I've been really getting into the wines from Patagonia lately. They offer something different from the usual, delicious values that come out of Mendoza, Argentina's wine capitol. Some 400 mile south of Mendoza in a scrubby, arid, windy, crazy place, Patagonia is home to some of the southernmost vineyards of the world! But don't pack your bags and expect some tourist haven, this is a desolate region, great for grapes, but not a whole lot of anything else.
The region boasts plenty of sunshine and dry climate along with a wide range between day and nighttime temperatures. But the strong winds that blow through the area are a huge challenge in terms of tangling vines and they also destroy many of the buds during flowering. The winds can also cause wine grapes to grow a thicker skin resulting in harsher tannins if the winemaker isn't careful. Poplar trees planted on the perimeter of the vineyards are used as a windbreak and help prevent vine shoots from twisting. The upside to the winds is that they keep the vines dry and keep away pests and disease so the use of chemicals is almost non-existent.
How does the taste differ from Mendoza Malbecs? I get a little more plum notes than the usual black fruits and a hint of graphite as well, but the same soft tannins and light acidity; very pleasant and something a little different for Malbec fanatics.
Matt Lirette of Lirette Selections brought me the Cholila Ranch Malbec, made by a 100% Argentine winemaking team, led by legendary Argentine winemaker, Roberto de la Mota. A fun tidbit on importer Fran Kysela's website,
In February 20, 1901, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, boarded the British ship Herminius and steamed off to build a new life for themselves in the "United States of the Southern Hemisphere". They settled in a sheep ranch at Cholila Ranch, in the deepest Argentine Patagonia, under the alias of James Ryan and Harry A. place, where they were considered respectable citizens. - Extract of "Digging Up Butch & Sundance", by Anne Meadows
From Importer Fran Kysela: 2007 Cholila Ranch Malbec is made from 100% Malbec. The estate-grown grapes are manually harvested, carefully sorted, and destemmed. The wine undergoes traditional maceration for 21 days with selected yeasts. Cholila Ranch Malbec is aged both in American and French oak for 9 months, followed by a minimum of 6 months bottle aging prior to release. Deep purple color. Aromas of ripe plum and mulberry with violet hints. Ripe black fruits and fig on the palate with touches of smoke and vanilla. A truly powerful yet balanced wine with a persistent finish.