, but I wouldn’t pick up this bottle again.

[singlepic id=15 w=320 h=240 float=left]Lo Tengo Torrontes 2010, €10.99, O’Brien’s

Bought for its shiny holographic label of Tango dancers, this was thickly aromatic on the nose – almost sickly sweet, like air freshener. But my God it tasted awful: harsh, alcoholic, a paint-stripper quality with a note of peach. Completely unpalatable, but others found it fine which confused me. What’s odd is that this came from O’Brien’s who should know better, though on reflection I wonder if it was a bad bottle.

Michel Torino Don David Reserve Malbec 2010, €13.99, Redmond’s of Ranelagh[singlepic id=12 w=320 h=240 float=right]

The lovely people in Redmond’s must have been wondering what on earth was happening in the Argentina section of their shop that evening as three of us sourced our wines from there. Joan brought this one, which was, she proudly pointed out, from the highest vineyard in Argentina at 1,700m.

This was quite closed on approach, meaning that it was quite hard what to make of it initially. When this happens in wine you need to leave them breathe a bit, so after a few minutes of frantic swirling we got some decent dark fruit character, plums and the like, but what really showed was its minerality, which I wasn’t really expecting from an Argentinean malbec. Some likened it to a metallic, blood-like taste too, which I suppose wasn’t too far off and suited the whole ‘pair with steak’ maxim well. It was too tightly wound for the duration of our tasting and would have been better had it opened a bit more, but it was generally agreed that the quality was excellent.

The fact that we were sniffing, sipping and postulating throughout the tasting was testament to this fact, because you never exert any brain power on €6 supermarket wines (which is one reason they’re so popular I suppose).

[singlepic id=20 w=320 h=240 float=left]Masi Passo Doble 2010, €14.39, Redmond’s of Ranelagh (and not, ridiculously, €16.50 in Superquinn)

This is the one I brought, the South American venture of renowned Italian winemaker Masi Agricola. It’s a blend of 70% Malbec but also 30% of the indigenous Venetian varietal called Corvina, and not only that but the Corvina is semi-dried by laying it out on bamboo racks, concentrating the flavours and adding plenty of oomph to the end product.

The result is a big, rich, full-bodied wine, very up-front and generous with the fruit. Baked summer berries, blueberries and dried raisins were what I got on the palate, then later some dried cranberries. The balance is great and some lovely integrated tannin decided to gently announce itself after a while, though some found it a little too drying. It was a big, friendly, approachable drop, but therein lay its weakness: some, and eventually I too, found it maybe a little simple; delicious and generous yes, but not much complexity.

Oh, and the price? €14.39 in Redmond’s of Ranelagh, but stupidly enough €16.50 in Superquinn Rathgar. It pays to shop around, and it’s always so much better giving the customer to your local offie.

Las Moras Malbec 2011, €10.99, Redmond’s of Ranelagh[singlepic id=14 w=320 h=240 float=right]

This had a smokey, spicy nose, but was nevertheless a bit shallow. Unfortunately the palate wasn’t much more impressive with a whack of alcohol showing up the lack of balance, a bitter tang which probably indicated poor fruit, and some residual sugar which was probably the winemaker’s attempt to make it palatable. Not offensive, but a no-go for me.

[singlepic id=18 w=320 h=240 float=left]Andeluna 1300 Malbec 2011, €12.99, Louis Albrouze

This, interestingly enough, was the only Argentinian (or Argentine? Gah!) wine that Louis Albrouze stocks in his fantastic offie on Leeson Street, so much given over to the Old World as he is. It come from vineyards that are, in light of the Don David, only a paltry 1,300m above sea level.

This was very much chocolately on the nose with some distinct smokiness and spice but also cranberry and black cherry. On the palate it was rich, full-bodied, had decent tannin (though more evident than the Masi), some nice oak (and therefore some vanilla), but in all it was also, like the Masi, a little simple overall.

Santa Rita 120 Merlot, €cheap, From Everywhere[singlepic id=11 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Yes, you read right. A late-comer, who shall not be named, didn’t read the brief correctly (or at all) and showed up with a wine that was from the wrong country. And a bland supermarket brand too. But, being game wine enthusiasts we decided to give it a go. The result wasn’t pretty. It was stalky and green, sulpherous, acrid, confected shite. I’m not a wine snob but I’ll have to call out a shite wine for what it is, and Santa Rita 120 is definitely that.

So who won? By a nose it was the Don David, then the Andeluna, then the Masi, though personally I would have put the Masi ahead of the Andeluna. Interestingly, though we didn’t pour out large glasses, we seemed to have no wine left, so theoretically we each drank a bottle of 14% alcohol wine each, which didn’t feel right. Either way it was felt that another bottle was in order to a Chateauneuf-du-Pape appeared out of nowhere but, alas, I had an early-morning drive ahead of me so made my excuses, and lived to wine another day.

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