".....leftover scraps of cooling blueberry soaked pie crust married to a plate of cranberry tartlettes and other berry-filled wonders; take a dive with the long prongs of your steely fork into the last pickings of a cozy picnic day under a fading blanket of spiced sausage and peppers as the grill cries its last goodbyes... crimson sun, scarlet and yellow horizon..."
I took a dip into Lambrusco one day and never came out. ...
Seriously, I've developed a newfound interest for the sparkling red whether it's Shiraz, Lambrusco, Malbec or whatever else you want to inject/infuse bubbles into because seriously how can that go wrong (I may be speaking too soon... I know, I'm getting ahead of myself..). It's just a lovely change of pace when looking at the bubbly wall and all you can see is expensive Champagne, dry floral Prosecco or mystery Blanc de Blanc: you want something good, something not particularly sweet but has that tart fruit kiss and something red usually conjures up the weight, depth, and warmth of their non-carbonated brethren. But don't shy away, like many wines they exist on a wide spectrum of full-to-light bodied and if you ask for a light bodied refreshing styled sparkling red you'll more than likely be surprised.
The history of sparkling red wine is well documented but it still suffers from a fairly tarnished reputations having been labeled with the scarlet 'S' for sweet since the 1970s and 1980s, pushing aside drier ones for the current trend in the American palate. Although I often see a lot more sparkling Shiraz from Australia on the shelves (something worth a try as the effervescence really lifts and lightens those heavier characteristics we associate with Shiraz- leather, earth, dark fruit, etc), I don't get the feeling that it's quite become a sought out product. Which is why when I found this sparkling Malbec in my local wine shop, wanting to change it up from the Cava, Cremant, and generic Blanc de Blanc, I was rather surprised but more so enamored by what I found.
I love a good Beaujolais -Cru or not- as long as it has that zingy combination of a acidic and tart blueberry-brambly fruit crossed with a spry sense of earth and herbs, and that in part is what I found in this sparkling Malbec from Argentina. Now that I think of it this kind of reminds me in some respects of Byrrh, a wine based aperitif that is amazing on the rocks -seriously, talk about a great summer sipper!
But let's get back to this lovely little gem.
Anyone who drinks wine knows by now that Malbec is synonymous with Argentina and although it's not the most widely planted varietal in the country, it's by far the most important. Malbec didn't always command the respect that it does now in either it's parent country of France or adopted country of Argentina; in France it was mostly used as a blending grape (i.e. Bordeaux, etc) and still holds strong as a single varietal wine in Cahor but due to a number of ailments like phylloxera and susceptibility to frost it was pulled up and replaced with more popular and hardier varietals of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In a bit of luck, cuttings had already arrived in Argentina by the middle of the 19th century mainly due to French agronomist Miguel Pouget, escaping the phylloxera epidemic and safeguarding this perhaps now extinct clone of Malbec. Most may not realize that Argentina at one point was the worlds fifth largest wine growing region until the decimating downturn of the 20th century, forcing many of the plantings to be pulled up for cheap jug wine varietals. In some ways one could say that this act concentrated the wide plantings of Malbec into what it would become know for today: big, bold, and age worthy wines.
Located in Mendoza, the heart of Argentina's wine industry, are the appellations of Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu. It was in 1997 that Vinitera Winery was founded some 3,346 feet above sea level in Lujan de Cuyo where they now produce most of the usual suspects: Carmenere, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, and Chardonnay. Because of the unique location, soil, and climate (semi-arid desert, continental, and alluvial sand over clay) irrigation is a top priority. The local rivers flowing from the glacier covered mountains provide an ample supply of water, as well as some irrigation fixtures that date back to the 16th Century.
One of my general rules when buying wine is that I never buy the same bottle twice. I do this mainly because I usually get the impression and feel of a wine from the first bottle and I like bringing home something new every time- it sparks excitement and keeps me fresh on my toes to identify characteristics that I feel like I wouldn't otherwise pick out if I were on a streak of the same wine type. But with this wine I've been bending the rule, I found myself sucking it down under stress and distraction from work a few months ago so I'm pretty sure the bottle I'm looking at now is at least a third generation empty: the first went without much concentration let alone taking any notes and the second bottle sort of straddled that same fate while shaping how I would finally end up conceiving this wine for my purposes.
The Terra Sparkling Malbec, although not life changing, is a welcome sipper that offers fresh juice straddling an array of acidic/tart brambly fruit rounded out by a little bit of tannin and weight to carry the day; every bit of it excites, pulling your palate simultaneously in multiple directions with it's minerality and grape/berry fruit before leaving you licking your lips for more of that luscious juicy finish. On another note, there is a hint of herb and spice, dried and woven into the minerality so it's a bit overtaken but there once the glass warms a bit. It's easy for summer days or winter nights, hell it's good enough whenever and I'm becoming more convinced that bubbling red, with this effervescence forcing more austere traits into your nose, is hopefully going to become a more sought after experience.
But I'm still curious just how the decision to make sparkling reds in the new world was decided upon-was it just a curiosity that a wine maker (or makers) had one day and found it to be amazing or was it a specialty of theirs? More research needs to be done but I'll leave it here for now....
Vinification: Champenoise Method - 2 weeks in stainless steel tanks with second fermentation coming later and stops when 5 atm and residual sugar of 15 grams per liter are reached.
Geography & Climate: Villa Rosa Vineyard is 222 acres large and approximately 3,346ft above sea level. Because of the semi-arid/desert, continental climate, irrigation and no real extremes in temperatures provide a steady growth cycle for the vines.
Winery & Winemaker: Agrelo, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina; Vinitera Winery - www.viniterra.com.ar ; Adriano Senetiner
Importer/Distributor: CW Imports
PoP: Vino En Wyckoff; $13.99