A couple of weeks ago, I attended a sponsored luncheon at Novecentro with Edgardo del Popolo, Head Viticulturalist at Doña Paula, along with a few others, including a handful of wine writers and bloggers. On a cold and rainy afternoon, we sat with two whites and five reds, while Edgardo talked of wine in Mendoza.
Before taking over in 1998, Edgardo worked for the former owners of Doña Paula–and as luck would have it, his first vintage (1999) went down as one of the best in all of Mendoza’s history. For the next couple of years, production halted, as hail wreaked havoc in the vineyards. But in 2002, the winery bounced back, and since then they have strived “…to make wines of international quality”. When questioned about the differences between the Argentine’s export and what they drink, Edgardo suggested that the locals prefer their wines rustic and tannic, while the international quality is more fruit forward and “oriented to a different type of palate”.
Novecentro, being an Argentine bistro, inspired most everyone to order steak. And since I don’t eat steak, or anything that I couldn’t kill with machine or bare hands, I went for a mushroom with red sauce pasta dish, hoping that it might best compensate for the lack of fatty proteins on my plate.
I’m a firm believer that our diets determine our tastes in wine. As a pescatarian, I love brine. As a vegetarian, I love dirt, funk, and earth. And so, it seems that my diet most often lacks the platform to support big wines…but this is a topic for another occasion…and so I’ll go on.
Before ordering lunch, we sampled the whites: Viognier and Torrontes. The Viognier was first produced in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2008 that Doña Paula sourced all viognier grapes from their own vineyards. Made only from pulp and not skins (these are cold tanked and fermented with shiraz), the Viognier 2008 ($30) counts a high abv, at 14.5%. After spending 8 months in new French oak, the wine is a bit woody on the nose. Blending with notes of apricot, the wood softens the edges without imparting too much oak on the palate, rendering it somewhat delicate.
And though I am aware that Doña Paula is best known for its malbec wines, I prefer the Malbec Syrah 2009 ($17). Though possessed by big fruit, there’s a dampness, but no must, to this blend, which turns a bit of its earth. Tamed by mid-palate spice, here, the oak sort of takes the wine for a leashed walk, rather than adopting the role of an aggressive restrainer.