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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine


Argentina’s Great Imported Winemaker


Alberto Antonini is one of the world's most influential winemakers, consulting on wines everywhere from his native Italy to Uruguay, California and Portugal. I recently sat down with Alberto to taste through a selection of wines he's consulting on for Bodegas Nieto Senetiner in Argentina's Mendoza region. We had a fascinating conversation about the importance that he places on making each wine specific to the place it's from, rather than aiming for a broad international style. As winemakers become more international, this ongoing discussion of terroir will become increasingly interesting.

Philosophies aside, the Bodegas Nieto Senetiner wines are standouts, with gorgeous, concentrated flavors thanks to the grapes' growing conditions: very warm days and cool nights. Here's what we tasted.

2008 Reserva Torrontes ($11, find this wine) Argentina's top white, Torrontes, has inherent floral notes, but this bottling has a tremendous white-flower aroma of orange blossoms, jasmine and magnolia alongside bright citrus flavors. This is the perfect wine for these hot summer days. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it.

2007 Reserva Bonarda ($30, find this wine) Alberto told me that Bonarda has a particularly long growing season and needs lots of sunlight. Extra time on the vine gives this soft, rustic red its spicy black fruit.

2007 Reserva Malbec ($11, find this wine) Alberto ferments this juicy, cherry-scented Malbec in concrete tanks, because he thinks it gives the wine fuller flavor.

2006 Don Nicanor Malbec ($17, find this wine) This deeply colored Malbec is loaded with black cherry and blackberry, plus a refreshing menthol note that keeps it from overloading the palate.

2005 Cadus Malbec
($45, find this wine) This single-vineyard Malbec is surprisingly fresh, even though it's also quite structured. It's long and elegant with pretty, spiced-cherry flavors.


Is Malbec Next for Long Island?


People have come to think of Long Island for good Merlot and perhaps to a lesser extent, Cabernet Franc. Sauvignon Blanc is also getting a bit of buzz. In new wine regions, producers and wine writers love to proclaim the new hot grape variety every few years, but in truth, it takes many generations to truly find what works best. After visiting Shinn Estate Vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island this weekend, I'd like to submit another potential for the future king of the region’s grapes: Malbec.

Far from a climate like Argentina, you say? Absolutely correct. But not so far from that of the Loire Valley and Bordeaux, where Malbec grows quite successfully as a minor grape variety. It’s no surprise that 2007 vintage—Shinn’s first for Malbec—was successful: It was a banner year for Long Island with a nearly perfect, very dry growing season. It resulted in a rather plush wine with the scent of violets and blue/black fruit.

Was 2007 a fluke? After tasting a barrel sample of Malbec from 2008—a more typical LI vintage—I think not. The wine was leaner, with lots of bright acidity, but it was still floral with lovely fruit. Plus, it had an appealing meaty quality, as many good Malbecs do. It reminded me of versions made in the Loire Valley, where the grape is known as Côt.

In all honesty, Malbec will probably never reign on Long Island the way Merlot does. Co-owner and vineyard manager Barbara Shinn has to devote more than twice as many labor hours to Malbec compared to other grape varieties—it needs all that love and care to ripen properly. That extra labor doesn't come cheaply: Shinn will be selling the small amount of Malbec they made in 500ml bottles for $35 upon release this fall, but the wine is delicious nonetheless.

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