All you have to know about Argentine Pinot Noir
Does Argentina’s climate fit Pinot Noir needs? We did a tasting and interviews and these are some of the conclusions.
Pinot Noir is, no doubt, one of the most important grape varieties that exist worldwide. It is not easy to handle in the vineyard, it requires cool climate and limestone, stony soils. Nonetheless, its versatility and delicacy make it one of the favourites of consumers.
We could say that this variety, like Cabernet Franc, for instance, has evolved in the country in line to wine culture. Once producers and consumers started to look for greater quality (the 90s), the seek of getting excellence in different varieties began. However, is Argentina’s climate a perfect fit for Pinot noir?
There are around 2,050 hectares of Pinot Noir in Argentina, which is less than 1% of the national production. It seems to be a small quantity but it is not if we consider that by 1990 there were only 232 hectares.
Part of this portion is destined to the elaboration of sparkling wines and another part (in frank growth) is intended to making varietal still wines.
There are 1,500 hectares in Mendoza, followed by Neuquen and Rio Negro, with 233 and 133 hectares respectively.
San Patricio del Chañar, in Neuquen (Patagonia), is a sub-region which has been distinguished in the last years for the consistent quality of their Pinot Noir.
Leonardo Puppato, the enologist at Familia Schoeder Winery and referent of this variety, reflects: “In our case, it is planted in a deserted area, over three different soils (stone, sand and clay), each of them with different characteristics. In our region, the Pinot Noir gets more intense colours than the worldwide average. Flower and fruit aromas are dominant at the nose, while in the mouth it is more likely to be round and vibrant due to their nice acidity”.
Another area to consider in Argentina that is well known because of its Pinot Noir is San Pablo, in Tupungato, Mendoza.
Diego Rosso, Head of Diego Rosso Wines: “The soil should be similar to the French: limestone. In Argentina, that is found in ancient soils or through volcanic ash, and in San Pablo, you can find both. The mountain range pushes and lifts some geological layers from the subsoil and right there a white area of ancient limestone emerges. It also needs great temperature amplitude, which is also remarkable in this zone because of its altitude and closeness to the Andes”.
“The nights are really cold and during the day, there is an excellent solar irradiance which turns into thicker skins with refined, velvety and intense tannins. That same temperature variation is found in Northern France and in the West Coast of USA”, he says.
All this context was a perfect trigger for us to organize a Pinot Noir tasting along Argentina. And it gets better: with the addition of some US exponents to make a contrast.
- 3 from Mendoza (Altocedro from La Consulta, Diego Rosso from San Pablo, and Alfredo Roca from San Rafael)
- 1 from Patagonia (Marcus from San Patricio del Chañar, in Neuquen)
- 2 from US (Maldonado from Napa and Elizabeth Chambers from Oregon)
Some of the outputs:
- Argentine Pinot Noir has a long way to get to the top. However, there are some positive conclusions like:
- The growth curve it has experienced during the last 20 years, which can project it even better for the upcoming decades.
- Entry-level, everyday wine? Hell yeah! These Pinots have a crazy value for US prices.
- It seems that Argentina has some spots already identified that have special conditions for Pinot Noir like Uco Valley and San Patricio del Chañar.
- Good News, Bad News: Argentine and US are so different. So if you are a Pinot lover, you have to try some to know the style. In fact, it might be one of the only continental Pinot Noir worldwide, so it’s worth the shot for the curious wine lovers.
- The USA is a clear reference point for Pinot Noir in the New World wine thanks to years of hard work and perfection related to this grape variety of yore. They show more complexity and consistency. Thus, its price range is way higher.
ARGENTINE PINOT NOIR
- Altocedro Año Cero PN 2018, La Consulta, Valle de Uco, Mendoza.
91 Points – ($12.-) Click for full rating.
Lactic profile and good intensity. Notes to strawberry yoghurt, heavy cream, ripe red fruits, fruitcake, blue flowers, mushrooms and vanilla. Sweet attack, with an unctuous and creamy pace, which turns out to be original and different from the rest. Medium persistency. Well-balanced wine.
- Familia Schroeder PN 2015, San Patricio del Chañar, Neuquén, Argentina.
90 Points – ($15.-) Click for full rating.
It needs some minutes to open itself. There are notes of cherries and strawberries, mushrooms and tobacco. In the mouth, it is light, fresh, well-balanced. Soft and silky.
- Alfredo Roca Reserva de Familia 2014, Pinot Noir, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina
89 Points ($15.-) – Click for full rating.
This winery is specialized in Pinot Noir. Intense and expressive wine, with notes to pepper, ripe red fruit, figs, rosehip, nuts, caramel and anise. Remarkable acidity, powerful tannins despite its good fluidity.
- Marcus Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2014, Río Negro, Argentina
92 Points ($22.-) – Click for full rating.
In this case, we have a wine identified by spices, where pepper and menthol stand out. Powerful wood. Some notes to animal fur and mushrooms. Ripe red fruits. In the mouth, it has a medium body, with remarkable tannins and the right acidity. The spices and fruits combine for a medium finish.
- Diego Rosso Pinot Noir 2007, San Pablo, Valle de Uco, Argentina
92 Points – ($38.-) – Click for full rating.
Here we have an excellent example of the potential of Pinot Noir in Argentina. Attractive on the nose, there are notes to eucalyptus and mint. Cinnamon, anise, ripe fruit, fennel, caramel and mocha too. Sweet in its attack, it portrays a notable acidity. Bearer of powerful tannins and a medium body. Its finish is long with a replica of the notes found on the nose.
US PINOT NOIR
- Maldonado Los Olivos Vineyard 2012. Napa Valley, USA
It has a very expressive nose that grows in complexity within the glass while it is still being opened. On the first nose, there are caramelized ripe red and black fruits. After shaking the glass, we perceive spices like nutmeg, cilantro, anise, liquorice and mint. We also detect tomato leaves, vanilla, nuts, understory layers and a toasted background composed by notes to liquid smoke. In the mouth, it is coherent: it has the same expressivity as on the nose. Robust, creamy, with firm tannins but mature that generate a velvety texture which is very attractive. Its acidity is refreshing and its finish is long and silky, fruity and spicy. Excellent, elegant, ready to drink but it will grow in complexity (even more) through the years.
- Elizabeth Chambers Temperance Hill Vineyard, Pinot Noir 2014, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA.
Really overwhelming on the nose, it has a surprising green profile that is divided into vegetables and spices. There are notes to menthol, basil, green pepper, paprika, lime, red bell pepper, blue flowers, black fruits fresh out of the tree, like cherries and blueberries. In the mouth, it is elegant, with cream and vital pace, delicate acidity and refined tannins, well-integrated. During its long finish, spicy and balsamic notes reappear. Really flavorful.