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16 October 2023

Argentina: Chardonnay, Torrontés, Semillon.

Chardonnay is grown in many of Argentina's wine regions north to south although most of it by far in the province of Mendoza. It's officially the number two white grape (after Torrontés), which isn't saying much: Argentina remains serious red wine country. Making a perhaps more familiar European comparison though, there's about the same amount of Chardonnay as in Chablis, but planted much higher up.
They may be limited in number but Chardonnays from Argentina are often very good, something I've noticed over the years and was reminded of at a recent Wines of Argentina tasting in Dublin. Argentinean winemakers are offering a range of different Chardy styles and prices too, from good value fresh fruity and unoaked to full-on rich buttery cask-influenced wines.

Adrianna Vineyard, it's cool: catenazapata.com.

Catena Alta 'Historic Rows' Chardonnay 2020 (13.6% abv): Great name for old vines I suppose, sourced from two high-altitude vineyards (1120 and 1450 metres as above) in Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza. Hence 'Alta'. Fermented in 500 litre French oak barrels with wild yeasts and aged for 14 months. Hints of oak but has lovely ripe citrus and creamy notes, rounded maturing palate yet still fresh and alive. Built to age I'd guess, class. €25-€30 Cassidy Wines, Dublin. £24-£27 UK. $30-$40 US, CA. €26-€28 Belgium, Spain. HK$300.

Andeluna Raices Chardonnay 2022, Mendoza (13.5% abv): 700 metres altitude. Fresh nose with yeast-lees tones, crisp and tasty with citrus and pineapple flavours and zesty finish. Very nice unoaked Chardy. €15.50 Wines on the Green, Dublin. ¥2500 Japan. €8 Netherlands. $15-$16 US. €10-€12 Portugal and Spain. £12 UK. R$75 Brazil.
Atamisque Chardonnay 2021: Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza. Fermented and aged in new French oak for 10-12 months. Lovely deep colour, rich and buttery aromas / flavours, maturing finish with lively yeast lees and bite of acidity, delicious. €25-€30 Solera Wine Merchants, Dublin. £20-£25 UK. €24 Belgium. $25 US.

Elsa Bianchi Chardonnay 2018, San Rafael Mendoza (750 metres, 13% abv): Another tasty mature Chardy with creamy exotic fruit and nutty finish. €15 Dalcassian Wines, Dublin. £13.99 UK. $13-$15 US (Quintessential Wines, Family Wineries Direct). HK $75. MX$159. €11.50 Finland.
Doña Paula Los Cardos Chardonnay 2021, Luján de Cuyo Mendoza (1000-1350 metres, 13.5% abv): No oak. Developing enticing buttery notes along with nice peachy fruit, good for the price. £10-£11 UK. €10-€12 Ireland. CA$16-$18. $10 US.
Rutini Colección Chardonnay 2020: From sites in Gualtallary and Altamira (Tupungato, Mendoza), this is one of no less than six Chardonnays they make (and it shows). Half the wine aged for 9 months in French oak. Lees-y rich and buttery but with a tight minerally finish still, quite structured for its age. Another very good one. €32 Criado Beverages, Ireland. £24-£29 UK. $27-$30 US. HK $200.

Luigi Bosca La Linda Chardonnay 2022 (13.5% abv): 30 year-old vines grown in Maipú and Luján de Cuyo at 960 metres. Fresh citrus fruit and crisp mouthfeel, some zesty yeast-lees notes, nice refreshing unoaked style. €14 Barry & Fitzwilliam, Cork. £10-£12 UK. AUS $21.90. US $13-$15. SGD $43.
Pascual Toso Alta Chardonnay 2020, Mendoza (photo at top): Lightly toasty textured with ripe citrus fruit and creamy yeast-lees flavours / zest, still quite fresh for its age with long tasty finish. Lovely. €30-€40 Ireland (Vineyard Wines). $45-$50 US (Quintessential Wines CA). PLN 199-213. Also: Korea.
Bodegas Salentein Chardonnay 2021, Uco Valley Mendoza (13.5% abv): Planted at 1250-1300 metres, 50% of it fermented and aged for 6 months in French oak with lees stirring. Lovely mix of fresh and aromatic while creamy with yeast-lees tones, well balanced finish, delicious Chardy. €22 Mackenway Dublin. £15 UK. €15-€16 Germany, Netherlands. $19 US.

Other white wines
Featuring four very different whites based on Torrontés, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, three varietals and one blend.

Susana Balbo Signature Barrel Fermented Torrontés 2022, Uco Valley (grown at 1150 metres altitude, 13% abv): Cask-fermented and aged for 4 months with lees stirring. Very aromatic and crisp, appealing floral grapey Muscat-esque fruit characters with richly textured palate, nice and fresh finish though. Delicious white with very subtle use of oak. £20-£25 UK. ARS 9645-11347. Kr189 Sweden.
Susana Balbo Signature White Blend 2022 (Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Torrontés): Similarly crisp and intense, again it's concentrated with lingering flavours and zingy bite.

Doña Paula Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Luján de Cuyo: As a not great fan of SB I was persuaded to try this, and I'm glad I did. Maturing nicely while still lively actually with enticing pink grapefruit and asparagus notes, tasty fuller and oilier palate texture then crisp finish. Wow. €15 Bibendum Ireland.
Mendel Semillon 2021, Luján de Cuyo: Yeast lees and lightly toasted notes, kind of 'reductive' Hunter Valley Semillon style with rounded honeyed fruit yet intense lime flavours too; odd but a serious foodie white I'd imagine. €22.50 Wines on the Green, Dublin.

There's a trend to make 'White Malbec' too, as in white wines made from this red variety (avoiding any skin contact obviously). There were a couple at this Dublin tasting, which were fresh aromatic yeast-leesy and fairly light but not hugely exciting: the best of the two was from the big Argento wine brand owner (organic too). Perhaps this is a quick solution to produce more white wine using the most planted red grape, without having to plant new vineyards and wait a few years. With the added marketing twist of course of putting the established Malbec 'brand' on the label!

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.