Words: Henry Yuen
When it comes to comparing the value of the New World wines to those of Old World, the margin may be slimmer these days. Nevertheless, when in terms of actual quality, the price of Old World wines of similar flavours and textures can double-up. Depending on whom you are talking to, many believe part of the price goes towards the reputation of the winery or label. Well, blind tastings of wines from both wine worlds will always be a fun and fair way to settle any argument.
Matching the prime Mendoza terroir is the winemaking skill of Rodolfo Sadler. Nicknamed “Opi” which means "little grandfather" refers to how much he looked like his grandfather when he was a baby. A third generation winemaker, he learned at a young age from his grandfather who was originally working as a viticulturist in Italy; and later from his father. He helped out his grandfather a lot in the cellar and subsequently mastered the secret to making great wines and the art of blending. This strong tradition and craftmanship; the passion to produce high quality wines worthy of international awards goes on generation after generation, year after year.
A majority of my friends do enjoy wines from Argentina and Chili. Easier on the pocket book is undoubtedly the foremost reason, yet these full-bodied wine lovers are also drawn to the lusciousness and rich structures found in known varietals offered by New World wineries. Reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Shiraz can easily be located in their wine racks. No matter where they are from, beautiful, well-crafted and good-valued wines attract followers and increase popularity, and in recent years, Argentina and Chilean wines are doing just that.
Take for example, Finca La Mascota from Argentina. We like to identify their Cabernet Sauvignon as “The wine with the blue top”. Priced at $15.99 regularly, the Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is welcomingly pocket-friendly. Recently at BC LDB, it was on-sale for a bargain price of $13.99, you could imagine how fast such a steal flew off the shelves. A superb iteration from Argentina, this Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Mendoza region that benefits from the nearby mountains and the proximity to the Mendoza River. The result is a terroir with wide-ranging temperature between day and night with strong wind blowing through to keep the moisture while putting away mildews. Soil is sandy loam on a layer of rock with altitude as high as 800 meters or more above sea level. The 250 acres of La Mascota vineyards is easily the best site in the Mendoza region for Cabernet Sauvignon, a varietal that requires longer growing season and abundance of sunlight.
I had the pleasure of tasting a line up of La Mascota wines with him when he came to Vancouver recently. Besides the award winning 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, he brought along some soon-to-be available wines to arouse our palates. The rationale was, if the response was positive, these wines which have already garnered awards of all kinds, would no doubt be available in liquor stores.
Within the La Mascota range of reds and alongside the aforementioned Cabernet Sauvignon, there are the Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Malbec, all with the “blue top” for easy identification. For whites, there is a delicious Chardonnay in the “Opi” range and a lovely NV Brut Rose. These wines are expected to be priced under $20. What a steal! Opi brought along the seductive Unanime and the Big Bat of a higher tier to tease our palate. While the Big Bat is in the exploratory stage of getting listing here, Unanime is available at BC liquor stores.
2013 Cabernet Franc - Impressive with complex aroma of blackberries, a hint of herbs, wild mushroom and forest floor rounded up with soft tannins that lingers in the palate. It is a well-crafted single vineyard Cabernet Franc using large barrel format for the balanced cedar and the toasty oak aroma. To be priced at $15.99, there is no better value proposition than this.
NV Brut Rose - Fresh and crisp, a pleasant entry to start any event and gathering indeed. Though labeled "non-vintage", the Pinot Noir fruit is from the 2014 vintage from a single vineyard using the Champagne method and only 5,000 bottles produced.
2014 Opi Chardonnay - A short time in both French and American oak and longer in large format foudre, this Chardonnay is well crafted with mouth-smoothing buttery feel and expressive citrus aroma; vibrant with a slight hint of spices and good depth.
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: A fine example of solid workhorse with lots of dark berries and fine tannins for a smooth and sweet mouth feel. Also at $15.99, this familiar wine is good-valued and well-liked. La Mascota Shiraz : Fruity, green peppery and subtle aroma of spice is a solid New World cool climate Shiraz that doesn’t have that all too common over-ripped fruit sensation.
2013 La Mascota Malbec: It has soft tannins with savoury notes and a typical Argentina Malbec leafy note.
Unanime: A fantastic wine with exuberant aroma of dark fruits and a slight hint of herbs and plums, this wine is well-balanced and with soft and massaging tannins. The blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc portioned at 60/25/15. Definitely a steal at $28.99, considering that rival wines costing two or three times more.