The Wine Curmudgeon has long been in a quandary about Argentine wine. The best tend to be expensive, and there are other wines I’d rather spend the money on than its malbecs and red blends. The least expensive wines are too often corporately dull, and overpriced at that.
Which is why it was such a pleasure to taste the wines from Nieto Senetiner, a 126-year-old Argentine producer whose wines were none of those things. Santiago Mayorga, one of the company’s winemakers, knew exactly what I was talking about when I explained my dilemma to him; the company’s approach, he said, was to offer better quality than grocery store malbecs, but at a better price than the country’s high-end wines.
Much better prices, actually. These four wines are each worth buying, and the first two are exceptional values and highly recommended:
• Torrontes 2013 ($12, sample, 13.5%): A bone dry torrontes, which is as welcome as it is rare. Most versions of this white wine, the most popular in Argentina, are sweet to off dry, and too many are sickly sweet. There are delicious off-dry torrontes, but this one has even those beat. Look for an almost lemon tonic flavor with a hint of orange peel, and much more subtle than a sauvignon blanc. Pair this with grilled vegetables, Thanksgiving, even fried fish.
• Bonardo 2012 ($13, sample, 14%): Malbec gets most of the attention, but bonardo has long been an important red grape in Argentina. This wine shows why — juicy strawberry, but also spicy and almost minty. Spaghetti wine in the finest sense of the word, as well as anything with red meat and roast chicken.
• Malbec 2012 ($13, sample, 14%): I drink very little malbec; even well-made versions are usually too soft and fruity for me. This wine, somehow, is varietally correct, but plummier, darker, and deeper, and the well-constructed tannins add interest. There is more to this than just cola and blueberry aromas.
• Don Nicanor Estate Malbec 2011 ($20, sample, 14.5%): This red takes the previous malbec to the next level, with more berry flavor and some black pepper without the alcohol getting in the way. Much more complex than I thought a malbec at this price could be.
A tip o’ the WC fedora to Eli Cohn at Veritas in Dallas, who helped out with the tasting and told me how good the bonardo would be.