Zuccardi, Mendoza (Argentina) “Q” Tempranillo, 2006 and 2007 (Winesellers Ltd, $22): I’m not a big fan of very fruity red wines -- the kind of wines that many countries in the New World of wine specialize in. When rich, intense fruit flavors dominate a red wine, I find little to intrigue me. Such wines are often delicious but they are, for my taste, too fruity for food and too simple to be interesting.
On a visit to Argentina last autumn, I tasted dozens of delicious, fruity reds every day. In reviewing my tasting notes, I noticed that the wines I rated highest were those that had some age on them, from the 2007 and earlier vintages. Age toned down the exuberant fruitiness and gave the wines a bit of complexity. That’s one reason why I like these two vintages of Zuccardi’s Tempranillo, especially the older of the two. I also like them because they offer a change of pace from the predictable Malbec wines that rule Argentina.
Familia Zuccardi is one of the largest family-owned wineries in Argentina and the number-two wine exporter. Alberto Zuccardi, a civil engineer, came to Mendoza province in 1963 to pioneer a system of accessing water from deep wells for flood and drip irrigation, and subsequently built a winery. In the 1980s, his son, José Alberto, set his sights on raising quality standards for the wines, creating the Q brand of Zuccardi wines in the 1990s. Today, the family has 1,600 acres of vines in three distinct departments of Mendoza, as well as its own vine nursery, which enables the company to experiment with grape varieties that are unusual for Argentina.
When the Q brand debuted in 1999, the first wine was the 1997 Tempranillo. It is a variety that the family has been growing for 40 years. In addition to this Tempranillo, Zuccardi makes a relatively inexpensive Tempranillo under the “Santa Julia” label as well as a Malbec-Tempranillo blend called Zeta ($45).
When I tasted the 2000 Tempranillo in 2002 at the winery, José Alberto remarked that the wine was too young. Now, tasting the 2007 and 2006 vintages at four and five years of age, I understand his point. With age, the wine’s oak becomes integrated, the flavors become a bit subdued and the wines develop grace.
The 2006 is at a lovely stage for drinking now, and over the next few years. Its aromas and flavors suggest blackberry, fig, mocha, and baking spices, with a note of leather in the mouth but not the nose; they are intense but not extremely so. The wine is nearly full-bodied, truly dry, and has a velvety texture, with fine-grained oak tannins that do not overpower the wine. The 2007 is fruitier, richer and overall more youthful. Blackberry notes are vivid in both the aroma and flavor, along with black cherry and toast. The wine’s texture is seductive: soft as silk and plush as a down comforter. In body it seems slightly fuller than the 2006, and has particularly good concentration of fruit character that will enable it to age nicely. Although it is no longer an adolescent, my initial reaction to it was that it needs time.
I believe that the 2007 is the better wine, because of its impressive concentration of flavor, but I love the dimension of age in the 2006. Which you prefer will have a lot to do with your taste for fruitiness.