The world’s most widely planted wine grape
In 1990 it was in eighth place, but by doubling in acreage by 2010 cabernet sauvignon stood at the very top; in that same time frame chardonnay tripled and is now fifth overall. So for all of you non-ABC folks (anything but cabernet or chardonnay) I have a story.
Sitting on my desk is a bottle, now sadly empty, of the 2010 Chateau Latour that was a blend of 90.5 per cent cabernet sauvignon along with merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. It is often the case that other grape varieties are added to cabernet sauvignon, but it is seldom that one rates 100/100 or costs over $2,000, as are both the case with this Latour.
The telltale cherry, cedar, mint, tobacco and blackcurrants certainly puts this classic grape of Bordeaux origin at the top of my list and for one per cent of the cost, or less, of the Latour let me suggest a few from South America.
Every wine from Fabre Montmayou in Argentina offers amazing value, for instance their 2011 cabernet sauvignon from Patagonia sells for $14.85 and here is what Robert Parker had to say about it: “89/100. It has a lovely tobacco and hot gravel-scented bouquet with blackberries and bilberry fruit. The palate is very classic in style with silky smooth tannins, crisp blackberries laced with pain grille and a dash of white pepper.”
Quite remarkable for a wine in this price range, the grapes are first hand-sorted by bunches and then by individual berries. Also during fermentation it goes through a process called bleeding, and here they remove about 25 per cent of the juice just as it is turning a rose colour. The rest is left and now, with less liquid and the same amount of pulp and skins, the red wine becomes more intense. Fabre Montmayou Barrel Selection cabernet sauvignon from Patagonia $14.85.
I remember well the day that my wife and I visited Bodega Atamisque in the Vistaflores area of Mendoza and how I could not help but laugh when the director general told me his prices. The truth was that in this pristine, state-of-the-art, French-owned winery, I was just bowled over by the great values their wonderful wines represented.
Take for instance their 2010 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon that is made from 80-year-old vines that stand in a single vineyard with an elevation of 3,600ft that enjoys a privileged sun exposure and cool temperatures that allow perfect ripening.
This wine is an intense and deep red and, along with mature fruits, it offers spices and a multilayered bouquet of dark chocolate and coffee lingering in a perfectly balanced finish. It was aged for 14 months in new French oak of the highest quality. $23.95.
And then there is the family that literally started the modern wine industry in Argentina — Catena. Before them the country was known for oodles of rather uninteresting wine that they mostly consumed themselves. The Catena 2012 cabernet sauvignon is a blend of 95 per cent cabernet sauvignon, three per cent cabernet franc and two per cent petit verdot. The fruit is supplied by four high-mountain vineyards: the Agrelo at 3,117ft gives black currant, cassis and ripe, sweet tannins; Villa Bastias at 3,675ft adds spicy aromatics and pepper notes; Altarmira at 3,593ft adds finely grained and sweet tannins and lastly, at 4,757ft, Gualtallary adds eucalyptus, minerality and firm tannins.
“Vinous” by Antonio Galloni rates it 91/100 and says: “Catena's consistently excellent cabernet sauvignon is suave and plush yet light on its feet showing restrained sweetness to its sappy redcurrant, plum, mocha, graphite and spice flavours. Fine-grained tannins will not get in the way of enjoying this outstanding value now.” $18.95.
I am thinking of a big, open pit fire as one would find in a restaurant in Argentina; roasted meat — usually a whole animal — and a bottle of one of these wines.
•This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George's (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available online at www.wineonline.bm