The Argentine and South African wine industries have a lot in common – and not just that both countries supply grapes for Tassenberg or that many wineries are owned by Standard Bank. Jaco Maree’s blue flag logo signals the most prominent bank in Buenos Aires. Could this be the ultimate banking wine sponsorship? Nedbank backs the Cape Winemakers Guild. RMB bankroll commercial sales exhibition WineX. Standard sponsor an entire country – Argentina, ripped from the bosom of the SA winelands of Gondwanaland by powerful geological forces, some time ago? Or is Jaco going for the title of Mr. Malbec, having lost out on Pinotage to ABSA?
Ethnic names pop up everywhere as marketing mojo, but Argentina has an edge in that its culturally correct monikers are at least short and easily pronounceable – Zaha (heart) and Teho (blood from the earth) and my personal favourite, Bo Bó. The first two are terrific terroir blends of Malbec with Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc and Malbec certainly makes very fine reds indeed, even if my favourite, the Alta Vista Terroir Selection 2008, stumbles in at a swingeing 15.5% alcohol. Something else the Land of Tango shares with SA.
Alta Vista commercial director Benoît Berneron showed us the terroir Malbec yesterday alongside a Flechas de los Andes Gran Corte 2008, a single vineyard blend of Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon designed by Michel Rolland and wearing the Baron Edmond de Rothschild arrow crest. Three more things Argentina shares with SA: Rolland and Rothschild and a desire to worship at a single vineyard altar. At twice the 100 Peso price of the terroir wine, it confirms that it’s never cheap to be a snob. The third wine in the red trio was a 2010 Cabernet, Malbec, Petit Verdot blend called Kaiken made by the Montes family from Chile.
Pronounced “kuiken” (chicken), the name applies to a Patagonian bird – a “penguin with wings” (as restaurant owner Milagros Padilla interjected) that effortlessly crosses the Andes. Just like Montes does, which makes it rather appropriate.