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Discovering the Obvious … to Many

Posted: Dec 27, 2006 4:34pm ET

Everyone in the press seems to be writing his or her year-end recollections or discoveries. I just read the New York Times today and it was full of year-end discoveries in food and wine. Some of it seemed pretty obvious to me, but the NYT sometimes likes doing that sort of re-coining of the obvious. Me too, for that matter!

So, I guess I better chime in too. I have a number of them, so you might see a few over the next couple of days. A blog is supposed to be rather spontaneous, or I think a lot of what one blogs should come from the heart, or just off the cuff as I used to say when I lived in England.

Anyway, one discovery for me this year, and it wouldn’t be for many of you, has been the wines of Argentina. I am really interested in them. Of course, I have tasted them on occasion over the last 10 or 15 years, and the improvement in quality has been outstanding. But recently, the more I taste (or drink) the best reds, the more I am impressed. In fact, it makes me want to go to Argentina and see it all for myself.

Last night, I stopped in for a steak at the Argentine restaurant Carlitos Gardel with a friend and we drank a bottle of 2004 Achával-Ferrer Quimera Mendoza. Whenever I am in Los Angeles, I try to go to this restaurant, not so much for the good hearty food and friendly atmosphere as for the wine list. It’s not an award winner, but it has a super selection of Argentine wines and they are reasonably priced. Moreover, owner Max Bozoghlian knows his stuff about the country’s wines, and he likes to share his experiences with me.

My colleague James Molesworth rated highly the 2004 blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. And I loved it last night. Granted, it was still just a baby, but it was already very drinkable. It was extremely aromatic with gorgeous boysenberry and currant character that got better and better as the wine stayed in the glass. The palate was full-bodied, with lush velvety tannins and a long, long finish. I gave it 93 points in this non-blind tasting.

What is impressive is that the top reds of Argentina, like the 2004 Quimera, are rich yet remain balanced and fresh. They remind me of many top reds from Italy, whereby they have lots of fruit and an almost jammy nature, but they are fresh and very clean when you drink them. Even when they are young, they beckon you to drink them. And that’s what I am doing …

Colin Haggerty
La Jolla, California —  December 27, 2006 9:43pm ET
James-One question and one comment. 1) Do you like to be called "James" or "Jim"? I have the same question for Mr. Laube.2) It is bizarre how your blog is in sync with my experience this evening. I virtually never drink Argentinian wine. If I want Malbec, I'll drink Cahors. Tonight (prior to reading your blog) we opened an inexpensive Argentinian Malbec which my wife had purchased for a Christmas recipe which was never fulfilled (never mind...she made up for it with some amazinge culinary delights). The wine was quite good...I guessed that it was a 15+ dollar wine. I am ashamed to tell you what the wine actually cost.Kismet...An old game like Yatzee!Colin
Paul M Hummel
Chicago, —  December 28, 2006 7:59am ET
James, You just gave away one of my secrets for 2006, available at Costco foe $28.00 !!!Paul
La Quinta, CA —  December 28, 2006 1:33pm ET
That's funny James. I had my friend who is the buyer for Ruths Chris in Palm Desert in my shop the other day, and I blind tasted him on the 2004 Achaval Ferrer Finca Altamira. It blew him (and me) away! What a great wine. The wine had tremendous depth of flavor. Rich boysenberry and blackberry, but still maintained it's balance with great acidity and fine tannins. If your out here in say March or April, I plan on doing a Harlan and BOND tasting in my shop. Dustin.
Carlos Omana
Caracas, Venezuela —  December 28, 2006 5:07pm ET
Dear James (if I may). Your writing is outstanding, your wine criteria is right on point.You should try listening to some of Carlos Gardel's records with your Malbec.Carlitos is a little bit like Elvis for many down here below the ecuator (equator?).Keep on tasting.Happy new year.
James Suckling
 —  December 29, 2006 12:02am ET
Where are you? I am in La Quinta now! Let's hook up.
Dr Schachtner
December 29, 2006 7:57am ET
Dear Mr. Suckling,I would like to thank You for Your excellent ratings. Without Your precious comments and recommendations I would be lost in the jungle of wine trade. From the 79 pts. for the Valdicava Rosso 2004 (really disappointing) up to Your top ratings You hit the point! Dr. Schachtner
Eric Treiber
LaGrange Park, IL —  December 29, 2006 4:10pm ET
James: I second Paul from Chicago's comment above (tongue in cheek). The public just hasn't figured this one out up to this point. The 2002 and 2003 were also outstanding. The Quimera Mendoza seems to just keep getting better and better.

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