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Unpacking a New Terroir in Argentina
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Mar 19, 2019
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Dominio del Plata, Gualtallary - Valle de Uco, BenMarco “Expresivo” 2016 ($35, Folio Fine Wine Partners):  This wine is a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Franc produced by the Dominio del Plata winery, which is the winery of notable Argentine enologist, Susana Balbo.  The winery produces several different tiers of wines, of which BenMarco is among the finest.

The BenMarco wines focus on terroir as their defining concept, and that focus roused my curiosity to taste the wines.  After visiting Argentina in February, I came to understand the exciting terroir movement that is occurring there — particularly within the Valle de Uco -- and I witnessed the distinctiveness that Malbec wines can derive from their different terroirs.  This wine hails from what I consider one of the most exciting of Argentina’s new Geographical Indications (GIs), Gualtallary. 

Gualtallary is a fairly new viticultural district that encompasses the entire political territory of the Tupungato province of Valle de Uco.  A cone-shaped area stretching eastward from the high Andes, it varies in soil and climate according to altitude and proximity to river beds.  But the district is all high altitude, with high sunlight intensity and cool climates particularly in the higher altitudes, resulting in wines with bright and fresh fruit, vibrancy, minerality, fresh acidity, and concentration.  This wine comes from vineyards at more than four thousand feet in altitude.

The 2016 Expresivo is 75 percent Malbec and 25 percent Cabernet Franc.  The richness and spiciness of Malbec seem to define the wine, with the Cabernet lending brightness, depth and definition.  It’s a combination that makes a flavorful, ripe but structured wine.

The wine’s aroma suggests blackberries, black pepper, vanilla, dry forest floor and mineral notes; these aromatics are fresh and precise but not pronounced.  In your mouth, the wine is dry and full-bodied, with fresh acidity and a moderate amount of firm, fine-grained tannins.  The aromatics open in your mouth so that you can easily taste mouth-watering fresh blackberry, a stony minerality, an herbal note, a bit of tar, a subtle floral tone, and spice.  The wine’s texture is velvety but it also has an edgy aspect, due to the wine’s acidity.  The wine’s flavors resonate in the long finish.

If you have been accustomed to drinking Argentine Malbecs over the years, you will notice that this wine, 75 percent Malbec, has none of the sweetness impression that we commonly associate with Malbec.  True dryness seems to be typical of the reds of Gualtallary; this characteristic is probably due to elevated acidity -- which itself is due to the altitude -- and to the mineral notes that pervade the wines.  Producers in this area often describe the wines as having a wild, untamed personality, which rings true in this wine.

BenMarco “Expresivo” is a thinking-drinker’s wine. Guzzle a mouthful and you will still enjoy its fresh fruit, its pure flavors, its persistence across the palate and its food-friendliness. But thinking about its blend, its high-altitude origins, and its role as part of the new frontier of Argentine reds will take your appreciation of this wine to a different dimension.
91 Points

Read more by Mary Ewing-Mulligan:   "On My Table"