A Taste of Achaval-Ferrer

Wine is a lot like fashion.  What is considered popular for a time, can quickly fall out of favor to be replaced by something else.  It wasn’t too long ago, that Malbec was in fashion.  I’m not sure if it remains so.  I hear much more about Muscat these days.

I like Malbec for several reasons including the fact that it plays very well in the value space.  All the Malbec I’ve had has been under $20, most under $10.  So it was with great anticipation, and curiosity I jumped at the chance to taste some high-end Malbec from one of Argentina’s premier producers – Achaval Ferrer (“AF”).    The tasting was held at K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City.   Fresh off of rave reviews from Robert Parker, 4 of the 5 current releases were tasted.

2009 Finca Altamira (RP-99) – $89.99 (not tasted)
2009 Finca Mirador (RP-96) – $89.99
2009 Finca Bella Vista (RP-98) – $89.99
2009 Quimera (RP-93) – $34.99
2010 Malbec Mendoza (RP-91) – $18.99

Though most Malbec consumed in the U.S. is imported from Argentina, the grape has origins in France, specifically the Cahors region.  It believed to have been introduced to Argentina in 1868.  Malbec flourishes in Argentina, where it is now the national grape.  The most highly rated Malbec comes from vineyards (most of them old-vine) in Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley,  located in the foothills of the Andes mountains between  2800 to 5000 feet elevation.

My tasting notes follow:

Achaval Ferrer Current Releases

  • 2010 Achával-Ferrer Malbec – Argentina, Mendoza
    Medium garnet color with dark fruit, spice, dust and floral aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with blackberry, black currant, and spice flavors. Medium + finish. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Achával-Ferrer Malbec Quimera – Argentina, Mendoza
    Dark garnet color with violet overtones and spicy dark fruit, pencil lead,and violet aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, intense, layered and young – would benefit from aging – with firm tannins, and black currant, pencil lead, and spice flavors. Medium finish. Blend of 40% Malbec, 22% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged in 40% new French oak.(89 pts.)
  • 2009 Achával-Ferrer Malbec Finca Mirador – Argentina, Mendoza
    Inky opaque purple color with aromatic, pretty aromas of dark fruit, violet, and dark chocolate. On the palate full-bodied , complex, refined yet intense, round, and smooth with black cherry, cassis, mineral, and spice flavors. Long finish. Would have definitely benefit from more aeration. Sourced from a single vineyard planted at 2400 ft. in 1921.(92 pts.)
  • 2009 Achával-Ferrer Malbec Finca Bella Vista – Argentina, Mendoza
    Inky opaque purple color with very aromatic violet, dark red fruit, spice and leather aromas. On the palate ample, well structured, and complex with black currant, black raspberry, and spice aromas. Long finish. Needs time. Sourced from a single vineyard planted at 3100 ft. in 1910 (93 pts.)

I was impressed by the AF wines, though I did enjoy the Malbecs more than the Bordeaux blend. I may have rated the wines more highly had they had a chance to breathe more, especially the Finca Mirador, and Bella Vista. And certainly those two wines along with the Bordeaux blend would benefit from further aging. I’d recommend laying down the Quimera Bordeaux blend for at least a couple of years and the higher end Malbecs for at least 3 years.  If you enjoy Malbec, you’ll love these wines!

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