Boca, obvio, an Englishman would feel silly mispronouncing “Reeever” at the top of his voice. It’s like Thames or “Taaames”. The Stones were from London, we drank in the same pubs and I spent a very unsuccessful few days in re-hab light (read expensive health farm) with Ronnie Woods, drinking smuggled-in Vodka from Evian bottles, though at least he got drunk enough to invite me to play guitar with him and paid for Reiki healing sessions to deal with my hangovers. I’ve never been to Liverpool where I’m informed the Beatles came from. Van Morrison could sing in tune and being Irish could have definitely out-drunk Bob Dylan, both important criteria for judging rockstars. I am sure you will accept the above as conclusive arguments.
Malbec or Pinot Noir is more complicated. Malbec is the Argentine national wine as far as reds are concerned. Here it’s more a case of Boca versus Putney Girls’ School under 14’s, the Stones versus Justin Bieber, Van Morrison versus…well probably Justin Bieber again. Malbec is the robust, fully bodied, manly, all Argentine, smoky as your steak, future of the New World. Pinot just the damp girls blouse that no one will remember in a few years.
Of course, the French wouldn’t agree. Any good Burgundian will tell you of the complexity of growing Pinot, a delicate, thin skinned grape, and of producing a classic, single varietal Grand Cru that is “clearly” the best in the world. The winemakers of Bordeaux are no more than grape mixing, wine blending chemists, they will explain, who are even allowed to add Malbec to their evil brew. And the food is better in Burgundy, so point proved and the Burgundy versus Bordeaux quarrel finally resolved! It amazes me how these powerful arguments often seem to align with my personal preferences. Better still, given the current pace of developments in Argentina, the Pinot versus virtually-any-varietal-or-blend battle, may be won yet again.
While for some time Rutini have been producing Pinot vintages that rival some of the meatiest of Bourgogne (try the 2006 if you are feeling flush), they come with an equally meaty price tag. However Pinot has suddenly sprung up everywhere. This temperamental grape must grow like a weed here. From Mendoza to Patagonia, oaked or un-oaked, aged or otherwise. Sometime in the last decade the collective consciousness of Argentine Oenologists must have succumbed to a vision. Pinot is the future, go out and spread your seed or at least your baby vines. And the results are impressive, not only offering some of the best but also the best value wines in Argentina.
To be clear about my prejudices, I find Malbec a very difficult grape to love. It seems to soak up the abundant Argentine sun too greedily. It takes a very fine winemaker to modify its sweet aftertaste. While the venerable Nigel at http://www.facebook.com/0800Vino introduced me to the wonders of high altitude, totally un-oaked 100% Malbec, made by the most characterful family of winemakers (you will have to consult him for the name, I have forgotten), it was 100% for export and out of my price range anyway. Pinot fulfils most of my needs, whether light, young and chilled on a hot day or ripe, oaked and matured with a rich dinner. For the cheapest plonk I chill down a 22 peso of the Trapiche Varietal. Nothing impressive enough to describe but you couldn’t drink a Malbec of that price…and be able to see the next day. A simple restaurant lunch at Campo Bravo always calls for Navarro Correas Colección Privada (about 55 pesos in the shops) chilled lightly, one of the best value Pinots in Argentina. Incredibly well made.
So Friday night we tried a Trumpeter and a much cheaper (55 pesos – £5.00) Trapiche, Colección Roble 2007, side by side. And the Trapiche far outshone its Ruttini owning peer. Mendoza, red fruit and creamy rhubarb, smooth finish and lasting balanced aftertaste, 12 months in oak.
Memories of Burgundy at the same price you could have seen the Rolling Stones in the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond in 1962 (inflation adjusted). Or at a price you couldn’t buy it in Burgundy. At a price you couldn’t even see Justin Bieber! Even if you didn’t want too!!! Even if they drafted him into the earphones at Guantanomo, they would probably have to pay more than that in royalties!
But I am mixing my metaphors, confusing myself. If Justin Bieber is the upstart, non-serious, outsider of the Argentine wine world, a bit of fluff, a light confusion, then I want to see him at 60, having overcome his addictions, having spent 5 years in prison, aged and raddled but mature and mellifluous…playing acoustic.
Luckily I don’t have to wait that long for my Pinot.