DiamAndes, Mendoza (Argentina) Gran Reserva, 2007 (Dourthe USA, $35): When I visited Bodega DiamAndes four months ago, I felt as if I had entered a parallel universe. In the midst of Argentina’s largest vineyard region, in the midst of mainly fresh-fruity-delicious red wines, I found sophistication. What I had actually entered was the Clos de Los Siete, an 1800-acre gated community of five individually-owned wineries that was envisioned and created by Bordeaux-based winemaker Michel Rolland. The site is hard upon the Andes in the Uco Valley, at 3300 to almost 4000 feet in altitude. Most of the individual winery owners also own properties in Bordeaux, but the individual winemakers are Argentine, and the main grape is Malbec. Bodega DiamAndes is the fourth winery to open since the inception of the project in 1998.
DiamAndes is owned by the Bonnie family, which also owns Château Malartic-Lagravière in the Pessac-Leognan district of Bordeaux, as well as Château Gazin Rocquencourt in the same area. Belgian by origin, Alfred-Alexandre and Michele Bonnie had lived in Argentina in the late 1960s. In 2005, they purchased 320 acres of the Clos. Their family’s winery -- son Jean-Jacques, daughter Véronique and their spouses are also part of the operation -- is a stunning, award-winning structure, designed by local architects, that officially opened in December. The vineyard grows mainly Malbec with Cabernet Sauvignon, and small plantings of Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot; Chardonnay and some Viognier also grow there.
The 2007 DiamAndes Gran Reserva is the estate’s first wine available in the U.S., and its first Gran Reserva. It is a 70-30 percent blend of Malbec and Cabernet.
Anyone with experience tasting Bordeaux would probably not confuse this wine with Bordeaux, because it is so redolent of Malbec in its black-peppery, blackberry and dark plum aromas and flavors, and because its expression is fruitier than most Bordeaux reds. But the wine is more structure-driven than most Argentine Malbecs and Malbec blends, and it has finesse and subtlety suggestive of Bordeaux.
Besides black pepper, berry and plum, the aroma offers a gentle perfume of oak; altogether, it is a deep, complex, and nuanced nose. In your mouth, the wine is full-bodied but compact, with excellent concentration of flavor. It shows considerable oak tannin that has not yet integrated fully (the Gran Reserva ages in French oak barrels, 60 to 80 percent of which are new), and also shows plenty of fruit character to merge with the oak in time. Apart from the oak tannin, the wine’s texture is soft and tightly-knit. The wine’s flavor endures on the finish literally for minutes.
When the wine has aerated for about an hour, or when your mouth has acclimated to the wine, you can find softness and richness that make the wine more approachable than the initial taut structure suggests. But clearly this wine is very young and will benefit from aging. I imagine that it can easily handle 15 years of cellaring.
When I visited DiamAndes, I tasted a tank sample of the 2008 Gran Reserva and a barrel-sample of the 2009, both of which were 75-25 percent blends with more Malbec than the 2007. The 2008 seemed riper in fruit, softer, and higher in alcohol than the 2007. (The 2007 has 14 percent alcohol.) The 2009 was an amazing, soulful wine.
Clearly, DiamAndes is a winery worth following.