Argentina’s value proposition

There was an element, perhaps, of coming down to earth a day or two after the Palacios event, when Dillons held a tasting of Argentina’s Dona Paula range. Reassuringly affordable and enjoyable, it was only when it came to the top bottling, Dona Paula Seleccion de Bodega Malbec 2006, that I had the feeling that delivery undershot the price. But such, it seems, is almost invariably the case with these icon wines and it’s up to the consumer to decide if they’re worth it.

For me, three wines stood out in the value stakes. First was Dona Paula Los Cardos Chardonnay 2009 (RRP €9.99). According to Dona Paula winemaker, Edgardo del Popolo, the estate now sells more of its Los Cardos sauvignon blanc than the chardonnay, but for me the latter had the better touch of class. With pleasantly subtle lemon and toast flavours and decent body for the price, this is a perfect aperitif or companion for white meats and fish. Los Cardos Malbec has been noticeably good value since it first arrived here and the 2010 has slightly savoury plum and sloe flavours with good structure and finish-a sound, versatile party or food wine.

The Estate range costs €12.99 and all the varietals deliver well. Again, for me, the chardonnay stood out, with its surprisingly intense aromas of fresh citrus fruits with hints of asparagus and cucumber; the palate was nicely rounded, with elegant citrus and toast notes, a little soft in the middle but with a decent finish. It was a well constructed wine, offering more complexity than you generally get at this price; not Burgundy, but with more than a passing resemblance.

Torrontes has been something of a signature grape for Argentineans but they haven’t always persuaded foreigners of its merits. Dona Paula has a decent Estate one which is quite pinot gris like in aroma and flavour although it lacks the power of the Alsace variety. Nevertheless, it’s cheaper than a decent pinot gris and, with its notes of rose and lychee, it would be a very acceptable companion for Roquefort cheese and light spicy foods.

Estate Malbec 2010 has a red fruit nose with a floral touch; on the palate, flavours are of slightly dry berry and plum and there’s a warm, hearty quality which makes it perfect for this time of year. There’s an Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, too, but, while enjoyable, it doesn’t quite have the class and substance of the malbec; it shows its warm climate origins with a noticeably spicy streak and it would be very enjoyable served with meat pies, grilled meats and barbequed foods. Finally, Seleccion de Bodega Malbec 2006 (€44.99) has spicy plum aromas, with clean red fruits on the palate which linger nicely into a warm, tasty finish. Has it the structure and ageability to match the price? I’m not sure, but its nicely defined flavours make it very pleasant to drink and it would make a good gift wine.

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