2012 Antucura Cabernet Sauvignon Vista Flores Mendoza
 
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Antucura Vineyards Outpointing the #2 Argentine Wine of the Year

Last week we reported on what many believe to be the most serious and exhaustive Argentine tasting of the year. Held in London by highbrow Decanter Magazine, the judges' panel was headed up by Jo Ahearne MW (one of just 225 Masters of Wine in Britain and the U.S.). Hundreds of bottles were presented from the greatest estates of Mendoza, Salta and Patagonia.

When the votes were tallied, just 14 wines earned 92 points or more. Only four came in at 95-96. When the #2 Malbec of the Year was disrobed, many were left scratching their heads. In his very first vintage since taking over from Flying Winemaker Michel Rolland at Antucura, the brilliant Hervé Chagneau, turned out a plush, beautifully chiseled, estate-grown shocker that garnered 95 points from Decanter. Offered at just $20/bottle, nearly every case that had been ticketed for the U.S. was redirected to England. In London's fine wine shops, Antucura caught fire.

But what we didn't talk about in that story was what Chagneau believes to be his top new 2012 release. When we visited the high ground of the Uco Valley in April, Hervé and proprietress Anne-Caroline Biancheri were "happy" with the way their Malbec showed in London, but they were "ecstatic" about Chagneau's 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. It wasn't too tough to figure out why.

Antucura's 100-hectare vineyard is perched on a narrow band in the Andes foothills, between 3,500 and 3,900 feet in elevation. The lower part of the vineyard is sandy. As you climb, the sand is mixed with clay. At the very top of the slope, the soils are gravelly, not unlike Bordeaux's Graves.

The summer of 2012 was quite warm and dry, Hervé explained, with daytime highs in the 90s. Nights were cold (as we learned that evening, sleeping under a down quilt!), with the thermometer dipping into the low 40s. Chagneau, whose résumé includes stints in Saint-Émilion and Pomerol's La Croix de Gay, credits two things for the extraordinary lushness and high-toned minerality of his powerhouse 2012 Vista Flores Cabernet Sauvignon. First, that dramatic diurnal temperature shift makes for a small crop of tiny-berry clusters, of high skin-to-juice ratio. Natural sugars came in at 25.5 Brix, while pH remained a riveting 3.7.

But second, just as he did with his 95-point Malbec, Chagneau divided his harvest into dozens of small blocks, some sandy, some clayey, some gravelly. Conducting individual micro-vinifications, just as he had at La Croix de Gay, Hervé then spent a month experimenting with assemblages, finishing with a Cabernet mix of 60 percent "graves," 20 percent "sable" and 20 percent "argile."

For those of you who purchased and cellared Antucura Cabernets in the past, be mindful that Chagneau's approach is quite different from Rolland's. Michel advocates letting clusters hang, harvesting late in the growing season, pushing the envelope towards ultra-concentration, often at the expense of acid backbone. Hervé is more of a traditionalist: While aggressively trimming yields back, he's more mindful of balance, choosing to pick sweet clusters earlier — absent any sign of shrivel or desiccation — making for Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon that walks the line between Napa opulence and Left Bank structure.

The 2012 Antucura Vista Flores Cabernet Sauvignon outpointed Chagneau's 95-point Malbec in Mendoza last March. The color is dark purple to the edge. Infused with gorgeous, piercing aromas of crushed black fruit and black raspberry, tinged with sweet herbs and new-wood cedar. The attack is rich, polished and plush, packed with black-fruit salinity, braced by the dusty tannins of the high ground of Vista Flores.



Tasting Notes

2012 Antucura Cabernet Sauvignon Vista Flores Mendoza
"The 2012 Antucura Vista Flores Cabernet Sauvignon is deep purple to the edge. Infused with gorgeous, piercing aromas of crushed black fruit and black raspberry, tinged with sweet herbs and new wood cedar. The attack is rich, polished and plush, packed with black fruit salinity, braced by the dusty tannins of the high ground of Vista Flores. Drink now-2018."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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