Not really sure how cult classics are born but the ones who get it right seem to rocket to success quickly. Some have equally cult winemakers to aid them in their assent — Helen Turley (Colgin, Bryant Family), Heidi Barrett (Screaming Eagle) — but others have fabulously gorgeous wines which sell themselves. Bodega Achaval Ferrer, a ten-year-old winery in Argentina’s Mendoza region, is the latter.
Achaval Ferrer, founded by six friends with very little experience in the wine business, began as a labor of love. Of red wine. Manuel Ferrer Minetti, whose card simply reads “Vice-President”, formerly practiced law and now pimps his company’s juice on American soil. I met with Manuel a few days ago and tasted through all his newly released wines. I was blown away by the quality and character of the juice, most of which is malbec-based.
Ten years ago, malbec was only a twinkle in the U.S. eye but these six men had vision — a vision that they could make a ultra high quality Argentinean wine that would sell for $50 or more (Thankfully, they recently realized people might buy wines at the lower end as well). They did it by finding and purchasing existing vineyards — with the help of French winemaking consultant Michel Rolland — planted with vines averaging 80-years-old. One of the plots was even lying fallow, grown over with weeds yet still managing to produce fruit. The Italian winemaker of the six friends took these super-concentrated, ripe grapes and made wine. The first vintage scored a 91 rating from one of the glossy wine mags (can’t publicize those things in my blog) and they’ve been in the star-studded wine ranks ever since.
Sounds easy doesn’t it?
It isn’t, but they made the right choices, hired the right people and invested in the right thing: fruit.
The impressive Bodega Achaval Ferrer is now the highest rated malbec in the world and next month, they’ll be named Winery of the Year by another glossy wine mag. Not too shabby.
The Wines. Of the ones I tasted, these are two that fell into the “realistically affordable” category:
2008 Malbec Mendoza
This is their entry-level wine, retailing around $22. It’s so fruity, you think you’re biting into a sweet cherry. Friendly tannins, gushing raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and a cigar box finish. It’s very generous and intense but in a good, drinkable way. Some acidity but everything flows really well together.
2007 Quimera Mendoza (key MAY rah)
A robust blend of malbec (38%), merlot (24%), cabernet sauvignon (24%) and cabernet franc (14%) grown in various regions around Mendoza, from vineyards with low yields (read: more concentrated fruit). A feminine, softer wine with sexy, jammy raspberry and blackberry, elegant vanilla and a seamless integration of tannin and acidity. Truly well made wine. Retails around $40.
Of the $90+ wines — Finca Mirador ’07, Finca Bella Vista ’07, Finca Altamira ’07 — my favorite was Mirador. Fruit driven, soft and pretty with good acidity. Gushing raspberry, blackberry with a dash of black pepper and lush vanilla on the finish. Almost worth the money but the Mendoza Malbec is a worthy substitute good enough for me.
Read more about malbec and reviews of several affordable ones.