Two things strike first-time visitors to the vineyards of Mendoza, tucked against the Andes Mountains in western Argentina. The first is the spectacular view of the mountains, usually bathed in gleaming white, almost from any row of vines. The second is that once you get a few yards away from the vineyard, the landscape is a harsh desert with only scrubby vegetation. Without water, Mendoza would be a wasteland.
Both visions even struck me on my second visit and my third. I wonder if someone born in Mendoza ever gets used to its harsh beauty at the edge.
But, as in vineyards worldwide that seem inhospitable to producing fine wine, all the vines need to know is whether there is enough water and sunshine. Then, they’ll take care of the rest.
We have a few wines in this Dozen from Mendoza that bear out the greatness of the area, led, as always, by Malbec.
2021 Flat Top Hills California “Buttery” Chardonnay ($14). This wine is not all that buttery, which is a good thing – just mildly toasty to go along with hints of lime and mellow apple, resulting in a versatile, serviceable wine.
2021 M. Chapoutier “Belleruche” Côtes-du-Rhone Blanc ($14). Nice richness of flavors with green-apple creaminess, a touch of minerality, and good finishing acidity.
2021 Terrazas de los Andes Mendoza Chardonnay Reserva ($23). Very pleasant, with mild green fruits, some minerality tartness, yet a creamy finish.
2019 Luretta Boccadirosa Colli Piacentini Malvasia ($27). Malvasia is a very fragrant grape that is often used to produce fruit-forward, sweeter wines. But here, the fragrant, tropical aromas and flavors are blended with honeysuckle and vanilla to make an enjoyable white with good structure and acidity.
NV Corvezzo Prosecco Extra Dry ($13). Crisp and tangy with some confectionary fruitiness.
2018 Orfila Uco Valley Malbec Reserva ($20). Orfila is new to the American market, and its quality-to-price value makes it a welcome addition. It is rich and slightly tart with blackberry and black cherry flavors with a lot of zippiness.
2018 Orfila Uco Valley Red Blend Reserva ($20). Soft and almost mellow with savory fruitiness.
2019 Terrazas de los Andes Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ($20). The South American jewel of the Moët Hennessy group, Terrazas, produces wines at various price levels. This one is affordable with ripe, rich cassis and blackberry fruitiness, followed by dusty chocolate and good finishing acidity.
2020 Terrazas de los Andes Mendoza Malbec Reserva ($20). Moderate in weight, red-fruity but ripe with lots of tanginess and a fair amount of tannins.
2018 Selvapiana “Buerchiale” Chianti Rufina Riserva ($36). Enjoyable, with nice cherry fruits, a moderate body, and a crisp, but not raspy, finish.
2018 Terrazas de los Andes Mendoza Grand Malbec ($60). Excellent use of wood – like a light tan on a sinewy body of rich and granular blackberries with lots of dusty tannins.
2017 Terrazas de los Andes “Parcel No. 1E El Espinillo” Guatallary Malbec ($100). An odd yet intriguing wine with a barnyard aroma (though not off-putting and not Bret), quite tangy blackberry fruit, and a crisp finish.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Photo cover: Terrazas de los Andes