Travels in Argentine wine country: Bodegas Trapiche
By John Schreiner
July 16, 2008
Nearly 150 years old, Trapiche is another of those great Argentine producers that has moved from family ownership to corporate ownership.
It is now the largest of seven Argentine wineries controlled by Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, the New York investment bank now owned by Credit Suisse. The wineries operate under an umbrella holding company, Grupo Peñaflor.
Obviously, this is a powerful and well-financed group. It is currently investing US$10 million in modernizing Trapiche, another US$20 million in a new winery in the hot San Juan region in northern Argentina, and looking for opportunities in Patagonia, an emerging cool climate wine region in Argentina.
With money like that behind it, the Peñaflor group is powering the Argentina wine industry to a much bigger piece of the world market that it has now. Peñaflor already ranks as the country’s leading wine exporter, accounting for almost one in every five bottles of Argentina wine in foreign markets. It has a similar share of its home market.
Since Trapiche is regarded as a premium export brand (and exported 15 million bottles last year), expect to see a lot of these wines around. That’s not a bad thing because Trapiche is producing good wines in a wide number of price points. British Columbia’s Liquor Distribution Branch only lists four entry-level wines. A more extensive selection should be available in private wine stores as well.
Based in the Mendoza wine region, Trapiche has more than 1,000 hectares of its own vineyards and also buys from a large number of producers.
Trapiche’s most affordable brand is called Astica, wines that sell for $9 a bottle in British Columbia. From what I tasted in Argentina, these wines over-deliver for the price. The 2007 Astica Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon is crisp and refreshing, with zesty, herbaceous notes of gooseberry. The 2007 Astica Merlot Malbec, a 50/50 blend, is soft and easy drinking with a sweet, almost jammy aroma. I scored both 85 points. The BCLDB lists wines from the 2005 vintage which, given the style of these wines, means they should be consumed before this year is out.
The next step up the ladder of Trapiche wines is its “varietal” range, represented in British Columbia by the 2005 Trapiche Malbec ($11). In Argentina, this is a huge brand, selling something like five million litres a year. At the winery, I tasted the 2007 vintage, a soft and cheerful wine with flavours of blackberries and black cherries. 87 points and very good value. The range also includes a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet. As you might expect, the Malbec is by far the best of the varietal range.
Next up the ladder is the Trapiche Oak Cask line, so called because the wines get more obvious oak-aging (although the winemakers have dialled the oak back in recent years, exposing more of that lovely Argentina fruit).
The Oak Cask Cabernet Sauvignon ($14) is listed in British Columbia. It is a solid wine, although the young vintage I tasted at the winery still was a bit tannic. I would much rather see the Oak Cask Malbec, a big, full-bodied red with layers of spicy plum flavours (88).
The better choice for the LDB would be a Trapiche Medalla Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2005 vintage, which spent 18 months in French oak, is a big, juicy wine with flavours of black currants, chocolate and spice. 90
Of course, Malbec is the red grape that Argentina arguably does best. Since 2003, Trapiche has picked three best single vineyard Malbecs, with different vineyards chosen each vintage. These are exceptional reds, in part because they are made with grapes from vines that are between 50 and 100 years old.
Old vines produce wines with great depth and concentration. Trapiche’s Viña Francisco Olivé Vineyard Malbec 2005, from 66-year-old vines on a farm owned by a 88-year-old grower, is particularly impressive, a 92 point wine with an aroma of spice and berries and rich flavours of plums and blackberries.
No pricing information was provided with my tasting but I would expect these to be around $40 a bottle.
The current icon at Trapiche is Iscay (about $60), a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Malbec. This wine, aged 18 months in new French oak, is elegant, with concentrated flavours of spice, currants and chocolate and with a persistent finish. 91. Wines like this confirm that Argentina’s winemakers more than hold their own among the world’s premium wines.
John Schreiner recently toured leading Argentina wineries.
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