Text Size:-+
07.22.2010

2008 Bodegas Colomé Estate Malbec, Salta, Argentina

08_BC_Estate_MB.jpgOnce upon a time, I went to Argentina looking for the good wine. Frankly I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about when it came to Malbec. Most of the ones I had tasted here in the US were mediocre. Only a select few rose to the level of excellent, and none to the level of amazing. Yet there was a long stream of proclamations from various people (you know, the ones whose opinions "count" when it comes to such things) that Argentinean Malbec was the next greatest thing.

Scratching my head, I traipsed off to Argentina looking for the promised land. Or promised bottle, as the case may be.

And I found it. We had a lot of great Malbec while we were there, and really got a chance to appreciate the Argentinean skill at high altitude viticulture.

There was one wine region that we didn't visit however, and we've been kicking ourselves ever since, as we've had several stunning wines from the province of Salta.

Tucked up in the northeast corner of Argentina, Salta is a wine region quite unlike any other. Its vineyards may very well be the highest altitude vineyards in the world, and its high-desert climate offers some of the greatest diurnal shifts (daytime-nighttime temperature changes) in the western hemisphere. Add to that a spectacular red rock, Wild West landscape, and you've got one of the most unique wine countries in the world.

And we missed it. A painful fact made all the more evident every time I try a new wine from Salta.

This wine, however, is not new to me. Ever since I tried the 2005 vintage, I've been a fan of Bodega Colome.

The land that is now known as Bodegas Colomé has been farmed since long before anyone kept written records. There were certainly well established farming communities of natives when the tendrils of the Incan empire reached down into the valley in the 15th century. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the area was so well populated and organized it took them 90 years to gain control of the valley. In the course of their conquest at some point vine grapes were first planted, and the area has had some level of grape cultivation ever since.

Bodegas Colomé now farms some of the oldest vines in Argentina. Significantly younger than 16th century, but 150-year-old pre-phylloxera, own-rooted Malbec and Cabernet vines are nothing to sneeze at. The estate's 250 acres of vines from old French cuttings also hold the claim of being some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world, with the highest being more than 8500 feet above sea level. As if ancient vines and near alpine conditions weren't enough to distinguish their grapes, Bodegas Colomé also farms their vineyards biodynamically. The natural yields from these vineyards rarely top 1.6 tons per acre, and the oldest vines provide a miniscule .6 tons per acre of fruit.

The winery was founded in 1831, most likely by the governor of Salta province at the time. His daughter was responsible for the planting of the vines imported from Bordeaux, which have been farmed continuously by her descendants ever since, making the winery the oldest continuously operated producer in all of Argentina. In 2001 the winery was purchased by Donald Hess and his Hess Group company, a Swiss corporation that owns the Hess Collection winery and art museum in Napa.

This wine is made from 85% Malbec, 8% Tannat, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Syrah, and 2% Petite Verdot all grown at altitudes between 5500 and 8500 feet above sea level. A portion of the Malbec that goes into this blend comes from the circa 1854 vines on the estate. The grapes were hand harvested in very small groups (25 pound boxes) and sorted by hand before destemming and crushing. Because of the high altitude, fermentation takes longer to begin with, but in addition to a sloooooow fermentation, the grapes were given a 25 to 30-day cold extended maceration period before fermentation was allowed to commence. 50% of the wine was then transferred to French oak barrels where it underwent a secondary fermentation, with the other 50% undergoing the same fermentation in tank. These two lots were then blended together and aged in French oak (30% new) for 15 months before bottling.

Having tasted this wine every vintage for several years, I can say that it is becoming a little more serious. Cabernet has been dialed back and replaced with Tannat, which is giving the wine a more tannic edge. While I don't love this 2008 as much as I have some other vintages in the past, this wine remains one of the most consistent values from the region.

Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.

Tasting Notes:
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of rich cassis aromas with a hint of burnt match. In the mouth, leathery tannins wrap around a core of cassis, cocoa powder, and a deep graphite and wet dirt flavor that rumbles around in the basement of the palate for a while. Cassis and the texture of the tannins linger on the finish. A young wine, that will likely improve for a couple years in the bottle. 14.9% Alcohol.

Food Pairing:
If there's one thing to eat with the rich red wines of Argentina, it's beef. How about charred rib-eye shish-kabobs with red onion, bell peppers, and mushrooms?

Overall Score: between 8.5 and 9.

How Much?: $24

This wine is available for purchase on the internet.

Comments (3)

07.23.10 at 2:07 PM

Im also a long time fan of Cafayate (Salta) wines. Colom and Yacochuya are not my favorites, though.
Malbecs shorter growing cycle and thinner skins, IMHO, do not seem very appropriate for Cafayates hugely long growing seasons and extreme solar radiation levels. The fruit tastes a bit cooked to me. As you said, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon seem more adapted to that climate. Its a shame theyre not experimenting with Mourvedre and Grenache.
PS: Have you tried the Laborum Tannat (or Malbec-Cabernet) from Bodega El Porvenir?

Alan Clipperton wrote:
07.31.10 at 9:24 AM

We live in Loudon, TN. and I used to work with Dave Rice.
Alan Clipperton

08.01.10 at 7:30 PM

I would like to suggest you a very interesting Malbec coming from San Juan, Argentina.
You will find the tasting notes as will be explained further on in Spanish.


FRAY JUSTO - MALBEC - PROCEDENCIA SAN JUAN - VINO TINTO PRODUCCIN ARGENTINA - CALLE NUEVA S/N - RINCONADA - POCITO (5427) - SAN JUAN - BODEGA LAS MARIANAS N INV. H 71886 - 13,7% 2008

VISUAL: rojo rub con reflejos prpura y con una buena consistencia en la copa.

NARIZ: ciruelas rojas, moras, arndanos, humus y rosas.

BOCA: buena entrada con la justa suavidad; una nota tnica en el promedio y un cierre con sabor a frutas de bosque con inclinacin al amarguillo final; la persistencia gustativa oscila entre 4 y 5 segundos.

MARIDAJE: parrillada mixta

* La tendencia dulce de la carne palia la tendencia amarguilla del vino
* La suculencia de la carne sirve de contrapeso a la astringencia del tanino
* La persistencia del alimento iguala la persistencia gustativa

OPININ PERSONAL: un vino tinto que nace por y para la carne; si este vino no fuera desviado de su camino a causa de su sencillez, seguira por su inclinacin natural alcanzando la meta de excelencia por la que fue creado.

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)
Yes
 

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Buy My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

California Law and Wine: Ups and Downs From the Quiet Garden: The Wines of Pichler-Krutzler, Wachau, Austria Tallying the Damage from the Napa Quake Vinography Images: A Sea of Blue Vinography Unboxed: Week of September 14, 2014 The Taste of Something New: Introducing Solminer Wines Vinography Images: Swift Work Social Media Answers the Question: Where Did Australian Wine Go Wrong Hourglass, Napa Valley: Current and Upcoming Releases Drought Problems? Just Have an Earthquake

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month

 

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.