Thu 18 Jan 2007
… and neither can I, not, my friends, because it’s so freaking expensive — about $64 — but because only 56 cases were made. It happens to be the Vina Alicia Syrah 2003, and it is, I promise, one of the best, no, one of the most astonishing syrah wines I have ever encountered, a wine of such piercing purity and intensity, a wine that so impeccably and effortlessly balances power and elegance that the glass or two I had left me awe-struck and humbled.
“Oh great, F.K., oh thanks, F.K., oh tiddly-winks to you, F.K.,” you’re saying, “for mentioning this fabulous and unattainable wine, which you got to taste and we didn’t.”
Well, yeah, O.K., sorry, but the point is that the Vina Alicia Syrah 2003 came not from France’s northern Rhone Valley or Australia’s Barossa, which we might expect, but from Argentina, from Mendoza’s chilly, arid Lujan de Cuyo region in the Andean foothills. If there was ever any question about the ability of Argentina’s vineyards and wine-makers to produce wines that could compete with the best in the world — and I have thought that the country’s high-priced wines tended to be more ambitious than accomplished — this wine lays all doubts to rest. The best we can do, I suppose, is hope that Vina Alicia, which also produces small quantities of malbec, petit verdot and nebbiolo, finds it in its heart to increase production just a little.
In the meanwhile, enjoy these Argentine wines that also represent the top of their class and price range.
My first note on the Luigi Bosca Reserva Malbec 2003 — also from Lujan de Cuyo — was “Wow!” Made from vines averaging 75 years old and aged in a combination of new and used French oak, this is a wonderfully layered malbec, deeply fitted with dimension and detail, dense and chewy, flush with dusty tannins but so lovely, so seductive, intensely floral and minerally simultaneously and packed with succulent black fruit flavors tamed by a rigorous finish. Bring on a rib-eye steak, please, grilled over hickory coals to rosy-pink medium rare, charred and crusty with salt and black pepper. Yikes! The price: About $23.
And, talk about an over-achiever — and a Bargain of the Decade — the Tittarelli Reserva Torrontes 2006, Tierra de Cuyo, Mendoza, proves that the grape doesn’t have to produce crisp, floral little quaffers, charming though such wines may be. This model sees no oak but spends 45 days in stainless steel resting on the lees — the residue of spent yeast cells — to produce amazing character for the grape. This wine is bone-dry but bursts with jasmine and honeysuckle, peach, pear and mango and whole spice-boxes of exotica, all this wrapped in a texture and structure that perfectly balance lushness with chiming acid. Don’t miss this one, and you don’t have to at about $13.
This trio of wines from Mendoza, Argentina, is brought into the United States — and only 17 states, so you may have to use some not-so-gentle persuasion on your local retailers and wholesale distributors — by William-Harrison Imports, Manassas, Va. Visit http://whimports.com