Recently I had occasion to dine and taste wine with Aurelio Montes Jr. from Kaiken and German di Cesare from Trivento; two winemakers from Argentina. While these were two different dinners it turns out these winemakers and their wineries have something in common beyond being located in Argentina. Both Wineries are owned by producers from Chile, Trivento by Concha y Toro and Kaiken by Montes.
Beyond those connections I found that they have some similarities in wine making philosophy. Both men are looking to make wines that deliver fresh fruit flavors, varietal typicity and provide value. German and Aurelio are also both quite interested in expressing the unique terroir of Argentina. There are some differences too. German is a Native of Argentina and his grandfather was a vineyard manager which led to his passion for wine. Aurelio hails from Chile where his father Aurelio Sr. founded Montes. Once Kaiken was founded he felt to run it properly he needed to move to Argentina with his family. Both men are incredibly passionate about their craft and life in general. Each of them also by no accident is producing Argentine wines that fulfill their individual as well as shared goals. There’s a ton of value to be found in wines from Argentina, here are a few of my favorites from the evenings I spent with Aurelio and German.
Kaiken 2015 Terroir Series Torrontés ($17)
All of the fruit for this wine (all Torrontés) was sourced in the Cafayate Valley in the Salta region of Argentina. Fermentation took place at low temperatures and it was bottled without any use of oak. Orange peel, lemon zest and tropical fruit aromas light up the nose here. The gentle palate is layered with elegance. Lychee fruit, apricot and more are all in play. The crisp finish shows off bits of creaminess and a bevy of minerals. This is a lovely example of Torrontés which is lean and delicate in nature.
Kaiken 2012 Terroir Series Corte Cabernet Sauvignon ($17)
This wine is largely Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), with smaller amounts of Malbec (12%), and Petit Verdot (8%) blended in. Half of the wine spent 10 months in previously used oak of 1-3 years.The dark hue of this wine is notable when poured. Violet and subtle plum aromas are in evidence on the nose. The palate is stuffed with red cherry, raspberry along with tinges of black cherry. Deep, dark chocolate notes, black pepper and cinnamon are all part of the solid finish. Soft tannins and firm acid make this a terrific food wine. A great choice for an everyday Cabernet built for early consumption.
Kaiken 2012 Terroir Series Malbec ($17)
Malbec makes up most of this wine (80%), with Bonarda (12%), and Petit Verdot (8%) making up the rest.80% of the wine was aged for 10 months in previously used oak. The nose here is dark and a bit brooding with black plum and hints of mission fig on display. Blueberry, spices and bits of savory herb mark the fresh and juicy palate. Black pepper, continued dark fruits, and a hint of sweet dark chocolate are all part of the finish. Firm, zippy acid provides good structure. This wine is soft and easy going in the best sense. Drink it alone or pair it with a myriad of foods. This is a tremendous value.
Kaiken 2012 Ultra Malbec ($25)
This wine is composed of entirely Malbec from three vineyards in the Uco Valley. All of the wine was aged in previously used oak for 12 months. Fresh savory herbs and purple fruit aromas leap from the nose. The palate is firm and layered with dark leaning fruit flavors that are supported by bits of spice. The finish, which is notably long, displays tons of earth, minerals and continued spice characteristics. Firm acid and medium tannins provide good structure. Drink this Malbec with hearty foods over the next 5 years.
Trivento 2014 Reserve Torrontés ($11)
This offering is 100% varietal. It was fermented and aged in stainless steel with no oak influence whatsoever. This wine opens with a big, welcoming nose loaded with fresh tropical and stone fruit aromas. Peach and papaya flavors are prominent on the palate along with white pepper and a touch of cream. Anjou pear and yellow peach flavors dot the crisp finish. Some examples of Torrontés tend to be a bit big and rich, not here. This is a really fresh, lean, and lovely offering.
Trivento 2015 Amado Sur Chardonnay Blend ($15)
This wine is mostly Chardonnay (70%), with smaller amounts of Pinot Grigio (20%), and Viognier (10%) blended in. All of the fruit is from Mendoza. Floral aromas dominate the nose with peach and apricot present as well. Stone fruits, Anjou pear, and wisps of mango fill the delightful palate. All of those flavors are joined by a bit of spice on the fruity and slightly honeyed finish. I’ve had this offering over the last few vintages and it’s a really nice blend with all 3 varieties coming together to form a cohesive wine.
Trivento 2013 Amado Sur Malbec Blend ($15)
The red Amado Sur is composed of Malbec (70%), Bonarda (20%), and Syrah (10%). Vanilla, toast and deep red and black fruit aromas punctuate the nose. The palate is loaded with eager fruit flavors, both black and red. This is a lush wine loaded with appealing, fresh fruit and spice notes to spare. Sour black fruit and a bit of cocoa close out this appealing and somewhat hedonistic wine. It would be a perfect selection for anything that comes off your grill.
Trivento 2013 Golden Reserve Malbec ($21)
Fruit for this wine comes from 3 different sites in Mendoza. It’s 100% Malbec. It spent 12 months aging in French oak. Wild strawberry and raspberry aromas light up the nose. The palate is rich and giving with red and black fruit flavors both in abundance. There is a depth and elegance to the palate that belies the price-point. The finish is long and structured with oodles of complexity. I tasted three vintages of this wine side by side (2011-2013) and they were all impressive. There were similarities in style and differences based on vintage years. Each was excellent. I was surprised to learn the price; I thought for sure this was a $40 wine.
South America has a lot to offer wine lovers. Chile and Argentina are distinct countries in many ways, wine is one of them. Each does different things well. Here are a couple of wineries connecting the two countries. Drink these terrific values up.